Sticky times for India's Italian Gandhi

EVEN BEFORE anyone has had time to call the Indian election that many fear is just around the corner, a reluctant electorate weary of the intrigue in New Delhi's political salons is beginning to show its disgust.

The Forum of Voters group has been furiously printing "rejection" stickers to allow the electorate to register their displeasure on ballot papers. It is a belt-and-braces operation, for the forum still hopes to persuade the electoral authorities that papers should contain a "none of the above" column.

People are obsessed with politics in India, but few have any appetite for what would be the third poll in three years. In the week that has followed the fall of the 13-month-old Hindu Nationalist government, politicians have done little to enhance their standing.

As soon as the previous government lost a confidence vote in parliament by one vote, speculation immediately turned to whether an Italian-born widow, Sonia Gandhi, would become the country's next prime minister. Before helping to pull down the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, her Congress party bosses claimed they would have a new government up and running in "five minutes".

That timetable experienced a certain amount of slippage, and is still slipping. It was Wednesday before the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty's earthly representative got to see the president, but told him she would have guarantees of the support she needed within "two days".

When her time expired she was forced to concede on Friday that she didn't, after all, have them. But then President Kocheril Raman Narayanan, a Congress sympathiser, gave her another couple of days.

If Mrs Gandhi is poor at estimating how much time she needs, she seems equally weak with numbers. Standing outside the red sandstone presidential palace first time round, she blithely said she had the backing of 272 MPs for a minority government. It was revised to 233 at her second appearance.

But if economy with the truth goes with the role of prime minister, as her party handlers claimed, then she was growing into the role. Certainly Mrs Gandhi, 52, has begun to field journalists with an assurance lacking until even a few weeks ago. In English, with a pronounced Italian accent, she carefully answered the questions she wanted to - and avoided the ones she didn't. She smiled in all the right places, sharing the odd joke with fawning journalists, and even obliged Delhi's rabid photographers, who kept up an intimidating barrage of shouted demands.

All this is a revelation for the woman from Orbassano who never wanted to be in politics, and who has never deigned to give a full-length interview.

The game appears to be moving away from Congress, thanks largely to a little man from Uttar Pradesh named Mulayam Singh Yadav. Congress and their other allies tried everything to get him and his 19 Samajwadi party MPs to join their bandwagon. But the former defence minister, who Congress had promised to reappoint, finally said "no".

Mr Yadav, from the cattlemen's caste, knows he would be doomed if fell in with Congress, his key opponents in his stronghold of Uttar Pradesh, where all his MPs have their seats and where voters have already begun to drift toward his rivals. But he seems far from confident in his stand. After conveying his decision to the president he promptly went into hiding, leaving his unfortunate party lieutenants to try to explain a decision that landed them with the blame for an election foisted on the Indian public.

The scenes in the garden of the Samajwadi party headquarters last week were not for the sensitive. It was 42C, and India's political journalists were boiling over with fury as they tried to find out what was going on. But their anger might be nothing to that of the electorate, if voters are obliged to trudge to the ballot box in high summer. Mr Yadav's reward could be a rash of "rejection" stickers.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform