NEW DELHI, India, July 24, Reuter: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, embroiled in a major political crisis, today admitted that a group of his supporters last night tried to assault his most prominent critic, former Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh.

The attack was the second against an anti-Gandhi politician in a week, It illustrated the political tension in the Indian capital as Gandhi tries to fight off a damaging onslaught against his leadership by the opposition and Congress dissidents.

Leaders of 12 opposition parties denounced the assault and said Gandhi’s government, under criticism for a series of financial scandals, had “no moral right” to stay in office.

They pledged to attack the government in a new Parliamentary session this week on a range of issues including corruption scandals, bloody Hindu-Moslem riots and repeated mass killings.

Gandhi told hundreds of supporters bussed to his residence from five states that the attempt on Singh was wrong and the party should maintain discipline.

“If we go on doing things like this, it will only bring disrepute to the party. This will weaken the Congress and the country”, he said. Members of the Congress Party Youth Wing have been accused of the attack. Gandhi promised a war on corruption and said nobody, however, highly placed, would be spared if found to be guilty.

Singh, whose campaign against corruption in the business and political establishment has made him the focus of widespread anti-Gandhi dissent and brought his expulsion from Congress (I) last Sunday, was not hurt in last night’s attack.

But he told reporters it was “a clear case of an attempt on my life”

Singh, 55, escaped through the back door of a house as 100 men throwing bottles, firecrackers and stones charged in the front door, shouting, “Long Live Rajiv Gandhi” and beat up two students and partially wrecked the house and several cars.

The Parliamentary opposition parties, denouncing the attack, called Gandhi’s government a corrupt failure and demanded the dissolution of Parliament and a general election.

They said the assault on Singh, one of four critics Gandhi expelled from his party last week, was “a calculated conspiracy to stifle the voice of dissent following earlier attacks on dissident Congress (1) leaders”.

Last week a crowd of Congress youth activists tried to attack the home of administer Arif Mohammad Khan a day after his expulsion from the Party. Shots were fired in the incident.

Mapping out antigovernment tactics for Parliament’s month-long “Monsoon Session” starting next week, the opposition leaders said the government’s credibility had completely eroded.

They said it was “a total failure on the political and economic fronts” and alleged that prominent Congress (I) leaders were involved “in rampant corruption”.

The leaders agreed to concentrate attacks in Parliament on corruption issues including the alleged payment of huge kickbacks in the government’s purchase of Howitzers from Bofors of Sweden.

They alleged “deliberate evasion by government in’ furnishing information to Parliament about details of corruption involved in a defense deal with Bofors, revealed by a Swedish Audit Bureau report”.

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 31, 1987