NEW DELHI, India, July 24, Reuter: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s leading political critic says men who stormed into a house trying to attack him last night were trying to kill him.

“It is a clear case of an attempt on my life”, former Finance and Defense Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh told reporters after escaping the attack by about 100 men who shouted, “Long Live Rajiv Gandhi”, and “Death to V.P. Singh”.

The incident was one of the worst assaults on a government critic and Congress party dissident in years but Singh escaped unharmed after being rushed into a student hostel for safety, witnesses said.

Another bitter critic of Gandhi, President Zail Singh, is preparing to step down after a five year term punctuated by his public disputes with the Prime Minister.

In a farewell flourish before his successor is sworn in tomorrow, Singh yesterday forced the dismissal of a junior Cabinet Minister and Gandhi loyalist who accused him of sedition.

K.K. Tewari, Minister of State for Public Enterprises, was dismissed after telling a news conference that India’s first Sikh President had harbored Sikh freedom fighters from Punjab in his palace and was involved in “a diabolical conspiracy to subvert the Republic”. Singh has been a focus of anti-Gandhi dissent in the past few months, arousing fears that the President might try to dismiss the Prime Minister over a series of financial and political scandals damaging Gandhi’s image.

Tewari was the third minister to leave the Cabinet in 10 days in a political crisis.

Gandhi last week also fired four former ministers including V.P. Singh from his Congress (I) party because of increasing dissent within the party over his leadership.

The attack on Singh, in which one car was but and four were damaged and the house was partly wrecked, was the second against dissident Congress politicians dismissed by Gandhi.

Former Minister Arif Mohammed Khan was attacked at his New Delhi home last week. In an incident in which shots were fired. A day after Gandhi threw him out along with two other Congress politicians for anti-Party activities.

Witnesses said members of the Youth Wingh of Congress (I) party were involved in both attacks. The Youth Wing issued a statement denying it was involved.

V.P. Singh’s campaign to clean up political corruption has focused widespread anti-Gandhi sentiment in the Congress Party and the country. Since his expulsion on Sunday he has redoubled his campaign.

At a meeting of 2,000 lawyers in New Delhi yesterday he declared: “I will launch a crusade against corruption and fight till I win the battle.

Singh said the truth would emerge in alleged fiddles by prominent Indians and huge payoffs to government officials in arms deals. Gandhi has been accused of delaying action but Singh said: “The government is not mightier than the public”.

He claimed a “Personal Victory” with the resignation from Parliament last week of movie star Amitabh Bachchan, one of Gandhi’s closest friends, whose brother is accused of illegally exporting money abroad and buying a luxury Swiss apartment.

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 31, 1987