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India's Congress Party Forming New Government - 2004-05-14


India's victorious Congress Party has begun work on a new coalition government after scoring a stunning upset in parliamentary elections.

Party leader Sonia Gandhi, who could be India's next prime minister, huddled in meetings today (Friday) with smaller allied parties to discuss strategy and the allocation of cabinet posts.

The Congress Party is expected to name its choice for prime minister as early as Saturday.

Atal Behari Vajpayee resigned Thursday after his Bharatiya Janata Party lost badly at the polls.

Leaders of the BJP party expressed surprise at the outcome of the elections, which Mr. Vajpayee called six months earlier than necessary, hoping to capitalize on a string of political successes, including improved relations with arch-rival Pakistan.

The victory by Mrs. Gandhi -- the wife of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi -- marks the revival of the Congress Party, which had been out of power since 1996. It also marks the return to power of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that led India to independence from Britain in 1947 and ruled unchallenged for decades.

Analysts say that the Italian-born Mrs. Gandhi will have to overcome resistance by some Indians who oppose the idea of a foreign-born leader.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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