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Lesson from the byelections - The Observer

Editorial ()
14 February 1997

Title : Lesson from the byelections
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Observer
Date : February 14, 1997

The unwashed voter of the world's largest democracy has once again
lived up to his reputation as its most dependable sentinel. He has
done it this time, through the recent byelections, by punishing
those who dared take liberties with him and, at the same time,
rewarding those who have shown a genuine earnestness to serve him.
There is an erroneous theory perpetrated, needless to say, by the
loser that byelections don't provide the right barometer by which
to measure the popularity or vindication of any political party or
theme. The fact, however, is that byelections are as much, if not
more, indicative of popular referendum as general elections are.
That being so, there are three significant pointers thrown up by
the latest byelections to four Lok Sabha and 14 state assembly

The first one is that the political entity called the Indian
National Congress has crossed its high noon and is inexorably
moving towards its final resting place. After the humiliating
defeat in the recent Punjab assembly elections, the party's abysmal
performance in the byelections should be the proverbial last straw.
The second pointer is that the myth of invincibility which has made
some of our politicians almost believe in their divine right to
rule has been shattered by an electorate whose patience these
politicians seem to have mistaken for submission. The defeat of
Kamal Nath and Nathu Ram Mirdha, debilitating as they are to the
Congress morale, would seem ignorable when compared to the beating
Prime Minister Deve Gowda has taken in his own constituency where
his hand-picked candidate has lost his deposit. Gowda's lack of
political legitimacy, already evident when he refused to face the
electorate to enter Parliament, has now become a reality. In any
other country, the Prime Minister would have by now packed his
baggage for home.

The most significant pointer is that, contrary to the predictions
made by the chattering' class, the BJP - the only true winner in
these elections - has also proved to be the only credible rallying
point for an electorate which, allowed to be exploited a little
longer by professional carpetbaggers, would have lost all faith in
democracy and courted other, less edifying instruments of

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