Indian coalition collapses

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The Independent Online
The powerful Congress Party withdrew support from India's ruling coalition yesterday, forcing the Prime Minister to resign in the third government collapse in less than two years.

"We have withdrawn support to the United Front government under IK Gujral. We have communicated this to the president," Congress chief Sitaram Kesri said, referring to the Prime Minister. Hours later, a spokesman announced Mr Gujral's resignation. Mr Kesri, during a 30-minute meeting with President KR Narayanan earlier in the day, had staked Congress's claim to form the next government.

"We are sure, given a chance, we would be able to prove our majority on the floor of the house," he said in a letter to the president released to reporters. The President is India's constitutional head of state.

Congress abandoned Mr Gujral's seven-month-old, 14-party United Front government after accusing one of its members of supporting rebels linked to the 1991 assassination of party leader and former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. Congress and the Front came together in 1996 to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party from forming a government. Mr Gujral is the second prime minister to lead the nation and the United Front, after Congress withdrew support from a previous Front chief deemed ineffective in March.

- AP, New Delhi