New poll looms as coalition attempt falters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 May, 1996, 12:00am

The political drama is hotting up as India's three main political groups fail to agree to terms on a coalition government.

Some pundits are even predicting a new general election will be held soon.

The only thing the politicians agree on is that no government can be formed without the support of two of the three major political groupings - the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the National Front, an alliance of leftist and low-caste parties.

The National Front and Congress are committed to keeping the Hindu nationalists out of office.

But both groups appear to do little but flirt with the idea of uniting against the BJP.

Congress MPs have indicated they would be prepared to back a Front government from the outside.

The National Front does not have a credible record of holding together in government nor a respected prime ministerial candidate as yet.

The last National Front led coalition government in 1990 lasted just 11 months.

Former prime minister V. P. Singh and Jyoti Basu, the Marxist chief minister of West Bengal state, the Front's two candidates for India's top political job, are loath to make a bid for it, wary of heading a shaky coalition.

The BJP and its allies also have their problems.

Despite winning the largest number of seats in the 454-member Lower House, the BJP is finding it hard to cobble 270 MPs together and assume office.

'The BJP's anti-Muslim, non-secular outlook is going to make it difficult to find partners,' said a political commentator.

Senior BJP members admitted being 50 to 60 MPs short of a majority and at the weekend were busy offering incentives to about 120 MPs from smaller, non-committed parties and independents.

None of India's past three coalition governments has lasted more than two years.