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Indian Ministers Reject Vajpayee Resignation Offer - 2001-07-31

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee offered to resign Tuesday. However, he was persuaded by senior ministers to stay in office. The prime minister's offer to quit was prompted by a growing chorus of criticism of his government from members of the ruling coalition.

At a meeting of lawmakers from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr. Vajpayee said he would step down in view, of his apparent inability to make the ruling multiparty coalition function in a disciplined manner.

Parliament Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said BJP members persuaded Mr. Vajpayee to abandon the proposal. "The party members reacted sharply to the prime minister's remarks and, with one voice, said Mr. Vajpayee could not be allowed to leave," he said.

In recent days, the Vajpayee government has come under attack both from opposition parties and his own allies for its handling of the recent summit meeting with Pakistan and for a series of financial scandals.

The summit was seen as Mr. Vajpayee's personal initiative, but his allies have criticized him on a score of issues, among them, inviting Pakistan's military ruler for talks and for accepting an invitation to visit Islamabad, despite the summit's failure.

But, more immediately, the prime minister's resignation offer is said to have been triggered by a key ally, the Shiv Sena Party. Monday a Shiv Sena lawmaker, Sanjay Nirupam, accused senior civil servants, including officials of the prime minister's office, of being involved in the collapse of India's largest mutual fund.

The allegations will increase opposition pressure on the government, which is being blamed for failing to avert the massive losses incurred by the Unit Trust of India, the company that manages the mutual fund. Opposition parties say millions of small investors have been ruined by the troubles being faced by the fund.

Political observers say the prime minister's offer to quit will put pressure on Mr. Vajpayee's alliance partners to put up a show of unity and end their criticism of the government.