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Rift thwarts efforts to form India government

SHARE Rift thwarts efforts to form India government

A day after pulling down the 7-month-old ruling coalition and staking claim to power, India's Congress Party admitted Saturday it had made little progress in mustering support for a new government.

"There has been no breakthrough so far," senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee acknowledged.The May 1996 parliamentary elections toppled the ruling Congress Party but left no other party with enough seats to govern alone, opening political turmoil that has seen three short-lived governments. The latest fell Friday.

Congress's most likely partners are members of the 14-party United Front coalition, which it just pulled down.

The United Front has said cobbling together a new coalition is no solution to the political crisis and has called for new elections.

United Front leaders linked hands at a news conference Saturday to show determination to stay together and resist Congress Party pleas to any allies to join it in forming a new government.

The Front under Inder Kumar Gujral, now serving as caretaker prime minister, fell Friday after the Congress Party withdrew its support. Congress had wanted the coalition to oust a small party that a government-commissioned investigation blamed in the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, a Congress leader and former prime minister.

No party has a majority in the 545-member decisionmaking lower house of Parliament, where ideological differences abound.

The largest party in Parliament, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, governed for just 13 days immediately after the 1996 elections, falling in a confidence vote after failing to find allies.