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A Vote for Status Quo - The Times of India

Editorial ()
14 February 1997

Title : A Vote for Status Quo
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Times of India
Date : February 14, 1997

Looks like Mr Deve Gowda can forget all about returning home to
Hardanahalli. Going by the drubbing the Congress has received in
Punjab and in the current round of by-elections, it should be a
long, long while before it can even dream of dislodging Mr Gowda
from South Block, let alone occupy it itself. As for the doomsday
cassandras who were predicting the United Front government's early
demise, clearly, they underestimated the Congress's suicide
potential. What else is one to make of the party's rout in two of
its established strongholds, Nagore in Rajasthan and Chhindwara in
Madhya Pradesh? The two constituencies had stayed with the
Congress through the 1977 Janata wave and again in 1989 when most
of its northern citadels fell to Mr VP Singh's crusading zeal. For
them now to go the BJP way - when the Congress is ostensibly on the
ascendant - is more a censure of the Congress than a tribute to the
BJP. The Congress has no doubt won a consolation prize in wresting
the Ramanagaram seat held by Mr Gowda when he was in Karnataka.
There cannot, after all, be a worse setback for a Prime Minister
than for his party not to be able to retain a seat vacated by him.
But that is at best a brownie point for Congressmen to use in
their fight with Mr Gowda. Certainly, it is not enough to catapult
the Congress to its ultimate goal - of emerging as a united,
stronger force capable of winning elections on its own steam.
Indeed, what counts in the end in democratic politics is the
ability to fight and win elections. As long as the Congress has
doubts on this score, it is unlikely to disturb the status quo.

The BJP is the only party to have scored in these elections. In
some ways this is equivalent to a breakthrough for it, especially
considering the party's repeated failure to hit the majority mark,
whether at the Centre or in a crucial state like Uttar Pradesh.
True, by-elections cannot be the basis for long-term electoral
projections; indeed, to do so could be both premature and
erroneous. But there is a psychological advantage to be had from
victories and that is precisely what the BJP's disheartened cadres
need now. If the Prime Minister has gained anything, it is by
default. The loss of the Ramanagaram seat in particular is a rebuff
he cannot easily shrug off. More so, given the creditable
performance of his partners in the United Front, the Chandrababu
Naidu-led TDP in Andhra Pradesh and the Karunanidhi-led DMK in
Tamil Nadu. But he is safe for the moment and that is probably
what matters most for him now. The Bofors revelations and its
electoral debacles have combined to put the Congress on the
defensive, which only means that it will leave him alone for some
time to come. Yet, the Congress must forthwith introspect on the
image it is wittingly or otherwise projecting to the electorate or
risk further erosion in its support base. Surely for a party
apparently wanting to cleanse itself of its past sins and begin
afresh, Mr Kamal Nath's induction was not quite the best way to
prove its sincerity ? In the event, the people have yet again
proved that they can see through deceptions.

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