During his recent Bharat Suraksha Yatra, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani likened the Congress-led UPA Government to a vehicle in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the driver but the steering was held by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Even as Singh presses the accelerator, the Left allies apply the brakes bringing the much-needed reform process to a grinding halt.
And the verdict of the latest round of Assembly elections are bound to embolden the Communists further and prompt them to block and stall the wheels of progress.
The plight of the airports in the four metros recently which were paralysed following the strike call given by the Left-backed trade unions protesting their privatisation is too fresh and vivid in public memory to remind the people of the disastrous consequences of an aggressive Left.
In a blunt message smacking of Left arrogance and aggression, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat declared within hours of the party'svictory in West Bengal and Kerala that the results have strengthened the role of the Left in national politics and would increase their intervention in it.
Equally scary was the cryptic remarks of the CPI national secretary D. Raja who said the Congress should learn a lesson from the results and should not take the Left support for granted.
But wait. Even as the results were trickling in indicating a much-expected Left win in Kerala and West Bengal, CPI (M) targeted the independent and impartial Constitutional body, the Election Commission of India. Breathing fire and vowing vengeance for the panel'sattempts to prevent scientific rigging in West Bengal, Karat said, ?These elections have raised many serious questions about the nature and role of the Election Commission. There should be reforms in the Election Commission and the CPI (M) wants a debate on this issue?. He described the Commission'srole in the state as ?unwarranted intervention?.
What does all this boil down to needs no further explanation. More muscle fixing, more extractions (or is it extortions), more extra-constitutionalism and more extremism, such as support to the Maoists in Nepal and the resultant impact on the Maoists corridor running through several Indian states.
If with 63 MPs, the Leftists could make hell for the UPA Government, it is inconceivable to expect any concession after this much-touted victory, particularly on a Prime Minister, who is publicly humiliated day in and day out by Sonia Gandhi and her supporters.
And what is this Left brouhaha all about? The Left Front bagged 235 seats in the 292-Member West Bengal Assembly, leaving the Opposition Trinamul Congress led by Mamata Banerjee and the Congress far behind at 29 and 21 respectively.
The victory margin of the Left candidates clearly shows that they benefited from a divided Opposition. The ?Mahajot? or grand alliance advocated by Banerjee failed to take-off with only the BJP pitching in and the Congress keeping away. Apparently, the Congress did not want to be part of the BJP. But the low-key campaigns of both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi were indication enough that the party was more engaged in a ritual of participating in the elections.
There was evidently a clear cut message from the Reds that Congress ?sacrifice? its interests in West Bengal and Kerala if it wanted the crucial Left support at the Centre. ?Take it or leave it?, was the unambiguous message and forever the parasites of power, the Congress could not resist the temptation. They knew that joining hands with Mamata and BJP would mean giving the Communists a run for their votes and the impact at the Centre could be disastrous.
The tacit understanding became apparent when a smiling Prime Minister told reporters that the result in the five states were a ?victory for the UPA coalition and secular forces.? Victory, indeed, even if the Congress lost to the Left in Kerala.
Ditto Kerala. Remember there were no such compulsions when they came to power last time around. The CPI (M)-led LDF won 98 seats in the 140-member Assembly. The southernmost State had only lived upto its reputation of alternating between the rival fronts led by the Congress and CPI (M). It was also a reflection of the voters? apathy caused by infighting in the Congress.
What began with the Karunakaran-Antony rift and subsequently led to a split in the party reached a ridiculous situation with both parties going in for a tie-up at the last minute.
The communal card played by the Left also paid dividends. The Communists, who supported a unanimous resolution in the State Assembly demanding the release of Coimbatore blasts accused Abdul Nasser Madani, benefited from the support extended by Jamaat-e-Islami and Madani'sown People'sDemocratic Party.
Interestingly, it was the Indian Union Muslim League which suffered the biggest shock with the party losing its long-held seats in its heartland Malappuram and its top leader P.K. Kunhalikutty biting dust in Kuttippuram. The polls also wrote the obituary of the Karunakaran-led DIC-K.
The unprecedented pre-poll factionalism within the CPI (M) is expected to come to the fore once again with the camps of hardliner V.S. Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan all set for a free-for-all for the top post.
In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, nemesis struck the ruling AIADMK, which had incurred divine wrath by torturing and harassing the Shankaracharyas of the revered Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.
Known for its clear verdicts with landslide victories, Tamil Nadu threw up a hung Assembly with the DMK falling short of majority by about 15 seats in a House of 234. The 82-year old DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi is set to become the State'sChief Minister for the fifth time.
Jayalalithaa sought to woo the minority voters by scrapping the anti-conversion law she herself had enacted but she failed to realise that blatant minority appeasement has never succeeded. Neither it helped the late Rajiv Gandhi who amended the Constitution to dilute the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano nor the Congress party which sought to bring back the scrapped IMDT Act through the backdoor in Assam by amending the Foreigners Act.
The North-Eastern State, where the Congress had a clear majority in the 2001 elections, returned a split verdict. Though it emerged as the single largest party, it has to look for allies in a faction of a Bodo party and the Muslim outfit Assam United Democratic Front headed by Badruddin Aimal. A divided AGP and the reluctance on the part of Brindavan Goswami to align with the BJP deprived the people of Assam a golden opportunity to get rid of the anti-national rule of the Congress.
The tiny Union Territory of Pondicherry once again returned a split verdict with the Congress-led front winning 20 out of the 30 seats at stake in the Assembly.
However, despite the party'sdebacle in Kerala and Assam and reduced strength elsewhere, what was ironical was the sycophantic celebrations outside 10, Janpath over Sonia Gandhi'smuch-expected victory in the family'spocket borough of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, even as the party remains a non-entity in the politically crucial state itself.
Over 25 MPs, mostly Christian, led by the sidelined Chhattisgarh leader Ajit Jogi did not waste time in appealing to ?Madam? to take over the reins as the country'sPrime Minister in the wake of spectacular victory. In what was seen as a stage-managed exercise, the Mother of sacrifices, who resigned from the Lok Sabha after the first part of the Budget session on the Office of Profit issue and returned within a month to attend the second part of the session, sought to take yet another moral high by outrightly rejecting the demand.
What perhaps went unnoticed was yet another humiliation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who continued to be a persona non grata for both Congress leaders and workers.
However, in a U-turn, Her Royal Majesty, who had resigned as chairperson of the National Advisory Council and had got stories planted on her decision not to accept the post after her re-election, remained non-committal on the issue. ?I cannot say,? she told reporters.
What was disappointing for the ideological Parivar was the blank drawn by BJP in the elections though it improved its tally in Assam from eight to ten. Besides retaining the four seats in Tamil Nadu and one in Pondicherry, the nationalist forces would have been a happier lot if the party opened its account in the Kerala Assembly.
Even the veteran leader and former Union Minister O. Rajagopal was pushed to the third position in a keenly watched three-cornered fight for the Palakkad seat. The party received a vote percentage of 4.75 per cent in the State.
With its flag flying high in the crucial State of Karnataka, one would expect the party to give a fresh impetus to its forward march in the South.
But as for the Centre, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley aptly put it ?if the Left with 63 MPs was proving difficult for the UPA Government, it will be worse now after these results?.