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World - Asia/Pacific

Gandhi maneuvers to form new Indian government

April 20, 1999
Web posted at: 4:12 p.m. EDT (2012 GMT)

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- The party headed by Sonia Gandhi said Tuesday it had enough support to form a new Indian government, but Prime Minister 's ousted coalition immediately challenged the claim.

The Congress Party will be ready to form a new government by Wednesday, party officials said, after the lower house of parliament votes on a national budget, a priority of President K. R. Narayanan.

A spokesman for the party said after three days of maneuvering it had letters of support from the parties that helped it bring Vajpayee down over the weekend.

But it remained unclear whether the Congress Party would have enough support to form a minority government with the alliance of regional, leftist and caste-based opposition groups with which it joined to defeat Vajpayee.

None of the parties on which Congress Party would rely for a majority of 272 lawmakers confirmed their support, and a leader of one 20-deputy group denied it had sent a letter of support.

Two hard-line leftist parties have said they will not take part in a Congress government.

The leaders of two large blocs among the Congress Party's potential allies also have said they would favor a communist party leader for prime minister rather than the Italian-born Gandhi, the widow of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi.

Ousted PM to challenge Congress Party

That lack of unity prompted Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies to challenge Gandhi's bid for power.

The BJP said that leaders of its coalition would meet Narayanan early Wednesday to demonstrate that they still enjoyed the support of 270 lawmakers in the 543-member lower house of parliament.

The BJP-led coalition, which ruled for 13 months, was defeated 270 to 269 in a parliamentary confidence vote on Saturday.

With Congress struggling to line disparate parties up behind it, the BJP said Monday that there were only two options facing the country: "Back to Vajpayee or back to the voter."

Political analysts say that if Congress failed to put together an administration, the president could dissolve the fragmented parliament and order new elections, the country's third in as many years.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Bharatiya Janata Party
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