Sonia to stake claim to form Govt today | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Sonia to stake claim to form Govt today

PTI | ByReuters, New Delhi
May 17, 2004 11:41 AM IST

She has the support of nearly 300 MPs, well-above the half-way mark needed to rule in 545-seat House.

Armed with letters of support from a growing number of political parties, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi is expected to meet the president on Monday to stake her claim to power.

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President Abdul Kalam will likely accept Gandhi's claim to lead the nation after she was assured the support of nearly 300 MPs, well-above the half-way mark required to rule in the 545-seat Parliament.

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"It is a formality, we expect her to be sworn into office on Wednesday," said a leader of the Congress party, which ousted the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition from office in one of biggest election upsets.

Italian-born Gandhi will be country's first foreign-born prime minister, but the fourth from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty after her husband, Rajiv, mother-in-law Indira and Indira's father Jawaharlal Nehru.

Rajiv and Indira were assassinated.

Communist parties that won a pivotal 60-plus seats have pledged their support for Gandhi, but are still debating whether to join her coalition or simply back it from outside.

"There are two views on this. We hope to be able to finalise our stand today," said AB Bardhan, leader of the Communist Party of India.

The communists have reservations about the country's free-market economic reforms that Congress initiated in 1991 and is committed to carry forward. Some communist parties are also in direct opposition to the Congress in several states.

A clutch of second-rung leaders of the defeated BJP and its affiliates that have long targeted Gandhi's foreign origin, said they remained opposed to her candidature for the nation's top job.

"We are going to start a national self-respect movement," said BJP member K Govindacharya. "Even now, we urge the parties to reconsider their decision and choose a natural-born Indian citizen as prime minister."

Newspapers said BJP's Sushma Swaraj had told partymen she was going to resign her seat in Parliament if Gandhi was sworn in as prime minister.

There has been no word from either former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee or his deputy Lal Krishna Advani to the renewed demand from within the party flock to target Gandhi's foreign birth.

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