India's Vajpayee wasn't keen on polls

March 20, 2004 at 12:23 PM
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BEED, India, March 20 (UPI) -- India's prime minister said Saturday he had not wanted to contest the upcoming elections but felt compelled by a sense of duty.

Atal Behari Vajpayee said he was contesting elections so that he can continue maintaining peace in Kashmir and northeastern states.

"I have contested elections for 40 years," Vajpayee said. "This time I was not keen. But then I thought I must shoulder the responsibility, otherwise our country will fall apart.

"There is peace in Kashmir, peace in the northeast," NDTV quoted Vajpayee as saying.

Opinion polls have indicated the Vajpayee-led multi-party coalition will retain power in the upcoming elections. The five-phase polling will begin April 20 and end May 10 in what is described as the biggest vote in the world.

The main contest is between Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition Congress Party, led by Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

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