PEOPLE
Volume 3 Number 3
Gandhi's Appeal
01 March 1990

When Rajmohan, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, announced that he was running against the incumbent PM, few thought that he might win.

Three months after India's general election a question-mark still stands over former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's parliamentary seat in Amethi, pending a High Court appeal by the opposing candidate, author and journalist Rajmohan Gandhi.

When Rajmohan, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, announced that he was running against the incumbent PM, few thought that he might win. Yet the battle for Amethi proved one of the most keenly fought of the elections, with widespread allegations of vote-rigging.

Following an initial count which Rajiv won, a re-election was ordered in some parts of the constituency. Claiming to have documentary evidence of more extensive abuses, Rajmohan boycotted the re-election and has filed a petition in India's High Court to nullify the election. Meanwhile Janata Dal - the party for which Rajmohan stood - won an overall majority in the country.

The issue of honesty in political life was central to the election, following allegations of high-level corruption over the Bofors arms deal. There was much comment in India's press on the contrasting styles of the two protagonists.

'Rajmohan added dignity to poll,' ran the headline in the Hindustan Times. The author, Deepak Razdan, went onto say that `whatever the outcome of this bitterly contested election, Indian politics has made a major gain: it is the birth of a bright new star -Rajmohan Gandhi - on its horizon'.

Rajiv Gandhi had the enormous political machine of the Congress (I) party behind him and had nursed the constituency for five years. Congress (I) party banners were strung up over the roads, a whole forest of trees was painted in party colours and every wall was taken up with posters of Rajiv and his wife and their children. Rajiv is the third generation of the Nehru family to be Prime Minister.

Rajmohan started out with few resources. In response to a television interview he received thousands of letters, many enclosing one or two rupees, and young volunteers began to arrive to help.

He made no secret of his inheritance: `If an accident of birth in the Gandhi family can be used in anyway to promote honesty, cleanliness and quality in national life, I will be glad to contribute my mite.'

Now he is busier than ever responding to invitations to speak up and down the country. Some also see his hand in the reorganization of the national television station, which had been accused of being a government mouthpiece. In entering politics, Rajmohan made it clear that an independent media was high on his priorities. A bill to give the TV station greater freedom is now before parliament.


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