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Sunday, 10 October, 1999, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
Vajpayee's delicate task
Hectic lobbying has begun for key government positions
Hectic lobbying has begun for key government positions
By South Asia Analyst Alastair Lawson

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been holding talks with regional leaders as he starts to put together a new government, following his victory in the general election.

The prime minister says that he is confident the new government will provide India with electoral stability - the country has had six governments since 1996.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
But Mr Vajpayee now has a tough task ahead of him. He must decide on the formation of his cabinet from more than 20 parties within the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

On the face of it, Mr Vajpayee's tasks over the next few days should be fairly routine. But Mr Vajpayee has the difficulty of forming a new cabinet in which he will have to try and balance the often conflicting demands of the parties within his coalition.

The BJP - as the major party within the coalition - is widely expected to maintain the Home Ministry portfolio. That has recently been occupied by LK Advani, the second most influential man in the BJP after Mr Vajpayee.

Mr Advani's position, and that of the foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, are regarded by most commentators as unassailable.

However it is not clear whether BJP candidates will automatically be selected for the position of finance minister or as the Speaker of the House.

Powerful allies

The reason for this is the strength within the coalition of the BJP's various allies.

Chandrababu Naidu is a key alliance partner
Chandrababu Naidu is a key alliance partner
Of these, perhaps the most influential is the Telugu Desam Party of Andhra Pradesh.

Although it has not yet made clear whether it will formally become part of the government, it won 29 seats in the parliamentary elections as well as winning the majority of seats in the state assembly elections.

The role of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu, will be paramount in deciding whether or not his party joins the coalition.

It will also be crucial in determining which ministries the TDP may be given in the federal government.

Defence Ministry

Another key party within the coalition is the Janata Dal (United). It has 19 parliamentary seats and a host of well known politicians, including Defence Minister George Fernandes and former Railways Minister Nitish Kumar.

George Fernandes has attracted consisderable controversy
George Fernandes has attracted consisderable controversy
One of the toughest tasks facing Mr Vajpayee will be deciding whether of not Mr Fernandes should be re-appointed.

The defence minister has attracted considerable controversy since his appointment by declaring that China posed a greater threat to India than Pakistan, and also by his decision to sack India's naval chief.

There are two other parties within Mr Vajpayee's coalition that will be lobbying hard for ministerial representation.

The DMK in the state of Tamil Nadu won 12 parliamentary seats.

It will argue that it should be rewarded because it halted the progress of the AIADMK party of Jayalalitha, who bitterly fell out with the government in a row that precipitated the latest election.

Also lobbying for position will be the Trinamool Congress party in the state of West Bengal. It succeeded in making a major dent in the level of support traditionally enjoyed by the state's governing left front, winning eight seats.

In the next few days, Mr Vajpayee's handling of this balancing act - as well as his handling of the smaller coalition partners - may provide a good insight into how well his government performs as a whole.

See also:

08 Oct 99 | South Asia
07 Oct 99 | South Asia
07 Oct 99 | South Asia
08 Oct 99 | South Asia
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