Rao dismisses three state governments

New Delhi - The Indian Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, yesterday dismissed the elected governments of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh and declared direct rule from New Delhi in these three states controlled by the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), writes Tim McGirk. Mr Rao suspended the BJP chief ministers for reportedly failing to carry out a ban on religious extremist groups in the wake of week-long riots between Muslims and Hindus.

The move is expected to draw the Congress government into a fierce showdown with the BJP, whose two leaders, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Joshi, were arrested last week for allegedly inciting Hindu zealots on 6 December to destroy the Ayodhya mosque. Some politicians also warn that the dismissal of the three BJP state governments could raise sectarian tensions. The BJP's vice-president, K L Sharma, said the suspension of the three state governments 'sounded the death knell for Indian democracy'.