BJP compromises in quest for power

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The Independent Online
BJP compromises in quest for power

New Delhi - India has a Hindu nationalist government, with the swearing in yesterday of Atal Behari Vajpayee and 11 ministers from his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), writes Tim McGirk. But the right-wing Hindus may only remain in power for two weeks unless they can lure in coalition allies.

The latest Indian elections were inconclusive, leaving a three-way tussle between Mr Vajpayee's BJP, the outgoing Congress party and the National Front-Left Front (NF-LF). All three are trying to scrape together the 270 parliamentary seats needed for a majority.

Mr Vajpayee's new cabinet painted a moderate face on the Hindu nationalist party. Many of the BJP's reactionaries were passed over. Despite the party's upper-caste Hindu image, a Muslim, an untouchable and a tribal are inside the cabinet. The sole purpose of the BJP's pared-down cabinet is not to run the country but to round up the necessary MPs to survive a confidence motion on 31 May. The BJP is trying to rope in the smaller regional parties by offering greater autonomy to the Indian states.

If Mr Vajpayee cannot stitch together a majority, it will be the leftists' turn.