The pyrrhic victory in the 2009 Lok Sabha poll has turned the Congress Party on its head. The victory is not as convincing as those won by Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 or Indira Gandhi in 1971 and 1980, but the sheer audacity of the win has made the party brazen and it is scouting for trouble everywhere as if it has no challenge. There is no other explanation for the party kicking off an unsavoury controversy in Uttar Pradesh and trying to create a law and order problem.
Mayawati, the UP Chief Minister, is portrayed both corrupt and controversial. She has failed in redeeming her poll promise of saving the people of the state from criminals. But the UPCC president crossed all limits when she launched a broadside on the BSP leader in the name of protesting crime against women in the state. No measure of sabre-rattling by the Congress leadership can wash the original sin of the uncouth comment Rita Bahuguna Joshi made. The Congress instead of publically withdrawing the comment and apologising is trying to take political mileage. The party is in a hurry to create a base for itself in the state taking advantage of the decline of the Samajwadi Party and the BJP there.
The Congress euphoria is such that it is behaving as if it does not need allies anymore. The party is out to humiliate all its erstwhile allies, be it the Left, the Samajwadi Party, the RJD or the LJP. The party leaders are boasting that the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi was shown his place when he was forced to scale down his demand for additional ministerial berths in the central cabinet. It has similarly tamed Farooq Abdullah and Sharad Pawar, who entertained over-arching ambitions. In fact, the Congress is more in competition with its own allies than with the opposition. This is interesting.
The party knows that to grow further it has to eliminate other pseudo-secular parties, which are occupying its political space. The immediate target is NCP in Maharashtra, SP in Uttar Pradesh, RJD in Bihar and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. In the last three months after the poll, the Congress has made all attempts to undercut the influence of these parties, though they continue to support the UPA at the centre. Only the NCP and Trinamool could find place in the central government. But the Congress design to contain the two parties is being played out in the open. Exasperated and decimated in the election Pawar pleaded for peace with much-diminished clout in the Maharashtra coalition. On the other hand, an ascendant Mamata Banerjee is resisting vigorously the Congress aggression in her state.
The scene is different in UP and Bihar. The Congress is targeting the Yadav fraternity with a killer instinct. Mulayam Singh Yadav has threatened to reconsider his party’s support to the Congress. Lalu Yadav is still counting his losses even as the Congress is planning to extend an olive branch to power-hungry Ramvilas Paswan to further humiliate Lalu. These men used to be the most loyal votaries of the Sonia Congress’ right to rule India. Sadly, the Congress after the poll win found them the most undesirable company to keep. They expected, as a reward for their unsolicited loyalty, some place in the Cabinet. But the ruling party, in its expansionist agenda found these two the stumbling blocs. The communists are equally peeved by the sudden decline in fortune. The four Left parties have now formed a grouping in Parliament so that they will constitute the distant third-largest formation-with 24 members in the Lok Sabha. The budget session was unique in the sense that all these Congress allies and former allies found a common cause with the BJP on most issues. Is it the beginning of a new phase of anti-Congressism?
The massive mandate that Indira Gandhi got in 1971 became so unpopular by 1975 that she had to impose Emergency to keep herself in chair. Rajiv Gandhi’s 400-plus victory got wasted in just two years. On all such occasions, the vanquished reclaimed lost ground earlier than expected. With just 206 seats in the 543-Member House the Congress is behaving as if it can ride roughshod over every other party. The inexplicable electoral gains have made the party overconfident. It is going about as if the days of one-party rule are back again.