First past the boast

Cong threatens President’s rule in UP if it doesn’t get the numbers. Who is it trying to impress?

Written by The Indian Express | Published: February 27, 2012 3:40 am

Cong threatens President’s rule in UP if it doesn’t get the numbers. Who is it trying to impress?

Of course,Union minister Sriprakash Jaiswal isn’t deluded into believing Congress will get 200-plus seats and form the next government in Lucknow,to hell with everybody else. So when he suggests the Congress will form the government in Uttar Pradesh or it will be Congress rule by other means — that is,President’s rule — it’s more than macho polltalk. His colleague and general secretary in charge of UP,Digvijaya Singh,said the same thing earlier. Taken together,both statements point to a peculiarly Congress syndrome. While India’s politics has transformed in the last two decades,opening up to new players and becoming more competitive,the Grand Old Party,now under the leadership of the Angry Young Man,remains resolutely frozen in a long-ago political moment. Incredibly enough,it appears to have gone through the motions of alliance-making since 2004 when Sonia Gandhi first reached out a hand to allies in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls,without learning the realism or the humility necessary to that process. Even after running a coalition at the Centre for nearly eight long years,it’s yet to unlearn the art of alienating friends and antagonising possible allies.

As UP winds its way towards the end of its seven-phase poll process,the dominant common sense points to a close contest,if not a hung verdict. In that scenario,government formation would necessarily require parties to join hands and participate in a process of give-and-take — not at all an unusual compulsion in a state where the last government was the first in nearly two decades to achieve a clear majority. Statements such as those made by Messrs Singh and Jaiswal do not just threaten to queer their party’s pitch,they also resonate unhappily among the Congress’s restive allies at the Centre.

The Trinamool Congress,for one,has complained loudly about not being consulted by its senior partner in major decisions and policies of UPA 2. The DMK is also easily cast in the role of the resentful ally. For both regional parties,such loose talk of President’s rule would only confirm their worst fears about Congress arrogance. Be it UP or at Centre,and if only for reasons of political correctness,the Congress needs to acknowledge that the days it could brandish President’s rule as a means to subdue opponents,or to get the better of a difficult situation,are long past. It pays to be humble a week before the verdict.

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