HYDERABAD, India (AP) _ A powerful regional ally of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's coalition government has suggested death sentences for rapists to curb rising crime against women in India.

``Look at any newspaper. Every day you come across dozens of such incidents of rape and other atrocities against women,'' Chandrababu Naidu, the top elected official of southern Andhra Pradesh state, told reporters Saturday.

India's existing punishment for rape is a maximum of seven years in prison. Naidu's cabinet sent a formal demand to the federal government to introduce a bill raising the punishment to death.

Naidu's Telugu Desam Party controls 30 seats in Indian parliament. It is the largest group among the 24 parties in Vajpayee's government.