NEW DEHLI, India, May 3, Reuter: Karnataka Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, a key Indian Opposition leader, won a trial of strength in his South Indian State on Tuesday to keep alive hopes of a national challenge to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Hegde’s supporters defeated a no confidence motion sponsored by dissidents in his Janata (Peoples) Party after 42 of his opponents stayed away from the secret ballot in the State Assembly.

“The vote will help Mr. Hegde consolidate the Opposition forces in the country”, said State Revenue Minister S.R. Bomai in a reference to the Chief Minister’s moves to unite India’s fragmented Opposition against Gandhi for general elections.

Hegde’s party, which ruled India from 1977 to 1979, holds 139 of 225 seats in the Lower House and 23 of the 62 in the Upper House of the State Assembly.

Political observers said the showdown was triggered by a bitter rivalry between Hegde and Janata Party President Chandra Shekhar over the choice of a candidate to lead the party in general elections due next year.

“Any problem for the Janata Party is a problem for the opposition and its bid to unite. We are passing through a critical phase”, said Jaipal Reddy, a National Janata leader.

Five members of Hegde’s cabinet forced the test of strength in the legislature by resigning on Monday after Shekhar announced that he was stepping down.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 6, 1988