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India's prime minister has acknowledged his teetering coalition could be further undermined by the pullout of another ally, while insisting it will not fall before polls due next year.
Speaking on his way back from a summit in South Africa, Manmohan Singh said he could not rule out the possibility of the Samajwadi Party (SP) quitting the coalition in what would be the third such move in less than six months.
"Obviously coalitions face issues. Sometimes, they give the impression that these arrangements are not very stable and I cannot deny that those possibilities exist," Singh told reporters on his plane.
"But I am confident our government will complete five years and that the next Lok Sabha (parliamentary) elections will take place on schedule," Singh added in comments broadcast on Indian television.
The SP, a regional party which is based in Uttar Pradesh state, has been dropping strong hints in recent days that it could split from Singh's government, which has already lost its parliamentary majority.
The party has been particularly unhappy at a series of recent economic reforms, criticism which has become more strident in the countdown to elections scheduled for early next year.
Even if the SP were to leave the coalition, Singh said he believed he would still be able to steer the reforms through parliament where his administration can also rely on the support of several parties that are not in government.
Singh said his Congress party-led government had "to take into account the fact that we don't have the majority to get parliament to approve some of our reform proposals so we are certainly dependent on the goodwill of our allies".
"But even then, we are confident the reforms that matter, and which are going to yield results in the next few months, we will be able to push them through the parliament," he added.
Singh's government has become increasingly vulnerable to a vote of no confidence after Congress's two biggest coalition partners pulled out.
The Tamil Nadu-based Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party quit last week after accusing the government of failing to condemn alleged atrocities against Tamils in Sri Lanka.
The Kolkata-based Trinamool party walked out of the government in late September over the economic reforms.