The economic policies were put in place with surprisingly little political resistance. This was due perhaps to other major political issues commanding attention at the time, including Hindu nationalism. Faced with a militant movement with links to the BJP to demolish the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and build a Hindu temple there, the Rao government decided to accept the assurances of the BJP government of Uttar Pradesh that the shrine would be protected. But in December 1992 gangs of militant Hindu youths stormed the mosque and demolished it, sparking serious protests by Muslims, police firings, and then Hindu-Muslim riots, with a particularly terrible one in Mumbai; thousands lost their lives.
Militant Hindu nationalism had apparently peaked, however. In March 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai severely damaged the Bombay Stock Exchange and killed several hundred people, but the bombing did not spark riots, even though it was widely assumed that Muslim extremists were responsible. The BJP, whose governments in several north Indian states had been dismissed by the central government in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, faced united opposition in the elections of November 1993 and fared poorly.
The 1996 elections ushered in a period of unrest in India and concern on the part of foreign investors. The Congress (I), now known simply as the Congress Party, lost its majority, forcing Rao to resign as prime minister. The central political issue had become the corruption of the most senior politicians. Amid allegations of corruption, Rao retained his parliamentary seat but resigned as party president. He was indicted for corruption in 1997, as were a number of his former cabinet colleagues.
Members of other political parties—with the exception of the Communist parties—were also implicated in bribery and kickback scandals. With the continued investigative vigor of the press and a newly energized judicial system, the revulsion of most Indians against corruption became evident. The BJP, which had toned down its emphasis on Hindu nationalist demands, won the most seats of any party in the 1996 legislative elections.
Having fallen short of a majority in the parliament, the BJP formed a coalition government with its allies. BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee became prime minister. After only 13 days in office, however, Vajpayee resigned when it became clear that he would not pass a confidence vote by the parliament. The leftist coalition United Front, which had the second highest number of parliamentary seats, formed a government under Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda with the help of the Congress Party and several smaller regional parties. Gowda’s government, however, had only been in power for nine months when the Congress Party withdrew its support, demanding Gowda’s resignation. In order to avoid new elections, Gowda resigned and Inder Kumar Gujral, also of the United Front coalition, assumed the position of prime minister with support from the Congress Party. Still, the Indian government remained shaky. In the fall of 1997, Gujral resigned when the Congress Party once again pulled its support of the coalition, this time over differences relating to the investigation of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. In the March 1998 elections that followed, the BJP and its regional party allies won a majority of seats in parliament with 35 percent of the vote. A coalition government took office, led by Vajpayee of the BJP as prime minister. "India" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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