Elections threaten to topple Indian PM

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The Independent Online
THE INDIAN Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Congress party leader, Sonia Gandhi, ended campaigning yesterday for provincial elections trading accusations amid tight security.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party began its first extended spell in government in May with a bang - five underground nuclear explosions. If the BJP finishes with a whimper, tomorrow's regional elections may signal the beginning of the end.

Going to the polls will be the capital, Delhi, Mizoram in the far north- east, and Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Some 83 million will have the chance to vote.

All eyes will be on Delhi and Rajasthan, where the BJP has ruled for five and eight years respectively. If the party loses to Congress in either state, its days in control at the centre in Delhi may be numbered. If Congress wins, the deciding factor will be the BJP-led government's inability to control the price of basic commodities.