ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Politics by the Hour

HE may have led the Congress to its worst ever performance in a Lok Sabha election and to defeat in every state where the party had been in power and where simultaneous elections to the state assembly were held. All the same, in his assessment of the immediate implications of the outcome of the elections, P V Narasimha Rao has shown a clean pair of heels to the other politicians, in his own party and the rest. Both the BJP and the Janata Dai-Left Front were clearly counting on a split in the Congress; the latter was hoping for a successful challenge to Narasimha Rao's leadership of the Congress, the prospects of which it sought to advance by dropping broad hints that it could not possibly have anything to do with the Congress as long as it was led by Rao. Things have turned out very differently, however. Rao has been unanimously re-elected leader of the Congress parliamentary party; he has also staved off, for the time being, the challenge to his presidentship of the party, having got the meeting of the Congress Working Committee scheduled for next Wednesday, which was to have taken up the issue, postponed indefinitely without too much trouble. He is in fact about to win a major prize for the party, the speakership of the Lok Sabha, which both the BJP and the newly formalised Third Front appear to be eager to offer the Congress in their competition to placate it. Even more important, the Third Front's desperation to form the government has made it easy for the Congress to present itself as the one dependable bulwark against communal forces and champion of secularism, wiping out the history of the Narasimha Rao government's early collaboration with the BJP and its role in the destruction of Babri masjid and the events leading up to it.

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