New Delhi — Police opened fire Wednesday on rival party workers who hurled stones at each other and stormed a policy station upon learning Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s party had been beaten in Karnataka state elections.


Initial reports said two people were killed in the incident, Indian news agencies said. That brought the death toll to at least 42 for two rounds of state elections in the world’s largest democracy.

State assembly elections were held in 11 of India’s 22 states and the federal territory of Pondicherry Saturday and Tuesday. Final results Thursday showed Gandhi’s ruling Congress (I) Party also lost in the tiny Himalayan state of Sikkim, a strategic region near the China border presently under federal rule.

In the Karnataka state village of Honali, workers from the Congress (I) Party and the Janata Party hurled stones at each other and stormed the district police station when results of the state election were announced. Police tried to disperse the mob with tear gas and cane sticks. When that failed, they opened fire on the brawlers.

The Janata Party, led by Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, was returned to power in Karnataka state despite a strong challenge from Gandhi’s ruling party.

During Election Day violence Saturday and Tuesday, at least 40 people were killed and 300 injured most of them in the state of Bihar. Some unofficial reports put the death toll at nearly 60.

The state elections took place less than three months after national polls that gave Gandhi’s party an unprecedented 75 percent majority in Parliament.

“The state elections came off as expected,” said one political analyst. “The Congress won in the states it was supposed to win in and lost in those it was supposed to lose in.”

Despite the losses in Kanataka, Sikkin and Andhra Pradesh, Gandhi’s ruling party was winning by big margins in other states where the elections were held.

About 75 percent of the 350 million registered voters were eligible to cast ballots in the state elections.

India, with some 730 million people, is the world’s most populous democracy.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 15, 1985