NEW DELHI - Newly elected Congress legislators formally chose Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as their leader for a second term Tuesday, clearing the way for the swearing in of his new government this week.

Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party chief, proposed Singh's name, and the legislators approved it without a vote amid clapping and the thumping of desks, said party spokesman Janardhan Dwivedy.

Singh is expected to meet President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday to set a date for his swearing in. The president administers the oath of office to the new prime minister and cabinet ministers.

The Congress-led coalition captured 261 seats in India's 543-seat parliament, far more than most analysts predicted, but still 11 short of a majority.

On Tuesday, two key regional parties - Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, which together will control 43 seats - offered to support Singh's government.

Congress has governed for nearly 50 years of modern India's 61 years of independence.

Gandhi, the Italian-born widow at the head of the country's most powerful political dynasty, turned down the prime minister's job five years ago, paving the way for Singh to take power.

An economist and technocrat, Singh shifted India away from decades of socialist-style policies and toward a more open economy when he was finance minister in the early 1990s.

But over the past five years, many additional market reforms that Congress backed were blocked by India's once-powerful Communist parties. In the election results announced Saturday, the Communists lost more than half their seats.