14 May 2009

Indian parties seek allies in tight election race

11:00 pm on 14 May 2009

India's ruling Congress-led coalition and its main rivals were jostling to secure new allies on Thursday to boost their possible parliamentary numbers after exit polls said both would fall well short of a majority.

The country's largest communist party, considered a key player in a fractured verdict, signalled it would do everything possible to stop the opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party from coming to power.

Three exit polls on Wednesday showed the Congress-led coalition slightly ahead of the BJP alliance, but both groups needed smaller allies to gain a parliamentary majority.

The count for the 2009 ballot, involving more than 700 million voters, is set for Saturday. Results from all races for the 543-member lower house of parliament should be known then.

A party or coalition needs the support of 272 lawmakers to rule, forcing the Congress and BJP to launch a hunt for new allies.

The swing state of Tamil Nadu, which has nearly 40 parliamentary seats, has heavily influenced central politics in the past few elections.

A new parliament has to be constituted by 2 June.