The worst reconciliation is better than the best divorce, so said Miguel de Cervantes,author of Don Quixote. The Congress certainly believes him. Ever since its dramatic divorce from the Left over the nuclear deal,the Congress has been sending out feelers for a reconciliation. First,it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. After accusing the Left of being on the wrong side of history,he has since softened his stand. Now it is Rahul Gandhi,who yesterday said,I am confident that the Left will support us post-polls. The Left has rebuffed this and other flirtations,claiming that this signifies a lack of confidence in the Congresss own prospects. But the Congress isnt likely to be deterred,believing that,however bad the reconciliation,it is preferable to a divorce.
The problem is that one cant flirt by sending mixed signals. The Congress central command may see the Left as partners in any post-poll combination,but in West Bengal and Kerala,the Congress is smelling blood. The moribund state Congress in Bengal hopes that its alliance with the Trinamool Congress will help push,and unify,anti-incumbency votes. Sonia Gandhi,on a visit there,accused the Bengal government of running a dictatorship. And in Kerala,with pundits predicting a white-washed red brigade,the Congress has upped the ante,going after the Left hammer and tongs. Its not just that different people in the Congress speak in different tongues; sometimes,even the same person says different things. The very same Rahul Gandhi who now claims to read the Lefts heart,had savaged its governments in Kerala and Bengal.
This is perhaps inevitable in a country where political partners change quicker than in MTVs Splitsville. Since the Left is for ever competing against the Congress in its two biggest states,there has always been an uneasy balance between bonhomie at the Centre and acrimony in the states. But such blatant doublespeak says volumes for the kind of games alliance-building requires. What,in any case,is the Congress thinking? In its calculations it must remember that a UPA + (a reduced) Left (an increased) Mamata might not gain very much. Perhaps some kinds of reconciliation are worse than divorce.