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Saturday, January 30, 1999 Published at 13:05 GMT

World: South Asia

Indian minister resigns

Many in India feel the prime minister has not been harsh enough in his criticism of the attacks.

By BBC Delhi Correspondent Daniel Lak

A senior cabinet minister in India has resigned. In recent weeks the Minister for Tourism and Parliamentary Affairs, Madan Lal Khurana, has fallen out with the leadership of his political party, the Hindu Nationalist BJP, over a series of recent attacks on Christians that have been blamed on Hindu extremist groups.

[ image: Khurana criticised the damaging agenda of those behind the attacks]
Khurana criticised the damaging agenda of those behind the attacks
His resignation was being predicted in some newspaper columns earlier in the week but it will still be a blow to the political health of the government.

Madan Lal Khurana is seen as a close friend of the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and like him on the moderate wing of the Hindu nationalist, BJP. Mr. Khurana fell out with the party leadership a short while ago because of the leaked contents of a letter to party officials asking them to allow him to atone publicly for attacks on Christians. In it Mr Khurana refers to those behind the attacks as promoting a damaging agenda.

The attacks have escalated in recent months.

Police have blamed Hindu extremist groups that are part of the broad Hindu nationalist movement, but much more extreme and unyielding in their view of India as a Hindu country than the BJP.

[ image: Thousands have protested against the religious intolerance]
Thousands have protested against the religious intolerance
Mr Vajpayee is known to be deeply uncomfortable with such views, but many here feel he has not been harsh or detailed enough in his criticism of the attacks.

Mr. Khurana was also at odds with his party on other issues and his resignation will add even more fuel to opposition attacks on the government's confidence and control over its own supporters.

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