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History, Turmoil in India’s Government

god Rama, Chandra Shekhar, Narasimha Rao, Ayodhya, Advani

Corruption was the main issue in the 1989 elections. Once again the Congress (I) lost its power, this time to a coalition led by V. P. Singh, who had served as Rajiv Gandhi’s finance and then defense minister before being expelled from the Congress (I) Party for investigating corruption allegations. Singh’s National Front coalition collapsed when L. K. Advani, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was arrested for campaigning to replace the 16th-century Babri Masjid (Mosque of Babur) in Ayodhya with a temple to the god Rama. The BJP withdrew its support for Singh’s government. The government that replaced it, led by Chandra Shekhar, was scuttled in 1991 by the Congress (I) Party, which had initially supported it. In the meantime, India’s finances were badly hit when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990: Remittances from Indian workers in Kuwait and Iraq abruptly ceased, and the workers had to be brought home at great cost.

In May 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist during a campaign rally. The assassination disrupted the May elections, and a second round of voting was scheduled for June. P. V. Narasimha Rao, who had once served as Gandhi’s foreign minister, was chosen to replace Gandhi as head of the Congress (I). Rao led the party to a near majority in the second round of voting, and took office as India’s new prime minister.

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