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Look back with pride, not anger - Sunday Observer

Arun Nehru ()
23-March February 1

Title : Look back with pride, not anger
Author : Arun Nehru
Publication : Sunday Observer
Date : February 23-March 1, 1997

A midst the confusion prevailing in the country, political trends
are becoming clear. The Bharatiya Janata Party seems to have
recovered from its 13 day government, the debacle in Gujarat, and
the electoral setback in Uttar Pradesh.

Is this going to last? Can the BJP govern over a period of time?
Will there be another Emergency? Will the BJP sweep the North and
the West? Will the Congress and allies sweep the South, the
North-East, and Orissa and gain in West Bengal? Will the Janata
Dal survive in Bihar and Karnataka, or will it simply vanish as in
Uttar Pradesh and Orissa?

Let us look at the results. In Uttar Pradesh, the tragedy of
Mandalization continues with Ajit Singh retaining his seat, two
seats going to Mulayam Singh, one to Mayawati, and one to the.
BJP. The state continues to be divided on caste lines, making the
chances of a stable government a distant dream.

Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, the safest Congress seat in India,
has been lost to the BJP. Kamal Nath, who is apparently taking
things for granted, suffered a bitter defeat. So did Chief
Minister Digvijay Singh. I think it is time for Madhavrao Scindia;
to emerge from the shadows as everyone else seems to be decline!

The BJP did everything right; its gamble paid off. The BJP's
victory in Nagour and Phulera in Rajasthan shows that the ailing
'but very competent Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is in control.

The Akali Dal-BJP win in Punjab was no surprise. If the Akali Dal
had not boycotted the last election, they would have won then, too.

The trends in the North thus show the BJP in control and the
Congress in confusion and disarray, still hunting for a future
leader. Sitaram Kesri is under pressure and clearly not in
control. Making noises without action has little meaning.

The Congress is a house divided. Only the return of Arjun Singh -
who'll play the 10 Janpath card - will ensure that the battle for
supremacy will not be restricted to Sharad Pawar, P V Narasimha Rao
and Kesri.

The by-election results and the feuds within the Congress will
,help H D Deve Gowda to gain time, but the electoral advantage will
be with the BJP unless the latter loses it by isolating itself in
the swadeshi syndrome of economic confusion or talks of great
-moral and ethical values.

The United Front government's policy of survival and a
divide-and-rule policy for the Congress is giving the prize to the
BJP. It would be wiser to play for time.

The Congress is shrinking out of inaction and a clear lack of
direction and approach. The Congress Working Committee meeting
gives Kesri an opportunity to wage war, but he will need constant
advise from those who actually wield power.

The portents for the future are grim. The current government is
clinging to power, but somehow lacks the popular authority to
govern. The economic situation shows little improvement - we are
heading for record inflation. Time will tell that the Congress is
making a fatal blunder; it should either opt for elections or join
the government. The party will pay a heavy price unless it closes
ranks and follows a united policy.

The electoral trends in 1989, 1991, and 1996 should not be taken
lightly. The public mood seems to be changing in favour of a stable
majority. The BJP may well gain by this in the North and the West
and gain allies in the South. Jayalalitha Jayaram is on the march
in Tamil Nadu and will need partners.

Andhra Pradesh may well see a three-cornered fight with the BJP and
Laxmi Parvati doing well. On current trends, the crucial game of
numbers will favour the BJP unless the Congress acts and acts
quickly. 1996 has seen many a dramatic change of fortunes, but the
trend seems to be towards a general election.

The BJP also has a great advantage in Atal Behari Vajpayee he's a
bachelor and will cost the tax-payer the least!

History provides many examples of chronic anarchy over a period of
time - casteist and religious feuds coupled with the absence of a
national identity had enslaved us for a thousand years. The
challenges of the past have not gone away, but merely. taken new

Economic growth and trade are the weapons of the future, and I
cannot help but feel that barring a three-year period from 1991-93,
when we saw a glimpse of what we are capable of, little has really
happened. The world seems to have lost interest in India. The
reality is that the world will show an interest in us if we show an
interest in stability and governance.

Great men and great leaders come once in many generations. We are
witnessing history today as South Africa struggles for its future.
Like India and Mahatma Gandhi 50 years ago, South Africa has
produced Nelson Mandela, and we are witnessing events similar to
those we saw 50 years ago. Complex and difficult issues are being
sorted out with the sheer personality and moral authority of Nelson

Clearly, leadership and credibility are decisive factors in any
kind of governance. While celebrating 50 years of independence, we
must think of the future and of future leaders.

We cannot look back. If we do, then it must be with dignity and
pride. There are few certainties in life, but clearly the existing
situation may well shape public opinion in favour of a single
charismatic leader or in favour of collective leadership. In the
situation today, Atal Behari Vajpayee leads the way.

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