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P.V. Narasimha Rao, a former foreign minister and loyalist of slain Congress Party leader Rajiv Gandhi, was appointed prime minister-designate Thursday and charged with forming the next government.

President Ramaswamy Venkataraman chose Rao and gave him four weeks to present a government to Parliament and prove it can command a majority."I feel humble and confident," Rao told reporters after meeting the president at his official mansion.

The appointment followed Rao's unanimous selection for the post by the Congress Party's newly elected parliamentary delegation. That occurred after rival Sharad Pawar said he was withdrawing his candidacy for the sake of party unity. Pawar, a powerful Bombay-based politician, is chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra.

"As an individual, I feel overwhelmed. As the representative of a great party, I feel like a colossus," Rao said in accepting the party's nomination.

Congress won the lion's share of votes in national elections that concluded Saturday, but fell short of a majority. Rao's first task will be to shore up his government, either in a coalition or by guaranteeing reliable support from an outside party for a minority government.

Leftist parties and the centrist National Front alliance say they will back a Congress government on the merits of each issue. But none has shown interest in joining a coalition committed to blanket support to the government.

Until Pawar's withdrawal, party leaders had feared a bitter power struggle among regional strongmen. Rao is a veteran politician from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh who was foreign minister under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.