Indecisive Election Forces Parties to Try Building Union India's Lower Castes See Chance at Power

Article excerpt

Diverse political parties tried to form a coalition government Saturday after one of the most indecisive elections in India history.

On Friday, Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao resigned after his Congress Party - which had governed India for decades - suffered a setback in parliamentary elections.

President Shankar Dayal Sharma asked the 74-year-old Rao to stay on as a caretaker until a new government is in place in the world's most populous democracy.

Rao's Congress Party has ruled India for almost all of its 48 years of independence. But the party has been stung by infighting, corruption scandals and poorly chosen alliances with regional parties.

Commentators urged the parties to work together for a smooth transition to the new government.

"India is in for a spell of turbulence, if not turmoil" if it doesn't soon replace the Congress Party with a coalition government, The Pioneer newspaper warned in an editorial.

All eyes focused on the president, who will decide which party gets the first crack at trying to form the next administration. That party then would have to win a vote of confidence in Parliament within 30 days.

For only the second time in Indian history, no party won a majority in the ballot. Both the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which finished first, and the National Front-Left Front, a coalition of leftists and lower-caste groups that was in third place, were seeking the nod from Sharma.

The Congress Party and the National Front - both secular parties - have said they will not join up with the BJP. They object to the BJP's focus on Hindu revivalism and worry that it will reduce the special rights of minority Muslims regarding issues such as marriage and divorce. …