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Parties Accuse Gandhi of Trying to Regain Power Without Elections

March 7, 1991

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Two leading political parties on Thursday accused former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of retracting a public commitment for new elections and trying to take power ″through the back door.″

The accusations, and subsequent denials by Gandhi’s Congress Party, deepened the political impasse caused by Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar’s sudden resignation Wednesday.

All major parties, including the Congress, have said they favor holding general elections in an attempt to determine a clear ruler. The last elections, in 1989, yielded a hung Parliament and both governments formed since then have been headed by parties in a minority.

″There is an uncertainty in our minds ... whether a (new) government will come from the back door without elections,″ said Lal Krishna Advani, the leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. ″There are misgivings in our mind as to the conduct of the Congress.″

The Janata Dal party of former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, which was relegated to the opposition when Chandra Shekhar formed the government four months ago, said there were ″sinister moves to install Rajiv Gandhi through the back door.″

Congress Party spokesman M.J. Akbar denied the charges.

″We are very clear on this subject,″ he said. ″There is no question of the Congress forming a government. We are ready for polls and confident of winning a majority.″

The Congress Party, with 211 seats in the 514-member house of the people, is the largest political group in Parliament. But it needs the support of another 47 legislators if it is to form the government.

The option on whether to dissolve Parliament or allow another minority government a chance to take power rests with President Ramaswamy Venkataraman, whose usually ceremonial office assumes importance at times of political turmoil.

Venkataraman was to have decided Thursday, but a presidential spokesman said no announcement was scheduled.

Satya Prakash Malviya, Chandra Shekhar’s parliamentary affairs minister, said the Cabinet had recommended the dissolution of Parliament before the prime minister resigned.

″We are convinced that according to the constitution, the Cabinet’s advice is binding on the president,″ Malviya said.

His statement indicated Venkataraman will announce the election and dissolve Parliament after it completes business Monday or Tuesday.

Malviya said also his Janata Dal-Socialist party would contest more than 500 seats in the next elections. The party holds only 54 seats in Parliament and has been propped up by the Congress Party’s support.

Chandra Shekhar resigned after accusing Gandhi’s Congress party of trying to manipulate his government, but said he would remain in office until new arrangements were made.

Thursday, he accused the Congress Party of creating a ″constitutional crisis.″

The reference was to the party’s boycott of Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday over the alleged surveillance of Gandhi’s New Delhi home by two policemen from the neighboring state of Haryana.

The Congress Party demanded the dismissal of the government of Haryana, which is run by Chandra Shekhar’s party.

Chandra Shekhar took office Nov. 10 after he engineered the downfall of former Prime Minister V.P. Singh and formed the Janata Dal-Socialist party with a splinter group from Singh’s Janata Dal party.

Singh took office in December 1989 after the general elections prevented Gandhi’s Congress Party from gaining a majority. He formed the government after stitching together a coalition across the political spectrum that had little in common except an antipathy to the Congress Party.

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