India's Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, began her New Delhi campaign on Tuesday (1 March) for this month's general election - but the campaign got off to a bad start.
India's Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, began her New Delhi campaign on Tuesday (1 March) for this month's general election - but the campaign got off to a bad start. She faced boos and laughter and constant heckling during her speech. Meanwhile, thousands turned out to cheer Mr. Gandhi's election rivals on the same day.
SYNOPSIS: The turnout for Mrs Gandhi was for smaller than the crowds she attracted in earlier elections. Most of the audience were government employees from nearby offices and their lack of enthusiasm reflects the severe problems Mrs Gandhi is facing for the first time in her turbulent political career. She spoke forcefully, however, and asked her audience to judge her Congress party on its achievements as well as its mistakes.
The opposition campaign in New Delhi was launched by Mrs Gandhi's aunt, Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. She said the authoritarian rule of the past 19 months showed that democracy wasn't safe in the hands of the present rulers. She condemned the restrictions on the news media and other measures taken under the 18 months of emergency rule enforced by Mrs Gandhi. The opposition meeting was held at the same venue and it attracted a large receptive crowd.
Mrs Gandhi's main opposition comes from the Janata alliance. One of the groups in the alliance is the Jan Sangh and its leader Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, was warmly welcomed when he spoke at Tuesday's rally.
Another of the opposition leaders, Jagjivan Ram, accused Mrs Gandhi of trying to acquire as much power as possible and seeking to indirectly control all states. He was formerly Mrs Gandhi's Agriculture minister until resigning last month to form the Congress for Democracy. After the rally, Mrs Pandit was asked if she felt sad about leaving the family to support the opposition.