Indian GP hangs in the balance

THE planned Indian Grand Prix depends on the result of the West Bengal state elections on May 10. The 294-seat legislative assembly has been controlled since 1977 by India's communist party - which is behind the plans to hold a race on the outskirts of Calcutta. But the party is under threat in the election from the Trinamool Congress party, despite the fact that the party founder Mamata Banerjee recently resigned as federal railway minister last month after arms bribery scandal. Banerjee, broke away from the main Congress party in 1997 but has engineered an electoral alliance for the West Bengal election. Opinion polls suggest that the communists will probably win but with a much reduced majority.

The communists are suffering partly because of the decline of industry and the spread of unemployment in the urban areas and partly because of the retirement of Jyoti Basu and his replacement by the less charismatic Buddhadev Bhattacharjee.

If the communists win the election the race will almost certainly go ahead as an attempt to change the image of Calcutta and bring in international investment.

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