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BJP's gamble pays off, boosts morale - The Indian Express

Arati R Jerath ()
14 February 1997

Title : BJP's gamble pays off, boosts morale
Author : Arati R Jerath
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : February 14, 1997

The Bharatiya Janata Party's mood pendulum has swung the other way.
From being down m the dumps after the recent setbacks in Gujarat
and Uttar Pradesh, the party is now up, ironically as stunned by
its unexpected victories in Nagaur and Chhindwada as the Congress
is by the defeat in the two constituencies, traditionally regarded
as its pocket boroughs.

BJP president L K Advani candidly admitted to correspondents on
Tuesday that they had never imagined they could make a dent in
these "impregnable fortresses' of the Congress. After 9 the
Congress had never lost either seat even in the Janata wave of 1977
Lok Sabha polls.

The Chhindwada victory is particularly sweet. Carefully nurtured
by former union minister Kamal Nath for 17 long years, this
constituency had come to be accepted as his fiefdom much as Gwalior
is to the Scindias, Baghpat is to Ajit Singh and so on.

And when the high-flying Congressman was forced to let his wife
contest last year after Narasimha Rao refused him a ticket because
of the hawala scandal, he sweated it out with her in Chhindwada to
retain the seat for the family.

She won by a margin of 21,000 votes. Nine months later, BJP's
Sunder Lal Patwa swallowed those votes plus 37,680 more to trounce
Kamal Nath decisively.

BJP circles modestly admit that they pulled off this, "miracle"
mainly because this being a byelection, the entire party machinery
was put to work in Chhindwada. In a general election, the cadres
spread themselves throughout the state and tend to concentrate on
areas where the stakes are high, explained a party leader. The BJP
has thus never been able to capitalise on the anti-Kamal Nath
undercurrent in Chhindwada, he added.

Of the three Lok Sabha by-polls, the politically significant one is
that of Nagaur where the BJP has managed to penetrate the Jat
hinterland for the first time in Rajasthan.

Master tactician Bhairon Singh Shekhawat shrewdly pitted Nathu Ram
Mirdha's son, Bhanu Prakash Mirdha, against Congress veteran Ram
Niwas Mirdha, gambling on the young Mirdha's family lineage to see
him through in Nathu Ram's stronghold.

BJP circles freely admit that the victory is largely Bhanu
Prakash's personal success but feel that it has give the party,
traditionally considered a Rajput party because of Shekhawat, a
toehold in Jat land.

The fact is that the Jats of Rajasthan voted for Bhanu Prakash
despite his BJP tag, a party insider pointed out. And if the BJP
uses him properly, Nathu Ram's legacy could overcome the only
handicap the BJP has in establishing its supremacy in the state.

There is, of course, a downside to the euphoria which has revived
the BJP's drooping spirits.

Every gain it makes at the expense of the Congress strengthens the
anti-BJP platform which created the United Front Government. The
real result of this round of by-polls, therefore, is that Deve
Gowda lives to see another Independence Day.

The BJP will have to wait to make another bid for power at the

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