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Finally,firmness

Congress backing PM and N-deal with one voice,again. Is it too late?

The Congress is “unanimous”,apparently. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the party’s candidate for the post following the elections; and thus,he’s the UPA’s candidate as well. So says Rahul Gandhi,clearly and unambiguously. More,he said that the Congress feels that there are some things it can’t compromise over: and its belief that Manmohan Singh is the best PM-candidate out there is one of them. The party’s leadership intends to “stick by him”,Gandhi added,just like it did in the “case of the nuclear deal”.

The specific invocation of the nuclear deal tells us two things. First,that it is genuinely considered by the Congress to have been a watershed,both politically and policy-wise; it won’t water its stand down on the subject. (Indeed,why should it? The deal is done and dusted,it’s an international,multilateral agreement now to which

India is a party,it’s no longer subject to the stresses of domestic electoral politics.) The deal saw a Congress and a PM that knew what they wanted,and were willing to lay themselves on the line to get it. There’s no question but that reinvigorated the party. Apparently Gandhi recognises the value of that sort of coherence. The second thing it tells us is that a not-so-subtle hint is being sent out to the Left and other possible post-poll coalition partners: as active campaigning ends,it is best to try and get out of maximalist poll mode as soon as possible. Working together means understanding the others’ bright lines,and the Congress seems finally to have drawn its own.

It might even mean it. Perhaps the Left got the message: when a CPM politburo member was asked yesterday about Prakash Karat’s ruling out of support to a Congress-led coalition,he denied knowledge,saying the CPM will “meet

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and decide what will happen post-election.” Others will have taken note too. The Congress must be hoping that this firmness and clarity hasn’t come to it too late in the day.

First published on: 05-05-2009 at 12:00:10 am
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