Crucial vote for Indian coalition

A confidence vote in the Indian parliament today will determine whether the 13-party coalition can remain in power. Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda refused all week to buckle under pressure to step aside after a key ally, the Congress party, withdrew support on Easter Sunday.

Many doubt that Mr Gowda can shore up enough support for his left-leaning United Front to rule, now Sitaram Kesri, president of the Congress party, has turned on him. But the United Front has no intention of complying with Mr Kesri's demands that Congress form the next government. "No serious political party would change its leader under pressure from the outside," a United Front leader, Surjeet Singh, said last night. "It's final. We will go to the people."

For Mr Gowda to retain leadership today, either the right-wing Hindu Bharatitya Janata Party (BJP) must abstain from voting, which is unlikely, as they stand to gain most from the fall of the government, or renegade Congress party members must break ranks and side with him.

Congress, which backed the United Front coalition from the outside, was humiliated in elections last spring after corruption charges were filed against party leaders.

Mr Kesri objects to the United Front's pursuit of allegedly corrupt officials within Congress. The former farmer from Karnataka is raking up dirt on the former Congress prime minister, Narasimha Rao, and Mr Kesri himself.

Mr Kesri blamed Mr Gowda's government for failing to stem the rise of the BJP, which now controls the Punjab and will take turns heading the state government of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. He also protested against the Prime Minister's recent meeting with Bal Thackeray, head of the fundamentalist Shiv Sena (Shiva's Army) in Bombay.

Critics accuse Mr Kesri, 82, of putting his own survival ahead of his party, and there are fears that Congress may split over his brash gamble to unseat Mr Gowda.

Questions about sleaze are still unanswered. Mr Kesri may have timed his move to ward of investigations into his own finances; he had long been the Congress party treasurer and was thought to be above lining his own pockets when he was cited for "accumulating disproportionate assets" and then fined for income tax evasion.

Mr Kesri apparently fears the Prime Minister was plotting to frame him in a lurid murder trial, and reportedly confided this to Jyoti Basu, a communist leader from Calcutta, and two other statesmen who attempted to broker a deal between the former allies.

After police questioned Mr Kesri about the kidnapping and brutal killing of his personal physician, Dr Surendra Tanwar, he was livid with Mr Gowda for allowing the investigation to be reopened. The doctor's body was found in a Delhi suburb in October 1993.

According to Vinod Mehta, the editor of a newsweekly in the Indian capital, Congress "has jeopardised a widely popular budget, derailed a historic opportunity to mend relations with Pakistan and undermined investor confidence ... to satisfy the irrational whims of a reckless geriatric."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific