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Indian opposition out in the cold

For the Indian opposition crushed by the Indira Gandhi landslide, the political landscape looks hostile and bleak. Now that the dust is clearing, what emerges are few if any peaks and mostly deep political valleys, from which it may take years for the opposition to emerge.

There are two telling consequences of Mrs. Gandhi's huge electoral victory, in which she snatched about two-thirds of the seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament), Monitor correspondent David Winder reports from New Delhi:

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First, the two-thirds majority of the Congress (I) will enable it, if it wishes, to amend the Constitution on its own.

Second, there will be no recognized opposition in the Parliament, as no single party or group could muster the required number of seats, which is 10 percent of the total strength.

It is not just an arithmetical distinction. The leader of the opposition has the status of a Cabinet minister. The leader is also entitled to the privileges enjoyed by a Cabinet minister.

The lopsided nature of Mrs. Gandhi's victory shows up in the tally. Of 525 contested seats, results were declared for 523. Congress (I) received 351; Lok Dal, 41; Communist Party (Marxist), 35; Janata Party, 32; DMK (southern regional party), 16; and the Communist Party of India, 10. The remaining seats went to minor parties and independents. Some seats were not contested, such as in Assam , because of violence there.


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