Political observers in India believe a formal split could develop in the Congress Party after scenes of confrontation at a party conference.
Political observers in India believe a formal split could develop in the Congress Party after scenes of confrontation at a party conference. Heckling by supporters of former Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi disrupted Saturday's (15 October) committee session as they demanded her return to formal leadership of the party. Their call was resisted by Congress Party leaders, who were later angrily attacked by Mrs. Gandhi herself.
SYNOPSIS: The conference was called in New Delhi after the arrest on corruption charges of Mrs. Gandhi, two weeks ago. She was unconditionally released the next day and her supporters now want her made Congress Party President so that the ruling Janata Party would find it difficult to arrest her again. The current President is Mr. Brahmananda Reddy, who was elected in May this year with Mrs. Gandhi's support. He told the conference that the Congress would not sit quiet over "vindictive" actions by the present India Government, such as the arrest of Mrs. Gandhi and others. But he resisted pressure tactics by Mrs. Gandhi's supporters to force her return to formal leadership.
The heckling began when former Finance Minister, Mr. C. Subramaniam, was called upon to move a resolution on party unity. He recently gave evidence against Mrs. Gandhi before a commission of inquiry and hecklers shouted that he was not competent to move the resolution. The heckling was taken up by other delegates and Mr. Reddy had difficulty maintaining order.
One objector leapt onto the stage to lead a call for Mrs. Gandhi's return as party chief, to cheers from her supporters.
After these stormy scenes, a split in the party appeared dangerously close. Mrs. Gandhi arrived late at the conference and accused Congress Party leaders of planning a coalition deal with the ruling Janata Party. She attacked them for failing to lay down a positive programme for party members to follow and quoted a Janata Party leader as saying some of her own colleagues wanted the Government to punish her. Mrs Gandhi's former Foreign Minister, Mr. Y.B. Chayan, later "emphatically" denied her allegation about coalition talks.