The main Indian opposition group charged today that a reported assassination attempt on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's younger son was an election-eve ploy.
Voting is to be held Wednesday for 300 of the 540 seats in the new Parliament, with the remaining 240 contests spread over the next four days. Final results are expected to be announced next week.Some 190 million people are eligible to vote and a turnout of about 60 per cent is expected.
Government leaders said a deliberate attempt had been made on the life of 30-year-old Sanjay Gandhi last night while he was completing a campaign swing through his north Indian constituency.
The opposition Janata Party described the incident as a "stage-managed fabrication."
"I am convinced that the incident just did not occur," Janata Party Secretary General Surendra Mohan said. He demanded an immediate judicial inquiry.
Senior Cabinet ministers and chief shooting on a psychosis of terror and violence that they said the opposition parties had whipped up.
The shooting incident in the younger Gandhi's constituency of Amethi brought a dramatic finish to the long, tense election battle in which the ruling Congress Party is facing its first real threat after 30 years in power.
The elections were announced in a surprise move by Prime Minister Gandhi in January after 19 months of emergency rule in which fundamental rights were suspended, thousands of her political opponents jailed and sweeping changes made in the Indian constitution.
Both the ruling Congress Party and opposition Janata Party have predicted victory by a wide margin, but independent political analysts around the country expect a very close result.
Sanjay Gandhi, who is contesting a seat adjoining his mother's constituency in his first bid for Parliament, became a controversial figure through the enormous influence he wielded during the emergency.
Uttar Pradesh state police investigating the alleged attempt on his life have so far made no arrests.
Asfar Hussain, the district magistrate at Sultanpur, near Amethi, told reporters the report to police had been made by Gandhi's campaign aides late last night.
The official spokesman for the Janata Party here said party workers had checked with villagers in the area all around Munshiganj, where the attack is reported to have taken place, but could find no one who had any knowledge of it.
In another development, jailed Indian Socialist leader George Fernandes, who has been on a hunger strike for five days, was admitted to a hospital here today. A spokesman for the opposition Janata Party told reporters that his condition was said to be serious.
Fernandes, 46, who is facing charges of conspiring to overthrow the government by force, is a Janata Party candidate. He has been refused bail to campaign personally and began his fast because the government refused to transfer him from Delhi to a jail near his constituency.
A statement by the Delhi administration said Fernandes was being examined daily and was in fair condition.