INTRODUCTION India's election campaigning has moved into the countryside, with Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi's?
INTRODUCTION India's election campaigning has moved into the countryside, with Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi's ruling Congress Party and the newly-formed but powerful Janata opposition alliance both vying for the important rural vote. The Janata Party, however, a combination of the major non-communist left-wing opposition organisations, has suffered a blow with the loss of one of its leaders, Jayaprakash Narayan, who's in hospital for the duration of the campaign.
SYNOPSIS: Nevertheless, the search for votes continues. The little village of Chhaprauli in western Uttar Pradesh State is perhaps typical of the catchment areas for large number of outlying peasant farmers whose collective vote could swing the March sixteenth election either way. The Janata Party message to these people is a simple one -- that Mrs. Gandhi's Congress Party is no longer able to govern the country properly, and all those capable of running it are in the ranks of the Janata Party.
The opposition is now says there is increasing panic in the ranks of Mrs. Gandhi's Congress Party, largely as a result of the Janata Party's successes among the rural areas of the 22 states.
Uttar Pradesh is perhaps more significant than others for the Janata Party -- for it's Mrs. Gandhi's home state. If she was defeated here, she would no longer be Prime Minister -- even if her Congress Party managed to return to power. So senior Janata Party officials like Vice-Chairman Charan Singh have been brought into the state to try and capture the majority of the votes. For, as it was put by another leader at a similar rural gathering, the Janata Party had nothing against Mrs. Gandhi personally -- but it didn't want her as Prime Minister any longer.
Janata, which is weak on finance and transport, is combining its election rallies with fund-raising -- using collectors going through the crowd gather in donations. Individual contributions are usually small, but en masse can add up to several thousand pounds (sterling) per meeting.
But the opposition has suffered a blow in its campaigning with the admission to hospital of one its founder members, prime campaigners, and major money-raisers -- veteran politician Jayaprakash Narayan. Party leaders like Jagjivan Ram, who was once one of Mrs. Gandhi's ministers before he broke away, have had to hold bedside campaign meetings with 74-year-old Mr Narayan, who has cancelled all engagements between now and election day. He's been suffering from kidney trouble for some time, and was only recently released from five months in solitary confinement in jail on the grounds of ill-health. He was originally jailed under the 1975 Emergency Laws after leading a mass campaign against Mrs. Gandhi.