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By-elections do not show any major change in voters' mood - The Times of India

Smita Gupta ()
14 February 1997

Title : By-elections do not show any major change in voters' mood
Author : Smita Gupta
Publication : The Times of India
Date : February 14, 1997

The results of the recent by-elections to 18 assembly,
constituencies and four Lok Sabha seats do not represent any major
change in the balance of forces or in the mood of the people since
the general elections last year.

But they come as a major embarrassment for both Prime Minister H.D.
Deve Gowda -the Janata Dal (JD) lost both assembly seats in
Karnataka, including Ramanagaram, which was vacated by the Prime
Minister-and Congress president Sitaram Kesri, under whose
leadership the party has not only just lost Punjab but two Lok
Sabha seats to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP has performed relatively better than its rivals, the United
Front (UF) and the Congress. But political observers say that it
has more to do with superior management rather than a shift in
votes. For the UF, barring the losses in Karnataka, the UF's other
constituents have performed uniformly well in the recent round of
by-elections spread over 11 states, winning six assembly seats and
one Lok Sabha seat.

The BJP has not only held its ground by winning four assembly
seats, retaining two in Uttar Pradesh, one in Gujarat and one in
Rajasthan (it lost one seat in Madhya Pradesh to the Congress), but
it has also made inroads into Congress territory by wresting two
Lok Sabha seats - Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh and Nagaur in
Rajasthan - from the Congress. The BJP's allies, the Shiv Sena and
the Akali Dal have also done well retaining one assembly seat in
Maharashtra and one Lok Sabha scat in Punjab, respectively.

The UF won three assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh with the Telugu
Desam Party-Naidu claiming Parvathipuram, Darsi and Allagadda; two
in Uttar Pradesh - Sahaswan and Maniram going to the Samajwadi
Party and one seat - Puddukottai in Tamil Nadu going to the Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagham.

And thanks to the fact that Ajit Singh left the Congress to form
the Bharatiya Kisan Kamgar Party (BKKP), which is now a constituent
of the UF, Baghpat is an additional seat for the ruling coalition.

Commenting on the Janata Dal's dismal show in Karnataka, a senior
party leader said, "In Ramanagaram, which was held by the Prime
Minister, the BJP asked its voters to shift their votes to the
Congress, which won. How else can you explain the fact that the
BJP candidate who secured over 20,000 votes last time, managed only
about 6,000 this time? The Congress and the BJP got together to
teach the Prime Minister a lesson."

But the Karnataka results, though embarrassing for the Prime
Minister, are unlikely to change the power equations within the UF.
A CPM politburo member said, "The Janata Dal tends to get
complacent. But when it is pushed to the wall, it will get its act
together. The results are unlikely to change the power equations
in UF."

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