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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK

World: South Asia

Analysis: Allies may hamper BJP

The results were keenly awaited, but do they herald stable government?

By Daniel Lak in Delhi

On paper, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has won a clear majority. But it's not as big as the BJP and the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, had been hoping for.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
The BJP's allies, if all choose to participate in the next administration, are about 40% of the coalition and will want a strong voice in government.

Some parties grouped under the umbrella of the alliance have not formally agreed to observe its policies, including the Telugu Dusam Party, from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

It made impressive gains in this election. The party leader - one of India's most dynamic young politicians, Chandrababu Naidu - says he hasn't decided to join the alliance; observers think he's planning to do so, perhaps accepting some key cabinet portfolios.

The BJP has also seen a decrease in its own support, and it had to suspend some of its controversial Hindu-nationalist policies to keep the alliance together.

But it will be able to say with some justification that the allies' successes could be put down to the popularity of Mr Vajpayee.

Heavy defeat for Congress

[ image: Sonia Gandhi: Poor party performance]
Sonia Gandhi: Poor party performance
This has been a disastrous election for the opposition Congress party, which has seen its strength in parliament drop to its lowest level ever.

Its leader, Sonia Gandhi, has been elected to parliament, but she has acknowledged overall defeat by calling for a thorough examination of the party's overall losses.

Party sources say her own leadership might come under question, but it's difficult to see who could successfully challenge her.

She may try to use the opportunity to consolidate her own authority and replace discredited officials.

The party is in for a period of political disruption as it digests the results of this poll.

Local issues

In the end, the Indian electorate has voted for a wide array of local and regional reasons and ignored appeals to enhance national unity or stability by choosing a strong personality or a national political party.

A sort of stability has probably returned nonetheless to the political system, but much will depend on the ability of the broad-based National Democratic Alliance to work together and not squabble its way to defeat, as has happened several times in the recent past.

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