Vol 3, PW 8 (12 May 99) People & Policy

A long drawn out period of political uncertainty is upon us.

Indias Election Commission has opted for elections in September and October, instead of a snap election in June. "After deep deliberation the Election Commission of India has come to the unanimous view that in the given circumstances, the best possible time for elections considering all factors is the month of September, and the first week of October, 1999", reads a statement from the Election Commission.

Some of the reasons behind the decision to hold late elections is the imminent arrival of the monsoon rains, incomplete electoral rolls of voters (expected to be ready by 21 July) and the sheer logistics of organising 800,000 polling stations around the country for more than 600m voters. No precise date for voting has yet been announced, but one thing is clear: a new government will not be in place before the end of October 99 - some 23 weeks away.

Whether that government is BJP or Congress is anybodys guess. One opinion poll published last week forecasts another hung parliament, with no party winning an absolute majority.

If true, this means more coalition government, and by implication, more political instability. The mood in India is today downbeat, as politicians and public alike come to terms with a costly election that no-one wanted.