News

DATE=10/4/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=INDIA ELECTION REACT NUMBER=5-44404 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Exit polls in India indicate Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his multi-party alliance will likely form the next government. But the Polls suggest Mr. Vajpayee will not have much more of a majority than he did six-months ago when his government collapsed after a parliamentary confidence vote. Correspondent Jim Teeple reports it appears India has emerged from months of campaigning and weeks of voting without the political stability that many voters said they wanted. Text: Indians woke up after five-weeks of staggered voting to find exit polls telling them the government that returns to power in New Delhi will closely resemble the one that was defeated by one-vote in a parliamentary confidence motion six-months ago. The results of the election will not be known until later this week. But most exit polls say the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition will have about a dozen votes more than a simple majority in India's 545-seat lower house. That will enable Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to form the next government. Editorials in the country's leading dailies are pessimistic. "The Times of India" says -- Hot air, floods, blood, death and abuse are the legacies of India's 1999 election. Bombay's stock exchange, India's largest, closed lower on the mixed poll results. Brokers say selling pressures will likely continue if it looks like the new government cannot enact economic reforms because of a weak majority. // OPT // The polls indicate Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the leader of the Congress Party was unable to defeat Mr. Vajpayee. But the exit polls also appear to show the Congress Party has picked up seats and will be a formidable opposition in the next session. // END OPT// The question being asked in India following its marathon election is -- Was it worth it, if not much has changed? The chairman of the Center for Media Studies in New Delhi, N. Bhaskar Rao, says most Indians voted hoping for stability after three elections in three years. The head of the independent polling group says that is not what they will get. // INSERT RAO ACTUALITY // Stability is nowhere in sight. I see the next election well before five-years. In fact, I see another election in two-years. // END ACTUALITY // // OPT // That is not the result that either of the two main candidates -- Sonia Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee -- say they want. The last B-J-P led coalition lasted just 13-months before being defeated in April. Mr. Vajpayee's government was brought down after one of his coalition partners withdrew support. If the exit polls are correct, Mr. Vajpayee will return to power as head of an even more unwieldy coalition made up of more than 20 parties. // END OPT // With a slim majority in Parliament, many people in India are asking how long it will be before one of the Prime Minister's coalition partners withdraws support, precipitating another crisis. N. Bhaskar Rao, of the Center for Media Studies, says the election has only made things worse for ordinary Indians. // INSERT RAO ACTUALITY // Instability for the country, bad for the economy, it has been bad for nearly everybody. In fact, this election has been good for none -- except perhaps for the pollsters who must have a lot of money -- and also perhaps for the media because they got a lot of business out of it. So I think, on the whole, the country has lost a billion dollars because what this election really cost the country was a billion dollars. // END ACTUALITY // A new government must be in place no later than October 21st. Its first task will be to prepare for a November visit by Pope John Paul, who is coming to India as tensions rise between the country's tiny Christian minority and Hindu nationalists. President Bill Clinton says he too wants to visit India once a new government is installed, and that will require the new government to address the issue of signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Other contentious issues a coalition government might have difficulty addressing are whether to restart the suspended dialogue with Pakistan, how to proceed with economic reforms, and how to pay for the costs of this year's Kashmir fighting. (SIGNED) NEB/JLT/RAE 04-Oct-1999 10:04 AM LOC (04-Oct-1999 1404 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .