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HVK Archives: Cong citadels crumble as BJP recoups

Cong citadels crumble as BJP recoups - The Economic Times

Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
13 February 1997

Title : Cong citadels crumble as BJP recoups
Author :
Publication : The Economic Times
Date : February 13, 1997

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) annexed the Congress(I)
strongholds of Chhindwara and Nagaur, topping a spate of victories
which began from Punjab.

The party's success in adding the two crucial seats in the saffron
map is surely a major morale booster as it marks a watershed in the
steady expansion of the party's influence in the Hindi heartland
since 1989. Both Chhindwara and Nagaur were the two constituencies
that resisted the Janata wave in 1977 and stood by the Congress(I)
when it drew a blank in the entire northern region.

The party's success in Nagaur is significant as it will give the
BJP a much-needed toe-hold among the community of Jats. Although
the Mandalisation process, which left the Jats outside the ambit of
reservations, had helped the party to develop a rapport with them.
The community in states like Rajasthan had never accepted the BJP
as their best political option. In fact, the party had tried to
overcome this by wooing the late Nathuram Mirdha during the run-up
to the last Lok Sabha elections.

The Nagaur verdict must be galling for both the Congress(I) as well
as the ruling United Front. While the Front managers have not
spared a single opportunity to revive the old Jat-Muslim alliance
which formed the mainstay of the Dal in its different incarnation,
the Congress(I) was banking on the clean image of Ram Nivas Mirdha
to keep the Jats of the region under its control.

The poll outcome in the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh, too,
shows that the BJP has managed to hold on to its support-base.
While the party improved upon its performance in Dibai and
Sikharpur, the party has succeeded in pushing the Samajwadi Party
to third position in Bilsi (SC), vacated by the BSP leader Ms
Mayawati.

But what has come as a shot in the arm for the party is its victory
in its bete noire Shankarsinh Waghela's backyard, Sakhrej. While
this signifies the 'just-turned secular' Rashtriya Janata Party of
Mr Waghela is yet to gain acceptability in the state, it sure warms
the hearts of the cadre, which is demoralised by the loss of power
in the state. For, Mr Waghela, who is yet to get a berth in the
state assembly, the results hold ominous portents.

In Karnataka, where the party lost its main opposition status to
the Congress(I), the victory in the graduate council seat from
Bangalore South is being seen as an indicator of its continued hold
over the middle classes in the urban areas of the state.

The southern state is crucial for the party as it is the first
state across the Vindhyas which had shown some inclination to the
saffron ideology.

Although the poll outcome will have a sobering effect on the
Congress(I) and strengthen the 'secular logic', the party
leadership is elated by the verdict.

Their sense of satisfaction stems from two reasons. For one, the
outcome has established beyond doubt that the party is the
principal force opposed to the 13-party United Front. For another,
the election has administered a blow on the Congress(I)'s plans to
occupy major part of the opposition space.



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