Vol 3, PW 13 (24 Jul 99) People & Policy

In June 1983, the former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was swept back to power by what came to be known as The Falklands Factor, after British troops successfully evicted the Argentine army from a group of islands provoking a wave of nationalist fervour in Britain.

In India, it is widely believed that prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will benefit from The Kargil Factor, as nationalist fervour sweeps the nation, following India;s vistory in Kashmir. As news emerged of Pakistans agreement to back down, Indias Election Commission formally announced the dates of upcoming national elections.

They will be held in five phases: on 4 September; 11 September; 17 September; 24 September; and 1 October. Counting will take place on 5 October, and a result is expected on 6 October.

For the BJP and its leader Vajpayee, the timing couldnt have been better. Political commentators are already predicting that he will reap the reward of his deft handling of the Kashmir crisis.

There is universal agreement in India that Vajpayee and his foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, displayed not only true leadership, but also exemplary statesmanship and skill in bringing the Western world round to Indias position. Many shudder at how the conflict would have ended had an inexperienced Sonia Gandhi been in power.

Moreover, opinion polls show that voters did not appreciate criticism of the government by opposition parties in a time of national crisis. If the BJP can capitalise on this wave of goodwill, it could be heading for a landslide victory.