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Modi's party pulls out of test to govern big southern Indian state

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NEWDELHI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party on Saturday walked away from a court-mandated test to prove it had the support of a majority of lawmakers to govern the southern state of Karnataka, after an election a week ago threw up no clear winner.

The move could now allow a post-election alliance involving the main opposition Congress party to form the government in the state. It could also galvanise Modi’s opponents to come together to stop the prime minister’s bid for a second term in office in a general election that must be held by May next year.

Newly elected Karnataka lawmakers had been due to vote in the assembly on the orders of the Supreme Court, which intervened after the opposition had protested against a decision of the state governor to invite Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a government in the state.

The BJP, which rules 21 of India’s 29 states, had emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka with 104 seats but fell short of a majority in the 225-member state assembly.

On Saturday afternoon, Karnataka BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa, who had been sworn in as the chief minister on Thursday, said he would resign instead of trying to prove that he had the support of a majority of the legislators.

The governor had earlier given the BJP 15 days to prove its majority in the assembly; this was cut short to 28 hours by the Supreme Court on Friday.

In an emotional speech, which was carried live by almost all Indian TV news channels, Yeddyurappa said his party would now work towards increasing the number of parliamentary seats for the BJP in the state to help Modi’s re-election bid next year.

Yeddyurappa’s resignation would pave the way for an alliance of Congress, which ruled the state for the past five years, and a regional party to form the government. The bloc says it has 117 members, enough for an outright majority.

“I am proud that they have been shown that in India power, corruption and money is not everything but the will of people is everything,” Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said in a rare press conference in New Delhi.

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Promit Mukherje; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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