Congress on stronger wicket after polls

Congress on stronger wicket after polls

The results of West Bengal, Kerala and Assam will imbibe fresh confidence into a considerably weakened Congress which was under attack from the Opposition and civil society on corruption charges against party and coalition leaders.

Perhaps the biggest advantage from the ‘Friday the 13th’ result for the Congress is that it will face the April-May 2012 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh with renewed vigour.

While it performed impressively in the state in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections winning a surprising 21 seats, the party is seen to be on a downslide ever since. It did not win a single Assembly by-election in the state since 2009. The showing in the latest round of elections should provide a much needed boost to the party (there are no elections before the UP hustings).

There are two immediate questions that the current election results have thrown up : the bargaining power of Mamata Banerjee and the future of DMK after the massive drubbing it received in Tamil Nadu.

There is no doubt that the 56-year old railway minister’s power to negotiate with the UPA will considerably increase but it is unlikely that she will throw tantrums at the Centre.

Mamata knows too well the advantages of keeping the Congress-led UPA on the right side —it is necessary because her needs will have to be fulfilled by the Centre.

For an economy that is in doldrums, the West Bengal incoming chief minister requires the Centre’s help and largesse.

Karunanidhi’s plight

As regards Tamil Nadu, there will be few who would sympathise with the fate of the outgoing chief minister and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi. Steeped in corruption, Karunanidhi’s position is diametrically opposed to that of Banerjee. His bargaining power has sunk so low that it won’t be a surprise if the number of DMK ministers at the Centre comes down from the current five in the next reshuffle. He cannot even afford to think of arm-twisting the Congress like when he unilaterally announced snapping of ties at the time of seat sharing talks, which he had to retrace.

He can expect little support from the Centre in the 2G scam probe — his daughter Kanimozhi is facing arrest — especially because it is the Supreme Court which is monitoring the entire progress in the investigations.

Still, it is unlikely that the Congress will dump the DMK as the UPA ally in the near future.

Despite the DMK flop show, the Congress needs the regional satrap at the Centre as the former has 18 MPs. It is also highly improbable that it will start wooing the AIADMK – the Congress knows only too well how unpredictable and unreliable an ally Jayalalitha can be.

It will be no surprise if the spotlight — for all the wrong reasons — will be on CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. Karat will have to counter leaders from his party who will hold him responsible for the humiliation in West Bengal.