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1984: Rajiv Gandhi wins landslide election victory

VIDEO : The allure Mr Gandhi to voters

Rajiv Gandhi is claiming a landslide victory in the Indian general election.

With almost half the votes declared early this morning, it became apparent that his Congress (Indira) Party had taken 80% of the seats and was well ahead of any opposition parties.

Although the final margin may be smaller, it is widely accepted that the Congress Party is likely to win a massive majority.

The opposition parties, which failed to unite against the Congress Party, have been all but wiped out, including the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP.

The BJP was expected to gain from the sectarian backlash following the assassination of Mr Gandhi's mother and the previous Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. She was shot dead by her own Sikh bodyguards in October.

The news was not all good for the Congress Party, however: in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, six cabinet ministers lost their seats to the Telgu Desam party.

The party's leader, Chief Minister and veteran film star NT Rama Rao, defeated an attempt by Indira Gandhi to dismiss him in August.

'Mr Clean'

Mr Gandhi was told news of his triumph quietly at home in New Delhi, where he lives with his Italian-born wife, Sonia, and their two children.

His election follows two months as de facto prime minister since the death of his mother.

He has campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket, promising to rid the ruling Congress Party of a legacy of fraud and arrogance.

Known widely by his nickname of "Mr Clean", Rajiv Gandhi is seen as a break with the past of the Congress Party, which has held power in India for most of the last 30 years.

He is also seen as more pragmatic than his mother, and more liberal towards business.

But his opponents have accused him of relying on the "sympathy vote" for his victory, and one opposition MP commented that Indira Gandhi was "ruling from the grave".

Others point out his relative inexperience as a politician. Until four years ago, he was an airline pilot, but was persuaded to give it up to go into politics by his mother after the death of his younger brother, Sanjay.

In Context
The final result gave the Congress Party 401 out of the 508 contested seats - the largest majority since independence. By contrast, the largest opposition party - Telgu Desam - won just 28 seats.

During his premiership, Mr Gandhi encouraged foreign investment and a freer economy, and is credited with rejuvenating the Congress (I) Party and largely ridding it of the taint of corruption.

Despite his massive majority, Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister for just one term, and lost the 1989 election.

He was himself assassinated on 21 May 1991 as he campaigned for the Congress Party.

Four members of the Tamil Tigers, a guerrilla group fighting for a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka, were convicted of his murder.


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