News

DATE=5/2/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-248852 TITLE=INDIA/B-J-P (L) BYLINE=ANJANA PASRICHA DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: INDIA'S HINDU-NATIONALIST PARTY HAS CONCLUDED A TWO-DAY POLITICAL STRATEGY MEETING IN NEW DELHI. THE MEETING COMES TWO-WEEKS AFTER THE HINDU-NATIONALIST-LED-COALITION WAS TOPPLED FROM POWER, AND MID-TERM ELECTIONS WERE CALLED. ANJANA PASRICHA REPORTS FROM NEW DELHI. TEXT: THE "BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY" SAYS IT WILL CONTEST FORTHCOMING GENERAL ELECTIONS IN ALLIANCE WITH THE 17 POLITICAL GROUPS THAT WERE PART OF THE COALITION GOVERNMENT. INDIA'S PRESIDENT CALLED ELECTIONS LAST WEEK AFTER OPPOSITION GROUPS DEFEATED THE FRAGILE B-J-P-LED COALITION BY JUST ONE VOTE. POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE BEGUN PLANNING FOR THE ELECTIONS, THOUGH A DATE HAS NOT BEEN SET. THEY MUST BE HELD WITHIN SIX-MONTHS. AT THE WEEKEND MEETING, B-J-P PRESIDENT KHUSHABHAU THAKRE, SAID HIS PARTY WILL STRIVE TO WIN A DECISIVE MANDATE. BUT THE B-J-P IS UNCERTAIN OF WINNING A MAJORITY -- AND IS EMPHASIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF ALLIANCES WITH SMALL REGIONAL PARTIES, RANGING FROM SOCIALIST GROUPS TO RADICAL RIGHTWINGERS. THE PARTY HAS CALLED FOR GREATER UNITY WITH ITS ALLIES. IT HAS PROPOSED A COMMON ELECTION MANIFESTO TO KEEP THE COALITION PARTNERS TOGETHER IN THE ELECTION. THE B-J-P SAYS IT WILL ALSO LOOK FOR NEW ALLIANCE PARTNERS. SINCE 1989 NO SINGLE PARTY HAS WON ENOUGH VOTES TO COME TO POWER ALONE, AND REGIONAL GROUPS HAVE PROVED CRITICAL IN THE FORMATION OF COALITION GOVERNMENTS. POLITICAL ANALYSTS SAY THE NEXT ELECTION IS ALSO LIKELY TO PRODUCE A FRACTURED VERDICT. B-J-P LEADERS SAY THEY ALSO HOPE TO BENEFIT FROM SYMPATHY GENERATED BY THE PARTY'S SINGLE VOTE DEFEAT, AND THE FAILURE OF OPPOSITION GROUPS TO FORM AN ALTERNATIVE ADMINISTRATION. THE PARTY IS SHARPENING ITS ATTACK ON THE RIVAL "CONGRESS PARTY" AND COMMUNIST GROUPS FOR BRINGING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT. IT BLAMES THESE PARTIES FOR PUSHING THE COUNTRY DOWN THE COSTLY ELECTION ROAD. MEANWHILE, A POLL PUBLISHED BY "THE TIMES OF INDIA" SUNDAY SAID PRIME MINISTER ATAL BEHARI VAJPAYEE REMAINS THE VOTERS TOP CHOICE TO LEAD THE COUNTRY. FORTY-SIX PERCENT OF THOSE POLLED SAID THEY WOULD VOTE FOR THE B-J-P, WHILE 24-PERCENT OPTED FOR THE CONGRESS PARTY. BUT THE POLL WAS CONFINED TO METROPOLITAN CITIES -- WHILE A VAST MAJORITY OF INDIA'S 600-MILLION VOTERS LIVE IN VILLAGES. (SIGNED) NEB/AP/RAE 02-May-99 8:58 AM EDT (1258 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .