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India's Coalition Loses Key Support

March 31, 1997| From Associated Press

NEW DELHI — The Congress Party, which has dominated Indian politics since leading the country to independence in 1947, suddenly withdrew its support from the governing coalition Sunday, meaning new elections may be necessary for the second time in a year.

Congress called on Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda to resign, blaming his center-left government for what it called a failure to curb Hindu nationalism and for a breakdown of law and order. Congress said it will seek to form the next government.

Gowda's 14-party United Front coalition responded defiantly, saying it will battle to stay in office when Parliament reconvenes in three weeks.

Congress is expected to seek a no-confidence vote that the government would have difficulty winning without its support.

The timing of the Congress move came as a surprise because India and Pakistan were engaged in their first formal dialogue in three years to try to ease tension between the hostile neighbors.

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