Runs and wickets may not garner votes

Published: Saturday, April 17, 2004, 5:24 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's historic cricket victory over archrivals Pakistan sparked wild scenes of celebration in India, but the feel-good factor may not translate into votes for the ruling party in upcoming polls, experts said.

India's first ever Test series win in Pakistan, clinched 2-1, comes with the country due to begin voting in staggered Parliamentary polls from Tuesday.

Leading members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been keen to take credit for allowing the series, India's first full tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years, during election rallies.

But while the tour undoubtedly reflects well on the Government the feel-good factor may not boost the BJP vote, experts said.

"This will have very little implications in actual voting but it will augment the 'India Shining' image of the Government," said Ashwani Kumar Ray, senior expert on India-Pakistan relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), referring to the Government's election slogan.

However, he acknowledged that the cricket tour had had a positive effect on relations between India and Pakistan, often fierce enemies who have fought three wars since independence from Britain.

"What is happening is very exciting. Pakistanis are discovering our people and Indians are discovering a very warm Pakistan," said Ray.

Gurpreet Mahajan, political science professor at JNU, said the BJP would try to make further reconcilation moves with neighbouring Pakistan and take the credit for that.

"But it would be absurd if they hope India's win on the cricket field will translate into votes," she said.

Doraiswamy Raja, secretary Communist Party of India (CPI)-- arch-foe of the BJP -- said he hoped the ruling party would not take credit for the Test and One-day victories.

"It was the BJP and its fire-breathing ministers like Uma Bharti who opposed India's tour of Pakistan but they relented only because of a groundswell of demand from secular and democratic forces in both nations to improve ties," he said.

"Please don't forget it was a rightwing ally of the BJP that dug up the cricket pitch in New Delhi during Pakistan's tour of India in 1999."

Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan began taking steps to mend decades of hostilities after Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship in April last year.

The landmark gesture led to the resumption of road, rail and air links, full diplomatic ties, a ceasefire last November on Kashmir's borders, the start of talks in February and finally India's cricket tour of Pakistan that began 40 days ago.

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