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Thursday, December 4, 1997 Published at 15:12 GMT


Indian President paves way for early elections
image: [ President Narayanan (left) presents a bouquet of flowers to Mr Gujral to mark the Prime Minister's 78th birthday ]
President Narayanan (left) presents a bouquet of flowers to Mr Gujral to mark the Prime Minister's 78th birthday

The Indian President, K R Narayanan, has dissolved parliament, paving the way for an early general election.

The announcement was made after a meeting between Mr Narayanan and the Prime Minister, Inder Kumar Gujral, who had recommended the move on Wednesday.

[ image: President Narayanan...dissolved government]
President Narayanan...dissolved government
No date has yet been announced for the elections, which follow weeks of political uncertainty culminating last Friday in the resignation of Mr Gujral's United Front coalition government.

Since then, the two biggest parties in parliament, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have both tried and failed to form their own administrations.

It was the withdrawal of Congress support which led Mr Gujral to resign as Prime Minister.

The latest crisis came to a head five days ago when the United Front government tended its resignation.

According to convention, a government that steps down when it no longer commands a majority normally recommends that parliament be dissolved.

The immediate cause of the dissolution of parliament was the crisis which blew up over a judicial inquiry into the assassination in 1991 of the former Congress Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

It highlighted links between the Dravida Munnetra Kalagam, a Tamil Nadu-based regional party which was a member of the United Front coalition and the Tamil Tiger rebels of Sri Lanka, who were suspected here of being behind Mr Gandhi's murder.

Congress demanded that the DMK be expelled but the coalition stood by the DMK, resulting in a stalemate.

Attention now turns to the election, which is most likely to take place towards the end of February or early March.

It is an election no-one wants, but one which has become unavoidable because of the ambition of the Congress party to return to power.

Congress, which under the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty appeared to rule over India by divine right, must now reverse its recent misfortunes and is pinning its hopes on Mr Gandhi's Italian-born widow, Sonia, playing an active role on the campaign trail.

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