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India government rocked as coalition partner bolts

AFP-JIJI

A regional party from southern India announced Tuesday it was withdrawing from the national ruling coalition, weakening the government that was already a minority in Parliament.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), based in Tamil Nadu state, had been urging the government to condemn Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes against ethnic minority Tamils during the neighboring island’s civil war.

Party leader Muthuvel Karunanidhi announced at a news conference in the city of Chennai that his party would withdraw from the left-leaning United Progressive Alliance coalition that has been in power since 2009.

“We can’t accept the stand of the center,” Karunanidhi said.

Unless a solution is found, the move significantly raises the chances of polls before their scheduled date in the first half of 2014.

The UPA has been a minority government since September, when another party withdrew its support.

The DMK, which depends on Tamil voters who have close ties to their counterparts in Sri Lanka, is the second-biggest party in the coalition with 18 members of Parliament and five Cabinet slots.

But Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters Tuesday that the government remained “stable” and that Karunanidhi might be convinced to stay in the coalition if Parliament passed a resolution condemning Sri Lanka.