NEW DELHI, Oct 31, Reuter: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi virtually launched his re-election campaign on Monday at a big rally of people to mark the fourth death anniversary of his mother Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
As he spoke, farmers staging a counter-demonstration gave up their week-long protest but vowed not to pay taxes, water and electricity bills or repay loans.
Many of the 100,000 farmers who had been squatting on lawns near Parliament to demand higher crop prices and loan forgiveness began to melt away as the protest was called off.
But their presences had already forced Gandhi’s Congress (I) party to shift its rally, originally due to be staged at the same place, across town to the historic red fort.
Gandhi’s speech was a rallying cry to congress workers who know he must call an election before December next year. He lavished praise on his Government’s record and ridiculed opposition efforts to forge a united electoral challenge. Going out of his way to pay special attention to farmers, Gandhi said a second; “green revolution” was being ushered in with Governments efforts to promote a food processing industry.
“Our population is growing; a small piece of land is now supporting three or four families so there is less for everybody. We have to find ways to generate employment.”
Traffic was thrown into chaos the participants marched, chanting, slogans and waving flags, through streets decorated with giant portraits and larger than life cutouts of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Gandhi said when his mother was killed by her bodyguards in 1984; it looked like the country was falling apart.
“Our enemies had her killed in the hope of destabilizing the country but we managed with your help,” he said. “The fires of disunity have been doused.”
Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984 Four months after she ordered an Indian Army Assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest shrine of Sikhdom.
Since then Sikh militants demanding an independent homeland in Northern Punjab state have intensified their campaign. More than 2,100 people have died in Punjab so far this year.
Paying tributes to his mother, Gandhi said, “I felt very sad when she was killed but I drew strength from the fact that my grief was shared by all.”
Later farmer’s leader Mahendra Singh Tikait said the Government was considering his demands but farmers would continue their protest by not paying bills or taxes until it gave in.
Article extracted from this publication >> November 4, 1988