The busload of visitors from the Indian state of Gujarat sat patiently for more than an hour in the shade of a large tree, just to have their pictures taken with Indira Gandhi.
Earlier, she gave an audience to a group of Yugoslav tourists after thay had asked their tourbus driver where she lived.
"I am one of the sights of Dehli," she said with a smile.
Indira Gandhi, 61, remains India's best known political figure. But the former prime minister's attempts to recover from the humiliating defeat her authoritarian government suffered more than two years ago appear stalled at the moment.
Some of her former allies in the Congress [i] -- for Indira -- Party have turned against her, charging in public what many people have said in private -- that she is "arbitrary," "autocratic," "authoritarian" and driven by "personal egoism." They contend that she is unduly influenced by her son Sanjay, 32. He has been called "her weakest link" by Devaraj Urs, a former political supporter who has turned against her.
Moreover, the government appears determined to put both Gandhi and her son in jail for excesses allegedly committed during the 19 months of "Emergency Rule," when she put strict curbs on individual, political and press freedoms.She even has been accused by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moyniah [D-N.Y.], the former U.S. ambassador here, of accepting CIA money for her political party.
One diplomatic observer describes Gandhi's political position as on "the downward slide of a roller coaster."
"A roller coaster implies that she's down, but not out. In no way can you write her off as an important political figure," he said.
Gandhi has obvious support, both on the Delhi cocktail party circuit and in the streets. Successful businessmen openly yearn for the days of the "Emergency," when they say workers were afraid to strikee and civil servants were forced to put in a full day of productive work.
"It sounds like Mussolini, but at least the trains ran on time," one said.
At the other end of the economic scale, a poor scooter-taxi driver complained about the soaring inflation since Prime Minister Morarji Desai's Janata Party took over the government in March 1977. Prices have risen 6.7 percent since February and planners estimate inflation may 17 percent before the end of the year.
"We all want Mrs. Gandhi back," the taxi driver said.
It is hard to gauge how widespread that feeling is. Intellectuals, who were the most restricted under the emergency, still despise her.
Perhaps more importantly, a rally she called in May drew a disappointing crowd of 35,000, after her supporters had predicted hundred of thousands would protest the establishment of special courts to try cases against her and Sanjay.
But lack of money is not stopping Gandhi from traveling through the country and keeping her name before the public. Recently she visited the Nadia district near Calcutta, where Hindus and Moslems have been battling in communal riots.
"The Moslems there are in an absolute panic and the government is not at all bothered," Gandhi said in a wide-ranging interview in the comfortable drawing room of her bungalow here.
With a ceiling fan moving the warm air around and her daughter-in-law's Afghan hound lying nearby, she attacked what she considers the Desai government's inability to handle the country's political and economic problems. She defended her 11 years as prime minister.
"There is no respect for the government, and a government cannot function without respect," she said.
Gandhi said her major mistake was in allowing the emergency to run as long as it did. Orginally, she wanted it to last only two months and, "i think that is what I wwould do now." She also said that she should have called an election after the first years, just as hr economic reforms were taking hold and before the attacks on her political excesses mounted.
Although she has been criticized in the past for not being contrite for the censorship, political jailings without trials and spying on individuals that went on during the emergency, she apologized freely during the hour-long interview.
"I apologize for any hardships I caused, especially to those who were arrested and to the politicains and the press," she said. "But I do not apologize for the things we did that were good -- for arresting the smugglers and black marketeers who contributed to inflation."
One point on which she would not back down was her relations with her son Sanjay, who was described by one observer here as her "Rasputin" and by another as "a spoiled petulant nasty brat." Politicians, diplomats and observers of the Indian political scene -- including strong followers of Gandhi -- believe he is the reason she lost the election and few can understand why she does not disown him as a political liability.
He and his tough Youth Congress members are blamed for forced sterilizations during the birth control program. He has been accused in the press of using his mother's position to enrich himself, and in recent months he has led demonstrations that have ended in clashes with police.
Yet to Gandhi he has done no wrong. The demonstrations, she said, were peaceful until police started swinging clubs at him and his followers. The other accusations, some of which are pending before the special courts, "are mostly a case of spreading impossible stories and making him out to be a devil."
But it may now be too late to dump Sanjay. The government appears determined to keep her from regaining political power. When she won election to Parliament last year, she was stripped of her seat and sent to jail for contempt and breach of priviledge. Prime Minister Desai admitted at a recent press conference what had long been rumored: -- he had presured the chief minister of Tramil Nadu, M. G. Ramachandran, to withdraw his support from Gandhi's bid in May to run for Parliament from a safe seat in south India, forcing her to withdraw from the election.
Soon she will be embroiled in court trials. The first three cases have been filed against her and there are indications that more will follow.
The trials will keep her here in New Dehli, instead of traveling the country, campaigning for support. She believes the trials are intended to convict her on charges sufficiently serious to bar her from political office and put her in jail.
Gandhi appears resigned to going to jail. She has, after all, been imprisoned before -- for 13 months in 1942 during India's drive for independence. CAPTION: Picture, Indira Gandhi waves to well-wishers as she arrives at recent rally in old Dehli. AP