Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fate of 2 Men Illustrates Shifting of Power in India

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fate of 2 Men Illustrates Shifting of Power in India

Article excerpt

This month, the jockeying to determine who would be India's next prime minister came down to two senior politicians, both 77, both old enough to have fought for independence from Britain, both veterans of the Congress Party that has ruled for 45 of the past 50 years.

One failed in a bold power play, and the other emerged as leader of India's ruling coalition. The shifting fortunes of these two men illustrate the striking political change under way in the world's largest democracy.

The loser was Congress Party leader Sitaram Kesri, whose style recalls the long post-independence era during which the party ruled virtually without challenge. The winner, I.K. Gujral, was sworn in as prime minister Monday. Gujral, who broke with Congress two decades ago, heads a multiparty coalition that kept Kesri and Congress out of office and promises to represent lower-caste Hindus who complain of poverty and discrimination. Gujral won a vote of confidence in parliament on Tuesday, putting an end to a 24-day political crisis that yielded India's fourth prime minister in a year. Gujral was elected leader of the United Front coalition on Saturday after his party colleague and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda lost a confidence vote on April 11. The political crisis was triggered when the Congress Party decided to withdraw support for Deve Gowda's government on March 30. Congress later pledged support to the new United Front alliance under Gujral's leadership. Once synonymous with the ruling of India, Congress has slipped to its lowest strength in the 545-member Parliament. As a result, Indian politics has become more competitive, but no single party has stepped in to fill the vacuum created by Congress' decline. "The new approach in Indian politics is to have coalition governments," said Chandrababu Naidu, coordinator of the United Front, as the coalition that Gujral now heads is called. "Coalition governments are here to stay. …

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