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New strains emerge in India’s ruling coalition

NEW DELHI: New strains emerged in India’s ruling coalition yesterday amid wrangling over their candidate to be the next president, further weakening the already shaky alliance.
The Congress party, the biggest member of the left-leaning coalition, had put forward Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as its preferred choice for the mainly ceremonial post, which will be decided in elections on July 19.
But in a move that mirrors previous difficulties, minority partner the Trinamool Congress publicly snubbed him, saying it preferred embattled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“If there is a universal consensus on our choices... then it will be good for this nation,” Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee told reporters late on Wednesday.
Banerjee and the leader of another regional party, the Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, proposed Left leader Somnath Chatterjee and former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as alternatives.
The Samajwadi Party is not in the coalition, but generally lends support from the outside. Its votes are vital in the presidential election, which is decided by members of parliament and regional lawmakers.
The Times of India said the move by the two parties “raised doubts if the coalition would last its full term” because it potentially signals that the two parties are preparing to withdraw their support from Congress.
“If not handled properly, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance coalition) may implode under the internal strain of this presidential election,” political analyst M.J. Akbar told the Headlines Today channel.
There have been previous suggestions that the coalition might fall apart which could trigger elections ahead of their scheduled date in 2014. Banerjee and her Trinamool party have consistently defied the Congress party, forcing a series of embarrassing policy U-turns on everything from rail fares and petrol prices to foreign investment in the retail sector.

These differences, as well as a string of corruption scandals, are seen by analysts as the reason for a lack of economic reforms and clear policy direction by the government, which has presided over a dramatic fall in economic growth.