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Saturday, November 29, 1997 Published at 21:18 GMT


India searches for political stability
image: [ IK Gujral stepped down after just seven months in power ]
IK Gujral stepped down after just seven months in power

The outgoing Indian Prime Minister, Inder Kumar Gujral, has been asked to stay on as a caretaker PM until it is clear whether a new government can be formed.

[ image: IK Gujral leaves with his reputation intact]
IK Gujral leaves with his reputation intact
He resigned on Friday at the culmination of a two-week political crisis sparked by the Congress Party which withdrew support from his left-of-centre coalition as a protest against his refusal to throw the DMK party out of his government.

A preliminary report into the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 found that the DMK had given "tacit support" to the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers who are blamed by India for Mr Gandhi's killing.

[ image: Congress President Sitaram Kesri]
Congress President Sitaram Kesri
It is the second time since India's last general election 18 months ago that Congress has pulled the rug from underneath a United Front coalition government. Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in that election, and some Indian analysts believe the party is trying to cash in on the emotional appeal of the Gandhi assassination to try to return to power.

[ image: A BJP member at a meeting to work out their next move]
A BJP member at a meeting to work out their next move
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party have been meeting their allies to work out if they can form a new administration, but quickly made it clear they were not in a hurry.

"We should await the president's call rather than take any decision now," said BJP president Lal Krishna Advani.

Indian newspapers have been cynical about future political developments, running headlines like "Experiment Coalition: Abort, Fail, Retry" and "India back to abnormal".

India's President KR Narayanan will meet all the political parties before deciding what to do next. Under India's constitution, Mr Narayanan can invite either the BJP or Congress to form a government, or call fresh elections.

However, President Narayanan is faced with a problem in that neither party has enough deputies in India's 545-seat Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, to form a government. Congress has 138 seats and the BJP has 162.

Indian economists believe the country can ill-afford a second national election within 18 months.

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