DATE=8/26/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT(L-ONLY) TITLE=INDIA / POLITICS / L-O NUMBER=2-253133 BYLINE=ANJANA PASRICHA DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: In India, the two main political parties contending in upcoming general elections are making the recent Islamic insurgency in Kashmir a key campaign issue. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the coalition led by Hindu nationalists is expected by some analysts to make major gains in the elections, because of its handling of the Kashmir crisis. Text: Leaders of the ruling Hindu Nationalist coalition and the opposition Congress Party are projecting the country's recent military offensive against Pakistan-backed guerrillas as either a major victory or a massive failure. The conflict in Kashmir ended last month, after India fought a two-month battle to evict Islamic guerrillas from the Himalayan Mountains. The conflict became a campaign issue after recent opinion polls indicated the coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata party is heading for victory -- riding on the government's recent success in the operation against the guerrillas. Hindu nationalists are calling Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee a war hero. They describe his handling of the Kashmir crisis as the government's major achievement. On the other hand, the main opposition Congress Party leader -- Sonia Gandhi -- is blaming the government for not detecting the intrusions by guerrillas and for leading the country into an expensive military offensive. Starting her campaign in the northern Punjab State, she said the government is responsible for the deaths of scores of army soldiers, by not being more vigilant. Political analyst Pran Chopra says -- even though the Kashmir crisis has been resolved -- the issue has caught the public imagination and become a key issue for voters. /// CHOPRA ACTUALITY/// The Government is able to claim a fair amount of mileage out of it and that is what has made the opposition more worried about it and that is what has made this an issue in the elections, as well as an issue in the public consciousness. ///END ACTUALITY/// Indian newspapers say the Kashmir issue has become the center of many election rallies. The "Times of India" says the prime minister "plays the Kashmir card to the hilt" in his election campaigning. The "Indian Express" says the Congress and the B-J-P are "hardselling" their versions on the conflict. Recent opinion polls show Mr. Vajpayee's coalition, projected to win more than 320 seats in India's 545- seat lower house -- enough to form a government, on its own. The polls indicate the Congress Party will trail behind, with about 138 seats. According to the polls, the ruling alliance is gaining because of what they call the "feel good" factor in the nation, after the Islamic guerrillas were successfully evicted. (signed) NEB / wd / wd 26-Aug-1999 06:17 AM LOC (26-Aug-1999 1017 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .