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Sunday, April 25, 1999 Published at 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK

World: South Asia

India faces fresh elections

Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party has run out of options

India's third election in as many years seems almost inevitable after the leader of the opposition Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, said she did not have enough support to form a government.

Daniel Lak in Delhi: The president is now the man on the spot
Mrs Gandhi also said she would not back any other coalition.

Politics in the world's largest democracy have been in turmoil since the Hindu-nationalist BJP-led government lost a vote of confidence eight days ago.

"I told the president that I tried my best but I have not been able to get enough support," Mrs Gandhi said after meeting President KR Narayanan for the third time this week.

"I feel that while many parties have been very sincere, other parties have put their own interests before everything else," she said.

Congress falls short

She said she had shown the president a list of 239 MPs ready to support a Congress government, six more than the figure she gave him on Friday.

[ image:  ]
But she is still 34 short of the majority the party needs.

"I tried my best to convince my colleagues and friends in secular parties, but I have not been able to convince them," Mrs Gandhi said.

"Whatever the president decides we will abide by it," she conceded.

Outgoing prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is to hold a cabinet meeting on Monday having also met President Narayanan.

Elections can only be ordered on the recommendation of the cabinet.

"The president has informed me of his views regarding the present situation. I cannot reveal details," Vajpayee said after the brief meeting.

Communist out of the running

Veteran Communist Jyoti Basu was ruled out of the running for India's prime minister on Sunday by his party, the Communist Party of India.

[ image: Jyoti Basu: Ruled out as compromise candidate]
Jyoti Basu: Ruled out as compromise candidate
Opposition politicians had proposed Mr Basu as a compromise candidate to head a coalition of smaller parties.

But his party refused the plan and instead urged Congress, the largest opposition party, to take part in a coalition government.

"There is no other way to establish a stable government," said Communist Party General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet.

Daniel Lak in Delhi: A difficult path ahead
But Mrs Gandhi has now ruled this option out too.

Politicians had hoped to avoid an election, but India's Sunday newspapers call it the only way for the electorate to be given a stable government.

However, the BBC correspondent in Delhi, Daniel Lak, says conditions for campaigning won't be suitable until October once the summer and monsoon seasons are over.

He says that raises the prospect of an interim government in power for the next six months - something that creates its own complications.

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