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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, 09:18 GMT
India's governing BJP in election pact
Vehicle adorned with BJP portraits
The BJP has hit the road for early polls
India's ruling BJP party has struck an alliance with a key Tamil party ahead of national elections expected in April.

The BJP will tie-up with the AIADMK party of controversial actress-turned-politician J Jayalalitha.

In 1999 Ms Jayalalitha pulled out of a BJP-led coalition which led to the fall of the federal government.

On Tuesday the Indian cabinet decided to dissolve parliament and head to polls ahead of schedule.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's term of office ends in October but polls may now be held in April.

Colourful politician

The alliance was sealed at a meeting between BJP President Venkaiah Naidu and Ms Jayalalitha in Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu.

The BJP lacks a presence in the state and will hope to benefit from its tie-up with the AIADMK, which is a key regional player.

Jayalalitha: Colourful and controversial
The AIADMK's regional rival, the DMK, was formerly allied with the BJP but has now parted ways and teamed up with the main opposition Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi.

But the BBC's Sampath Kumar in Madras says the BJP will have uneasy memories of its past alliance with the AIADMK in 1998.

A year later, Ms Jayalalitha withdrew support to Mr Vajpayee's government forcing him to call fresh elections.

Ms Jayalalitha is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians.

She spent two months in jail in 2001 after being convicted for corruption, a ruling which was later overturned.

In 2002 she won a massive victory in state elections in Tamil Nadu and made a triumphant return to the post of chief minister.

Bid for re-election

The BJP, which is the main party in Mr Vajpayee's governing coalition, wants polls earlier than scheduled to capitalise on state election successes, a strong economy and improved Pakistan ties.

A recent visit to Pakistan and an agreement for talks on the disputed region of Kashmir have also boosted Mr Vajpayee.

India's independent Election Commission will now set the date of the polls.

The polls are expected to take around six weeks to complete.

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