The number of candidates contesting seats in India's general election in January -- the seventh since independence -- has never been higher, and for the first time in post-independence history the electorate also faces the choice of three rival contenders for the premiership.
The number of candidates contesting seats in India's general election in January -- the seventh since independence -- has never been higher, and for the first time in post-independence history the electorate also faces the choice of three rival contenders for the premiership. They are Mr. Charan Singh, who has been caretaker Prime Minister since July, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who now leads the Congress (I) Party, and Mr. Jagjivan Ram, leader of the Janata Party.
SYNOPSIS: To say India's election is being fought on the personalities of the three contenders for premiership ignores the fears of many peasants about a declining economy and bad harvest. It also ignores the strength of regional parties like the Marxists, who may win a powerful say on who becomes India's next Premier, and on what terms. Janata President Chandra Sekhar leading his supporters through the West Bengali village of Tomluk knows the strength of the Marxists. The Marxists rule this state and here they won most of their 42 seats in the last parliament.
Mr. Sekhar's campaign in West Bengal is fought on two points, against Mrs. Gandhi, whose authoritarian rule in 1975 brought about a Janata Government, and against the Marxists, who -- in the absence of a clearout majority will end up holding the balance. The election comes at a time of serious economic slowdown. After three years of a 5 per cent growth rate, the national product is expected to contract this year and with inflation running at 17 per cent and continuing industrial unrest, the economy is considered an unenviable legacy for any new government.. Mrs Gandhi's economic record -- Mr. Sekhar tells his audience -- has been indifferent. In the eleven years of her rule the economy grew by just three and a half per cent annually.
Mr. Sekhar reminds the crowds it was his party which brought back the checks of parliamentary government. In accommodating demands for social change with democracy though, the Janata party is not considered to have been anymore successful than Mr. Gandhi. However one of Mr. Sekhar's campaign promises has been the erosion of social and economic differences if Janata comes to power.