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Manmohan Singh likely to be ousted as prime minister, says ally

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on April 17, 2009

Manmohan Singh, the face of India’s emergence as a global economic power, is likely to be ousted as prime minister in the elections which begin on Thursday, a key ally has claimed.

Manmohan Singh likely to be ousted as prime minister

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Photo: REUTERS

As Indians begin four weeks of voting in the biggest democratic election in human history, the man who saved Mr Singh’s Congress-led government last year told The Daily Telegraph he is likely to be replaced by leaders of India’s lower castes.

The political demise of Mr Singh would be mourned in Britain and the United States, where he is admired as the man who oversaw India’s rise to become the world’s second fastest-growing economy.

The Congress Party prime minister narrowly survived a confidence vote last July when its Communist-led allies resigned in protest after he signed a controversial nuclear deal with the United States, which critics claimed ended India’s traditional non-aligned stand.

Singh stood firm and argued that India needed American support to upgrade its nuclear industry to meet the country’s insatiable demand for electricity. The deal effectively made India and the United States strategic partners in Asia.

The government and the nuclear deal were saved when Amar Singh, a colourful and influential politician from Uttar Pradesh swung his Samajwadi Party colleagues behind the government, which survived the test with three votes to spare.

But last night, Mr Singh, who counts Bollywood’s biggest star, Amitabh Bachchan, and former US President Bill Clinton among his friends, said Congress had lost its clout among its former allies and it was unlikely Manmohan Singh would return as prime minister.

He said the coming election would see the two main parties, Congress and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lose ground while the influence of smaller left and caste-based parties would emerge stronger.

The decline of the two largest parties and the growing influence of dalits and other ‘backward’ castes has become the defining feature of Indian politics in the last decade. With no single party strong enough to muster a majority, coalition-building has become the key skill.

Congress however has alienated most of its key allies and failed to seal a seat-sharing agreement which could have strengthened its prospects. In two key states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, negotiations collapsed and Congress will now stand against several of its strongest allies.

Their leaders have accused Congress of arrogance and bullying and are determined to humble the party in the negotiations following the close of polling on May 13th.

According to Amar Singh, Congress will return to government, but as partners rather than leaders, and prime minister Manmohan Singh will be ousted as prime minister.

“There can’t be a government without Congress but it won’t be Congress-led. They will be in a weaker position. It will be too difficult for Manmohan Singh [to return as prime minister] because there is a dogma around him, because he joined forces with the Americans,” he said.

He predicted his own party leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav will emerge as prime minister with the support of the Communist-led ‘Third Front’ and the backing of his ‘backward caste’ allies in Bihar.

Those allies, including Railways minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, and Steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan, are likely to join with the Communist alliance to minimise Congress influence in a new government, Mr Singh said.

This revelation will come as a shock in India, where the Third Front leaders had reached out to Uttar Pradesh’s charismatic chief minister Mayawati. But according to Mr Singh, she will be dropped as a price of their members joining the new government.

He said on the ground issues like power supply and water would be important, but the election will be dominated by “the three Cs – cash, criminals and caste.

“Rural India is still not up to the mark. People are saying prices are too high, they’re not protected from criminals, and they are held back by the caste system,” he said.

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