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Thursday, December 4, 1997 Published at 11:21 GMT

image: [ BBC Correspondent: Mike Wooldridge ]Mike Wooldridge

India's President, K.R Narayanan, has dissolved parliament, paving the way for a general election in the New Year. It follows the political crisis that blew up last month over a report into the assassination of the former Congress Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991. That prompted the Congress Party to withdraw its support from the ruling coalition, and all efforts to find a solution short of a general election since then have failed. Our South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge reports:

So what looked almost inevitable since yesterday, when the caretaker cabinet recommended the dissolution of parliament to the President, has now become a certainty, and the world's largest democracy will go to the polls for the second time in two years. The main question is though whether India will end up once again with a coalition government that may not necessarily be more stable than the United Front has been, or whether the country is about to return to commanding rule by a single party.

Many observers suspect that the days of coalition politics are here to stay for the time being. The coming election has been prompted by the actions of the Congress Party, defeated in 1996 after so many years of dominance in Indian politics, and never happy with its more recent role of providing outside support to the United Front government.

But as it now makes its bid to return to power, it will be anxious as to whether its strategy might serve only to let in a government headed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP. Mr I.K Gujral will remain caretaker Prime Minister until the elections, but apparently there was debate about this before the dissolution announcement was finally made.

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