LONDON: Critics of Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, are rattling their opinions like vultures as they watch him beginning to lose the fresh flush of enthusiasm that carried him through his first two years.

A report in “The Times” newspaper from its New Delhi correspondent Michael Hamlyn said Gandhi’s detractors seem him increasingly embroiled in the unresolved agony of Punjab. New or potential traumas are becoming apparent in other states in West Bengal’s hill districts, in Tripura, among the minority Muslims, even in the resort territory of Goa.

Elections are imminent in a number of key states, which Mr. Gandhi’s Congress Party is very far from certain to win. In Bengal he will be fighting an incumbent Communist Government, in Kashmir he will be trying to find a difficult alliance with the Chief Minister, he just walked to power under an agreement that is not universally welcomed by the mainly Muslim population.

In Kerala a coalition of desperate anticommunists, which includes caste and religion based parties and which was put together by the Congress Chief Minister at the last elections, shows signs of breaking up.

In Haryana, one of the Hindi belt stronghold states that are the key to the continued existence of his party, the situation in neighboring Punjab could yet cost him the election.

Meanwhile, those hostile to him have been able to declare this an open season. He has come under particularly bitter fire from his undemocratic tendencies, for his reliance on cronies instead of elected political advisers and for his intolerance of Indian government servants.

One of Mr. Gandhi’s early promises was that he would reform the corrupt and oligarchic organization of his own party by holding elections to its various committees and executive bodies. The elections were promised for early in 1986, but still have not been held.

The more frivolous of Mr. Gandhi’s detractors now accuse him preferring to travel abroad rather than to stay at home and face his problems. But even on the foreign stage his efforts have not been rewarded with universal acclaim.

Article extracted from this publication >>  February 13, 1987