The past year has brought dramatic changes of fortune for Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Last March?
The past year has brought dramatic changes of fortune for Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Last March 22nd, she fell from power after 11 years as Prime Minister of India. It looked as though her career might even be over. The results of state election last month brought her right back into the centre of the Indian political stage.
SYNOPSIS: Mrs Gandhi in her moment of defeat. She had just handed in her resignation as Prime Minister. She had no need to call a general election, but she thought she could win it. Instead, she lost her majority and even her own parliamentary seat.
The winners were the Janata Party, led by Mr. Moraji Desai. He headed a hastily assembled group of parties whose main bond was their desire to break the stranglehold of Mrs. Gandhi's Congress.
The Government thought that Mrs. Gandhi out of office was vulnerable. Last October, she was charged with corruption and arrested. 24 hours later, a Delhi magistrate released her, finding that no reasonale reasonable grounds had been made out for the charges. Mrs. Gandhi's supporters turned the occasion into a triumph, and she herself made the maximum capital out of it, posing as a political martyr. The tide was beginning to run in her favour.
An official enquiry is still investigating her use of emergency powers. Her son, Sanjay, whose unpopularity contributed to his mother's downfall, arrives for the hearing -- followed by Mrs. Gandhi herself. For several months, she refused to appear at all. When she did, she refused to give evidence on path. Instead, she made a political statement relayed to anyone outside who chose to listen.
The Commission, in its first report, has accused her of 11 cases of "gross misuse of power", but the Government faces a difficult decision in what to do about it -- lest it brings her still more political capital.
Mrs. Gandhi's come-back was enhanced by a bold gesture. She left the executive of the Congress Party, her political base throughout her life. Then, in January, she formed her own breakaway group, known as Congress (I) -- the "I" standing for Indira. It could have been political suicide.
Instead, she was vindicated in state elections last month, capturing two states in the south and enough seats to share power in a third. Japana Janata is not well supported in the southern Indian states, which regard it as dominated by Hindi speaking northerners.
Mrs. Gandhi now says "I am the only Opposition", but she will not commit herself about how she will make use of her power.
In the four years before the next general election, India will hear more of the persistent voice of Indira Gandhi.