Debating India

STATE ELECTIONS 2006

Cong’s reasons to celebrate

Friday 12 May 2006, by VARGHESE*George K.

New Delhi, May 11 : Retaining Assam in an impressive show and winning 30 seats in Tamil Nadu that will be indispensable for the DMK, the Congress had reasons to celebrate on Thursday.

While the party believes the Kerala defeat is manageable, the West Bengal result brought with it the hidden promise of a trounced Mamata Banerjee’s supporters returning to the original fold. Adding glamour is the massive victory of Sonia Gandhi, who called a rare press conference by the evening. ??Prophets of doom who predicted our defeat have been proved wrong. We will form the government in Assam and the DPA in TN and Pondicherry. We are disappointed with the results in Kerala and West Bengal, but that is part of politics,’’ Sonia Gandhi said.

Congress will support a DMK-led government in TN from the outside and receive outside support from the DMK in Pondicherry, senior party leaders said. The DMK-Congress relations move to a new phase where both are indispensable for each other in order to retain power in the state and Centre respectively.

With Congress and the Bodoland Progressive People’s Front (BPPF) set to cross halfway mark in Assam, CM Tarun Gogoi is likely to get a second term, said Congress sources. Congress has 54 and BPPF 11. After 1972, this is the first time that a party returns to power in two consecutive terms. BPPF has no conditions about who should be Chief Minister. If the Congress were to depend on Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), replacement of Tarun Gogoi would have become a condition for its support.

In West Bengal, the Congress won only 21 seats, down from the 26 it won last time in alliance with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. However, this is not all bad news in relative terms, think party leaders. ??A shrinking Mamata is going to help the Congress tremendously. By contesting all seats on our own we have made an all-Bengal presence,’’ says Sanjoy Banerjee, a campaign manager. Mamata coming down to 30 seats from last time’s 64, her supporters are likely to flock towards the Congress, which has some spoils of power to offer. Mamata herself may not be far from considering that option.

The Congress’ fortunes seem to be looking up after a long season of disasters, ranging from the Bihar fiasco to quota strife. That the party will surely up its claims was clear when Sonia Gandhi, answering a question, said son Rahul Gandhi ??may take up’’ a party position. However, Sonia is still undecided on her return as chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC).

varghese.george@expressindia.com

See online : The Indian Express