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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hindu Named New Indian Premier

NEW DELHI -- India's Hindu nationalist leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was named prime minister Wednesday as a rival leftist bid to rule the world's biggest democracy following indecisive elections was turned aside.

President Shankar Dayal Sharma gave Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP -- which won just two seats in parliament in 1984 elections -- until May 31 to prove a majority in the deeply split parliament.

To do so, he will have to pass a vote of confidence. If he loses it, India's first Hindu nationalist government will fall.

"The president has appointed me as the prime minister and my council of ministers will take oath tomorrow," Vajpayee told reporters at the presidential palace after a meeting with Sharma.

"I have accepted the invitation," said Vajpayee, foreign minister in one of modern India's few non-Congress party governments that lasted from 1977 to 1979.

The president's office said Vajpayee, 69 and one of India's most gifted orators, would be sworn in Thursday.

Sharma's choice ended a week of frantic jockeying by the three main political groupings after polls left all of them well short of an outright majority.

But it remained unclear whether the BJP and its allies, which have 195 seats in the 545-member parliament, would be able to muster enough support to win a no-confidence vote.

The National Front-Left Front, or NF-LF, the rival claimant to power, says it commands 180 seats.

Caretaker Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's Congress, which crashed to an unprecedented election defeat and promised conditional support to an NF-LF government, has 136. Regional parties and independents hold 92.

The BJP says the magnet of power, which Vajpayee now has, will attract support from the regional parties, many of which have said they want an NF-LF government.

Congress spokesman Vithal Gadgil told reporters his party would vote against Vajpayee in the vote of no-confidence. If the NF-LF holds together and the regional parties remain loyal, the Vajpayee's government has little chance of survival.

"It will be an eight-day wonder," Gadgil said.

The NF-LF would then seek to form a government and go through the same procedure. Vajpayee's appointment came only minutes after Congress announced it would back a bid for power by the NF-LF, a loose coalition of center-left and communist parties.

The BJP's perceived anti-Moslem bias has galvanized other disparate parties which say its policies favoring the Hindu majority could stoke religious tensions in a national of 930 million people, some 110 of them Moslems.