NEW DELHI, India, March 13, Reuter: Bad blood between Prime Minister Rajiv Gand hi and President Zail Singh burst into the open today as India’s 71 year old President charged Gandhi with unconstitutional and “distressing” behavior towards his office.

The President, a Sikh whose poor relations with the 42yearold Prime Minister have been an open secret for months, made the accusations in a private letter to Gandhi leaked to the Indian Express newspaper and published on its front page.

Singh’s five-year terms ends in July and there have been press speculation he wants reelection by the Electoral College of Members of the National Parliament and the State Assemblies.

His letter came amid wide spread criticism of Gandhi for his deficit economic policies and for failure to push through key political programs such as the Punjab Peace Accord. ‘The “My Dear Rajiv” letter dated March 9 said Gandhi had misinformed parliament on March 3 about his relations with the President, whom he had failed to keep informed or regularly consult on important matters.

India’s President is a largely ceremonial Chief of State and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

A Presidential spokesman declined to confirm or deny the letter’s validity. “You can say I plead ignorance”, he told Reuters.

Opposition members of the Lok Sabha (Lower House) left to their feet shouting for a discussion on the letter as members of Gandhi’s ruling Congress (I) party shouted back at them. Speaker Balram Shakar pleaded for order for 15 minutes as he refused to allow a discussion.

Singh is currently showing his ability to embarrass the government by delaying signing into law a postal bill authorizing interception of mail on security grounds.

In an address yesterday to businessmen in Poona, Singh also said the government should take care that its controversial tax raids on business and industrial houses did not harass the innocent or damage the image of industrialists.

Singh’s letter followed a March 3 statement by Gandhi to Parliament that he and his ministers frequently consulted the President and always did so on important issues in accordance with the constitution.

“As you are aware, the factual position is somewhat at variance with what has been said by you”, Singh’s letter said.

“I am constrained to say that certain well-established conventions have not been followed”, it added. “Even on certain important domestic issues I have not been kept informed…”

“It is also distressing that constitutional provisions regarding furnishing of information to the President have not been consistently followed”.

The Indian press has recently been packed with reports of bad relations between Gandhi and the President, who was elected by Parliament under former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and whose five-year term ends this summer.

An opposition member of Parliament said on Tuesday Gandhi had paid only two formal visits on Singh in two years. The President has also repeatedly turned down invitations for State visits abroad because of lack of approval from the government.

Madhu Dandavate, a leader of the Janata Party, said when Indian troops moved to the frontier in a major confrontation with Pakistan in January, newspaper editors in Delhi were informed before the President.

“This is no way to treat the President of India who is the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces,” Dandavate told the Parliament.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 20, 1987