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News Analysis
Tough times ahead for UPA
By Kamlendra Kanwar

The UPA seems to be hurtling from one stumbling block to another. It was revelations of corruption that tumbled out of cupboards like skeletons a couple of years ago. Related to that came the Anna Hazare storm that galvanised well-intentioned, concerned citizens to demand greater accountability and transparency from a government that was virtually under siege.

There was hope of redemption in the recent elections in five states but there is nothing to gloat about after the results have come.

Congressmen were hoping that their party would forge a post-poll alliance with the Samajwadi Party to form a coalition in Uttar Pradesh and would then be assured of SP’s solid support in New Delhi, but that hope has been dashed with the steamroller win by the SP.

The UP elections were also seen as an ideal launching pad for Rahul Gandhi that would catapult him to centrestage as Dr Manmohan Singh’s successor in the 2014 parliamentary elections. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in her post-elections Press conference, diplomatically evaded a reporter’s question on whether the 2014 elections would be fought with Dr Singh at the helm, foisting Rahul would be no mean task after the ignominious showing of the Congress under his charge in the UP elections.

The Punjab results too are a big jolt to the Congress. Barely a year ago, few people gave the Akali Dal-BJP combine any chance of returning to power. The only bone of contention was how big would be its defeat.

The ejection of Manpreet Badal from the Akali Dal made matters look worse.

It was then that the Akalis in particular galvanized themselves into action. Unlike most other states where populist schemes like the ‘atta-dal scheme’ are riddled with corruption, the Parkash Singh Badal government ensured that this scheme was kept largely insulated from corruption which was otherwise all-pervasive.

The UPA’s saving grace is that the BJP is unequal to the task of capitalizing on its goof-ups and discomfiture. It is still groping for a charismatic and widely-accepted political leader who can pose an effective challenge to the Congress. Besides, members of Parliament in general are wary of a snap poll and would rather cling to their present term as long as they can.

Yet, the Manmohan Singh government has much to worry about. The next round of elections would be in the states of Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal where it would virtually be a straight contest between the Congress and the BJP. While anti-incumbency could be an advantage for the Congress since all these are BJP-ruled currently, failure in these states could spell further trouble for the Congress.

But before that there would be the Presidential elections which would be a must-win for the UPA.

With Mamata Banerjee flexing her muscles in West Bengal and the Samajwadi Party devoid of any obligation to support the UPA government, the UPA would be hard put to completing its term. Regional satraps like J. Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Naveen Patnaik in Orissa and Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra may well prove hard nuts for the UPA to crack. Added to this is the Nitish Kumar factor considering that this Bihar strongman could well become a rallying point of all anti-Congress forces.

For Sonia Gandhi, there indeed is no dearth of challenges. With a Prime Minister who is of no help in party affairs, she has an ordeal of fire ahead of her. The next general elections would predictably be her toughest test of resilience.





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