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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 16:46 GMT
Direct rule for key Indian state
Gunmen in Bihar
There were numerous reports of violence during Bihar's elections
India's cabinet has recommended direct rule in the eastern state of Bihar.

The cabinet said central rule was the only option as no party or alliance could form stable government in Bihar.

The cabinet took the decision in the absence of the railways and chemicals ministers, who are both politicians from Bihar and boycotted the meeting.

The cabinet move, which the president must ratify, would end 15 years of rule by railways minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and his wife in Bihar.

Split verdict

The BBC's Abhishek Prabhat in Delhi says that the president's acceptance of direct rule for Bihar is likely to be a formality.

The president does, however, have the power - occasionally exercised by some of his predecessors in different circumstances - to send back a cabinet direct rule request for further consideration.

Under direct - or presidential - rule, India's central government rather than local politicians runs a state on behalf of the president.

The governor of Bihar recommended direct rule after he became convinced that no party could form a workable coalition government.

Bihar, one of India's poorest and most lawless states, plunged into political uncertainty after last month's staggered elections threw up divided results.

In a split verdict, no political alliance was able to win the 122 seats required to win a majority in the 243-member legislature.

The regional Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a key ally of the ruling Congress party-led federal government which had ruled the state without a break for 15 years, lost its majority, winning only 75 of the 215 seats it contested.

The RJD is run by Laloo Prasad Yadav, one of India's most popular and colourful politicians and a senior member of the federal cabinet.

Laloo Prasad Yadav
Laloo Prasad Yadav's party ruled Bihar for 15 years

His wife, Rabri Devi, has resigned from her post as chief minister.

The Congress party which backed the RJD in a pre-election coalition won only 10 of 84 seats it contested.

The rival coalition - an alliance of the Hindu nationalist BJP and the regional Janata Dal (United) - also fell short of a majority, winning 92 of the 241 seats the parties contested.

Both the alliances had been trying to secure the support of the regional Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) which won 29 seats and is seen as a deciding force in forming the next state government.

Political foes

But LJP leader, Ram Vilas Paswan, the chemicals minister of the central government, has refused to support either the RJD or BJP.

Mr Yadav and Mr Paswan are regional political foes though they are part of the Congress-led ruling alliance in Delhi.

Mr Paswan blames Mr Yadav's 15-year rule for the lack of development and law and order in the state.

Though RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav is keen to have Mr Paswan's support for an anti-BJP government in the state, Mr Paswan has refused.

"Let there be president's rule in Bihar, it will be better than the misrule we had all these years," Mr Paswan told reporters.

Bihar
Bihar is India's most backward state (Picture: Prashant Ravi)

Despite the setback, Mr Yadav maintains that he is confident of forming the next government because his party won more seats than any others.

But the main opposition BJP-led alliance and Mr Paswan said the verdict was a vote against Mr Yadav's party.

Elections took place in Jharkhand and Haryana states, as well as in Bihar.

While Congress won in Haryana, its performance was much poorer in Jharkhand and Bihar.

The formation of a new government in Jharkhand has been also mired in controversy after the state's governor swore in a governing alliance member as the leader even though he appears to lack support.

The Jharkhand chief minister, Shibu Soren, who is also a key Congress party ally, has been given until 14 March to prove his majority.



SEE ALSO:
India's 'partisan' governors
04 Mar 05 |  South Asia
Bihar's loyalties cast in stone
19 Feb 05 |  South Asia
India polls produce mixed outcome
28 Feb 05 |  South Asia
Voting ends in east Indian states
23 Feb 05 |  South Asia
High turnout in India state polls
15 Feb 05 |  South Asia
Indian states vote amid violence
03 Feb 05 |  South Asia


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