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BSP ends support for government PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 June 2008

REUTERS, NEW DELHI  - The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), an ally of ruling alliance, withdrew support for the government on Saturday, saying it had failed to tame rising inflation, but there was no immediate threat to the survival of the coalition.

The regional BSP, which holds 17 seats in parliament but is seen as powerful in India's coalition politics, also accused the government of neglecting Uttar Pradesh, where the party is based.

"The UPA government has failed on all fronts and, instead of curbing prices, it was responsible for prices of essential commodities rising to an all-time high," BSP leader Mayawati told a news conference.

With less than a year to go to elections, rising prices are a headache for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Congress party.

India's wholesale price index rose 11.05 percent in the 12 months to June 7 on Friday, the highest rate in 13 years as the effects of a hike in fuel prices hit inflation.

But the Congress party sought to play down the departure.

"The BSP's reasons for withdrawal of support are unsustainable," a Congress spokesman said.

The government is also under pressure from other allies, particularly the communists, to bring prices down and over a civilian nuclear deal with the United States which the communists oppose.

The nuclear energy deal appears headed for an imminent showdown that threatens to trigger early elections. Congress and its non-communist allies may have only a week or so to make up their minds if the pact is to have any chance of final approval before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office.


Analysts say the BSP has deliberately timed its decision to withdraw support.

"I think the timing is significant -- we are possibly looking at the endgame of the government around the nuclear deal, it's a time when they need every vote they've got in the house," said Mahesh Rangarajan, a political commentator.

The BSP, a party of predominantly lower castes, may play kingmaker to the next national administration.

Mayawati is perhaps India's most keenly watched politician after she captured power in 2007 in Uttar Pradesh, home to 170 million people and a seventh of all national lawmakers.

She won by taking a pro-poor message beyond the core base of her fellow Dalits, those on the lowest rung of the caste ladder.

"She seems to be signalling that she hopes her party will be a major opponent of the UPA in the general elections," Rangarajan said.

Mayawati is also seen as a potential leader of a collection of regional and caste-based parties circling each other warily and talking of a "Third Front" alternative to Congress and the main Hindu-nationalist opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Such a grouping, however, lacks a common platform and is unlikely to gather enough support to form a government.

But some analysts believe she now has the momentum to win enough seats to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

Sonia Gandhi's Congress party has suffered in state elections and has only managed to draw relatively small and unenthusiastic crowds at rallies.

"At the next general election, she (Mayawati) will make more difference than now because her numbers are going to be more than they are now. That's why she matters more than other leaders," said Bhaskara Rao, a political analyst at the Centre for Media Studies.

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