1980: The people of India have voted Indira Gandhi back into power – less than three years after rejecting her “emergency dictatorship”.When the last of the 196 million votes in national elections were counted, her Congress (Indira) party had won 351 of the 525 contested seats in the lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha. Underscoring the extent of her victory, was the election of her son Sanjay, who had been blamed for many of the excesses of the emergency rule. He is out of prison on appeal against his conviction for stealing then destroying the master copy of a film satirizing his mother’s rule.Mrs Gandhi, who had ruled India for 11 years until 1977, successfully appealed to India’s rural masses with her two election slogans, “Banish Poverty” and “Law and Order”.During the 63-day campaign, the 62-year-old gave up to 20 speeches a day during a 40,000 mile tour of 384 constituencies.
But Mrs Gandhi’s political comeback will be viewed with suspicion. During the 19 months of emergency rule, introduced after she was accused of electoral malpractice, democracy was suspended, many opposition politicians were imprisoned and a compulsory birth control programme was introduced.When Mrs Gandhi sought to have the regime legitimised through the polls, she was defeated by Morarji Desai’s Janata party.The last time she appeared in parliament was in 1978 when she was expelled on charges involving harassment of government officials during the emergency. She is still under investigation on charges of abuse of power, although the assumption is these will now be shelved.
As news of Mrs Gandhi’s victory spread, strings of coloured festive lights were strung up around her New Delhi home.Thousands of people have converged on the bungalow, which was built for officials of the Raj.
January 7, 2007