Rao fends off party dissidents

India's Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, fended off an attack on his authority by party rebels during a general meeting of the Congress Party at the weekend, Tim McGirk reports from New Delhi. He threatened to deal harshly with dissidents, claiming that 'if Congress were divided, the result will be disastrous for the nation'.

A strong faction of party members, led by the powerful Human Resources Development Minister, Arjun Singh, is critical of the Prime Minister's failure to prevent thousands of Hindu militants from destroying a mosque at Ayodhya in December and for not stopping a wave of religious violence that erupted after the mosque was torn down. At the conference, the dissidents failed to muster the strength to force a vote on whether Mr Rao should be allowed to keep his post as party president while serving as Prime Minister.