Due to an editing error, the popular vote of Indira Gandhi's Congress-I Party in the recent Indian election was incorrectly reported in last Saturday. The part got 42.56 percent of the popular vote.
Indira Gandi's party won such a resounding victory in India's national elections last week that it wiped out the only effective challenge it has faced to its one-party domination of Indian politics.
The victory was so complete that there is no official opposition in Parliament. The Congress Party itself has splintered several times, but its core -- called Congress-I, for Indira -- has ruled India since it won independence from Britain in 1947 except for the past 33 months.
The Janata coalition, which got together in 1977 to defeat Gandhi, fell apart under the weight of continual bickering among its leaders and, many political observers here believe, did everything but throw the election to Gandhi's party.
The coalition's split triggered the election and its two parts, the Janata and the Lok Dal, managed to get just 13 percent of the seats compared to Gandhi's 66 percent.
The squabbles among Janata coalition members last year brought the fall of the Morarji Desai government in August and led to Gandhi's massive victory.
Moreover, the Janata government handed Gandhi's party a ready-made campaign issue by its inability to control prices, which have increased 20 percent since last February, labor unrest, economic stagnation and worsening crime.
The magazine India Today called it "the sugar and kerosene election" and those issues appeared more important to voters than the Janata and Lok Dal arguments that Gandhi would return to her harsh emergency rule, which saw tens of thousands of Indians jailed, censorship imposed on the press and special favors given to friends of Gandhi and her son, Sanjay.
In fact, it was the fractured nature of the opposition that allowed Congress-I win nearly 75 percent of the vote and an overwhelming majority in parliament.
In several northern Indian states, for instance, the combined votes of opposition candidates exceeded that of the Congress-I winner.
One of Gandhi's key aides, Kamalapati Tripathi, who was elected in a district in the pivotal state of Uttar Pradesh, won with 129,063 votes. But the combined votes of his Lok Dal and Janata opponents, who included Lok Dal Party president Raj Narain, totaled 186,626.
Ironically, Narain had been a Janata politician and a key figure in the fall of the Gandhi government in 1977. He personally defeated her that year in the constituency of Rae Bareli, which gave Gandhi an overwhelming victory this election.
"Such splits can be multiplied," the national daily newspaper The Statemen said in an election analysis today. "A rough estimate shows that a split in the Janata vote helped Congress-I bag at least 50 constituencies which it would not have done otherwise."
Splits notwithstanding, Congress-I emerged from the election as India's only major political party and Gandhi as this country's only politician with national standing.
As it has consistently since Indian independence, with the exception of Janata's 33-month rule, Congress-I managed to appeal to voters of all regions, castes and religions. Predictions that Indian national political parties would be replaced by parties appealing to narrow regional caste or communal interests appeared untounded.
Acting Prime Minister Charan Singh's Lok Dal, which finished second in the voting, appealed to a narrow class of small landowning farmers in northern India. He won only 41 seats in the 542-member parliament, hardly a large national following.
It is no secret that Indian politics can be petty. Charan Singh illustrated this when he explained in November why his bloc split from the Janata coalition.
He said he was angry because then prime minister Morariji Desai failed to wish him happy birthday in 1977 and refused to allow a government doctor to accompany him on official tours.
Janata leader Jagjivan Ram, an untouchable, was expected to win for his party wide support from the 100 million members of India's lowest caste. But most untouchable votes went to Gandhi's Congress-I.
Gandhi is picking her cabinet, which will be sworn in Monday. In a speech to her party Thursday, she pledged not to indulge in vendettas against her political enemies.
Now Gandhi is firmly in control. Her sharpest critics, one diplomat here said, fear she will move forcefully against her enemies in India and abroad -- hastening an atomic weapons program, taking advantage of Pakistan's weak internal position, disciplining states such as Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh for not following India's lead, censoring newspapers, allowing corruption among her allies, freezing nonsupporters from government work, and jailing political opponents.
But most observers believe she will tread more softly.
Her first priorities are expected to be domestic: lowering prices and ending shortages of key commmodities such as sugar, onions and kerosene, and cutting crime in the streets and the workplace.
But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has given her a hard choice on the foreign front. On the one hand she is a longtime friend of the Soviet Union, but she has always opposed armed intervention in another country, particularly one as close as Afghanistan, a 90-minute flight from here.
She has issdued conflicting statements on Afghanistan, suggesting that the Soviets might have had reason to move and at the same time opposing their armed intervention.