M A I N   N E W S

Left wins in Bengal, Kerala
* DMK unseats Jaya * Sonia’s record win
* Cong triumphs in Pondy, single largest entity in Assam
T R Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Recording a stunning electoral victory in West Bengal for a record seventh time coupled with riding a strong anti-incumbency wave as well as breaking fresh ground in Kerala, the Left parties have not only emerged stronger but determined to take on the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre in pursuing the reform process in national interest and improving the lot of the teeming poor.

The outcome of the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Union Territory of Pondicherry have been on expected lines. J Jayalalitha's AIADMK had to bite the dust in the wake of the onslaught by the Democratic Progressive Alliance with the DMK in the vanguard regaining power in Tamil Nadu and the Congress along with its partners romping home easily in Pondicherry.

A setback stared the Congress in insurgency -ridden Assam where the party emerged as the single largest entity and seemed in sight of heading a coalition government by churning up the requisite majority with the help of a sizeable number of independents, the Nationalist Congress party and other like minded groups. Despite the fractured verdict, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stressed in Guwahati that the next Chief Minister will be from the Congress.

The runaway win of Congress President Sonia Gandhi from the Rae Bareli constituency for the Lok Sabha was never in doubt after she resigned her seat following the office of profit controversy. She had also simultaneously given up being the Chairperson of the UPA's National Advisory Council. Serious doubts have been expressed that she will return being the Chairperson of the NAC even after this staggering triumph with more than 400,000 votes despite a low turnout of a shade over 40 per cent.

Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed the outcome of the Assembly elections as a "victory for the secular forces and the UPA," a section of Congress MPs demanded that Mrs Gandhi should respect the mandate of the people and take over the governance of the country. "We want the Gandhi-Nehru family to lead the nation," observed Ajit Jogi and insisted that "there is nothing sycophantic to respect the people’s mandate."

The Left leaders without going ballistic about their tremendous showing in West Bengal and Kerala maintained that the "UPA government cannot take us for granted. The results of the Assembly elections has shown that autocratic rule and non-people centric policies will definitely spell the doom of regimes. West Bengal is a case in point where the people have reposed faith in the Left Front because its policies have a direct bearing on achieving progress by ameliorating the lot of the poor." What the Left found rather encouraging specially in Kerala is that it has been able to break fresh ground in Muslim dominated areas.

CPI's D Raja contended that the Left victory in West Bengal and Kerala "reflects the advancement of the policies of the Left and its place in the national polity. The UPA cannot afford to ignore the concerns of the Left on key policy matters."

They have said that the Left parties will collectively decide either on Saturday or Sunday about their governments in Kolkata and Pondicherry. The old war horse in Achutanandan as a mass leader might return as the Chief Minister of Kerala though some sections in the Left believe they should zero in on a younger comrade.

The Congress is not unduly perturbed by the drubbing it got in Kerala. The party has received a fresh shot in the arm with the Democratic Progressive Alliance in Tamil Nadu sending the AIADMK packing. It might lead to some realignment at the Centre with Vaiko's MDMK compelled to break free from the UPA.

The prospects of having a coalition government for the first time in five decades in Tamil Nadu has taken a back seat. In all likelihood the DMK will form a minority government in Chennai with the Congress and Left parties extending support from outside. The Dravidian party has been given the requisite assurances by its pre-poll allies. This arrangement will be extended to the Congress in Pondicherry where it has emerged as the single largest entity with 10 seats in the 30-member Assembly.

Kerala Congress leaders claimed that the LDF sailed through in the state because of aligning with communal and fundamentalist forces which was strongly contested by the Left leaders as being an affront to the people of Kerala. An introspection would be held for the reasons of the debacle, KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala said that the party had retained the same percentage of votes in the state that it had polled in the last general elections. At the same time several senior party leaders and ministers fell by the side in the Assembly elections. Outgoing Chief Minister Oomen Chandy managed to win his seat.

The BJP hardly had any stakes in these Assembly elections. It failed to open its account in Tamil Nadu and came a cropper in Kerala and Pondicherry. Riding piggy pack on an influential regional party in the past had facilitated the BJP to make inroads but Tamil Nadu and Kerala continues to elude them. As an afterthought strategists in the party said if the BJP had struck a pre-poll arrangement with the AGP in Assam, they might have been able to take advantage of the fissures in the Congress. That was not to be.


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