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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Killing Report Rocks Indian Government

NEW DELHI, India -- The Congress Party on Thursday threatened to withdraw its crucial support from the government if the prime minister did not oust from his coalition a party accused of supporting the Tamil rebel group believed responsible for assassinating former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.


Without Congress support, the shaky 14-party coalition government could collapse, paving the way for new elections.


The threat came in the form of a resolution passed by Congress members of parliament after the government presented a report by a judge who investigated the 1991 Gandhi assassination.


Mrutyunjaya Nayak, secretary of Congress' legislative committee, said the government would be given "some time" to respond to his party's ultimatum. He would not be more specific.


Prime Minister I.K. Gujral's shaky coalition government did not immediately react. Both houses of Parliament adjourned amid angry shouts after the 17-volume report was presented. The speaker tried to reconvene the lower house after lunch, but the shouting resumed and the session was again adjourned until Friday morning.


The turmoil centers around the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or Dravida Progressive Front, which has three ministers in the Cabinet formed by the 14-party United Front. The DMK is the ruling party in southern Tamil Nadu state.


According to the judge's report on Gandhi's assassination, the DMK supported Sri Lankan Tamil separatists accused in the killing of Gandhi, who was head of the Congress Party at the time of his death. The DMK has denied the charge, and vowed to stay in the government.


"Why should the DMK quit," lawmaker and party member T.R. Balu said Thursday. "If we quit, that means we are guilty, which we are not."


Congress lawmakers debated their position on the DMK for an hour Thursday morning, and emerged determined that the coalition government must oust the DMK.


The United Front has so far rejected Congress demands to oust the DMK from the coalition government. But in hectic private talks over the last few days, Front leaders were divided. Many don't want another election just two years after the last one.


The United Front lacks a parliamentary majority. Congress, although not a member of the coalition, has supported the Front in parliamentary confidence votes to keep power out of the hands of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the largest party in parliament.


A new national vote could favor this right-wing party, rival of both the Congress and the Front.


Newspapers reported Thursday that some Congress lawmakers believe public support for their party has increased due to the assassination report.


The Congress Party, which has governed India for most of the years since independence from Britain, lost power two years ago and lacks a charismatic national leader like Gandhi. His mother, Indira Gandhi, and grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, also were prime ministers.


Many Congress lawmakers feel the party could win more votes if elections are held now, when memories of the Gandhi-Nehru era have been revived by discussion of the assassination report.