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Indian Government Resigns After Losing Vote

April 18, 1999| From Associated Press

NEW DELHI — India's Hindu nationalist government resigned Saturday after losing a confidence vote by a single ballot, a margin that signaled continued political turmoil as Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi prepared to try to form the next government.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee gave his resignation to President Kocheril Raman Narayanan but agreed to stay on as caretaker until a new government is formed.

"I accept the house verdict with all humility," Vajpayee said.

The 270-269 vote ended the 13-month administration of the Hindu nationalist coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Congress Party, which governed India for most of the years since independence in 1947, authorized Gandhi to decide on the shape of a future government.

Gandhi is the Italian-born widow of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and daughter-in-law of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, both of whom were assassinated. Indira Gandhi's father was India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The party has said that Gandhi, a Roman Catholic, would be its prime minister if it formed a government. But her birth in Italy and the fact that she delayed taking Indian citizenship for many years after her marriage to Rajiv Gandhi have come under criticism by her political rivals.

Gandhi has focused on rebuilding the Congress Party since she emerged from seclusion early this year to campaign in national elections and has made few policy statements. She was later named president of the party.

The party will wait for Narayanan's invitation to form a government rather than claim power, spokesman Arjun Singh said.

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