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UPA weaker,Rahul puts up a brave face: ‘a very good lesson’

It pushed the party to fourth place in UP,wrested away Goa,gave Punjab back to Akali Dal.

Written by D K Singh | New Delhi |
March 7, 2012 2:04:44 am

As Congress president Sonia Gandhi watched the election results with Priyanka and Rahul at his 12,Tughlaq Lane residence this morning,the message they heard by the afternoon was unmistakable: a sweeping anti-Congress verdict.

It pushed the party to fourth place in Uttar Pradesh,wrested away Goa,gave Punjab back to the Akali Dal — the first time a state government there has bucked incumbency in over 40 years — and in Uttarakhand,the Congress was flying down Independents to New Delhi in a desperate bid to unseat the faction-ridden,discredited BJP government.

So a win in Manipur was of little comfort to the Congress as it braced itself for questions on the effectiveness of their star,Rahul Gandhi,whose aggressive me-myself-and-I campaign in UP failed spectacularly in convincing voters itching to throw out the Mayawati government.

If inflation,a string of corruption scandals and a UPA policy drift weakened the Congress’s case across all states,there were also few takers for the party’s tired NREGA rhetoric.

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Even the Muslims in UP weren’t impressed with the party’s announcements of reservation and claims of tears being shed over the Batla House encounter. As it faces the challenge to take on Narendra Modi in Gujarat later this year,the party will need to do a lot of introspection.

This was underlined by Rahul himself. Speaking outside 10,Janpath once the trends firmed up,he said: “First of all,let me congratulate Mulayam Singhji and Akhilesh. In a democracy,winning and losing happens. In UP,I led the campaign and I led from the front and so it is my responsibility. We fought collectvely,we fought well but results have not been good. This is one of my defeats and I take it in my stride I think it is a very good lesson for me. I think it will make me think in detailed ways which I like to do.”

Claiming he was trying to improve the “political system” of the country and his work would continue irrespective of poll results,he said: “I expect to have victories along the way and I expect to have defeats…I had made a promise to the people of UP that I will be visible in the cities and villages and fields in UP…with the poor. I will continue my work. Certainly,the Congress party’s fundamentals are weak in UP. Organisationally we are not where we should be and so that is where a lot of work is going to be.” Conceding that the party did not do well in the whole of UP,he said that he was trying to resurrect the party so that “we win there one day”.

Sonia had a lot more to take care of. The Assembly election results came as a jolt to the UPA which was looking to take some hard decisions towards fiscal consolidation in this year’s Budget. In fact,the Prime Minister himself had said that he would revisit the FDI-in-retail issue after the elections. If that suggested SP support at the Centre,that is now easier said than done.

With Mulayam Singh Yadav not requiring its support in Lucknow,the Congress will have to do serious damage control given its leaders’ bitter diatribe against Mulayam and his son that even included threats of Governor’s Rule.

The SP and the BSP have 22 and 21 members respectively in the Lok Sabha.

With the Trinamool Congress,which has 19 MPs,already snapping at the UPA’s heels,the Congress leadership is now faced with a situation where it will have to humour BSP supremo Mayawati after months of sustained attack.

The Congress can no longer take the SP’s or the BSP’s support for granted,notwithstanding the CBI cases against them. While the BSP is expected to lend tactical support to the UPA,the latter cannot count on its support to save the government. The same goes for the SP. Their positioning in the future could be all the more worrisome for the Congress given that moves are already afoot to forge a so-called Fourth Front.

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