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Congress grapples with failure
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 23
The incumbent Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s spectacular victory in the crucial assembly polls may have secured the longevity of the UPA government at the Centre. Even as a stunned Congress was grappling with its failure to make any substantial gains in the Gujarat election, BJP’s resurgence will force the bickering UPA partners to close ranks and end the possibility of an early general election, a fact admitted to by senior BJP leader L.K. Advani today.

The Congress leadership will come under increased pressure from its own rank and file as well as its allies in the coming days for its inability to keep communal forces at bay.

Having failed in this do-or-die battle of Gujarat, the party will now be under greater pressure to do well in the next round of assembly elections.

Besides the three northeast states of Nagaland, Meghalya and Tripura, the Congress faces a tough challenge in Karnataka where the BJP has made deep inroads.

The writ of the Central party leadership will be further questioned and instances of indiscipline are not being ruled out as witnessed today in the fistfight between local Karnataka Congress leaders and former Janata Dal (U) leader Sidderamaiah, who had defected to the Congress.

Besides facing pinpricks from its regional satraps, the Congress will also have to contend with its increasingly assertive allies.

Reminding the Congress about its recent defeats in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, CPI leader A.B Bardhan questioned the party’s dependence on BJP rebels in Gujarat, which, he felt, was wrong.

Similarly, timing of agriculture minister and NCP leader Sharad Pawar’s meeting with Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today was also being seen as yet another instance of pressure tactics.

The Congress will also have to sacrifice the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal, which had strained its relations with the Left parties. Had the Congress fared well in the Gujarat polls, it might have been emboldened to side step the Marxists and go ahead with the deal.

But today’s result has rendered the Congress more vulnerable and it has become imperative for it to project a united front with all its secular allies.

Importantly, the Gujarat election outcome has once again held up a mirror to show chinks in the Congress party’s organisation and raised questions about its president Sonia Gandhi and Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi’s abilities to turn around an election. Besides its over-dependence on BJP dissidents in Saurashtra, which failed to yield the requisite results, the Congress did not have a strong state leader, who could take on a charismatic leader like Narendra Modi.

Modi set the agenda in this battle as he identified himself with “Gujarati pride” and succeeded in painting his detractors as being anti-Gujarat.

Hard-sell of his achievements on the development front was combined effectively with his Hindutva agenda as he was able to capitalise on Congress president Sonia Gandhi's “merchants of death” remarks to change the tenor of the election campaign.

Unlike the Congress, which did not have the courage to deny tickets to its sitting legislators, Modi was ruthless as he axed about 50 sitting MLAs. Modi’s gambit obviously paid off.

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Secularism alone won’t do: Left

New Delhi, December 23
With the defeat in Gujarat, the Congress came under renewed attack from the Left parties on the Indo-US nuclear deal and economic policies with the CPI even telling the ruling party to realise that secularism alone was not enough.

”Congress should realise that secularism alone is not enough and it should do some serious introspection over its policies, particularly on the economic front. It should also rethink on the nuclear deal and carry out mid-course correction of its policies,” CPI national secretary D. Raja said.

He said secular forces should also draw proper lessons from the Gujarat verdict as the results showed that they would have to unitedly intensify the struggle against “communal fascism”.

Striking a similar note, the CPM Politburo said the results showed that where the impact of communal politics was deep, electoral efforts alone were insufficient to defeat the communal forces. — PTI

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