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The year for Indian politics
December 26, 2006 12:27 IST
Last Updated: December 26, 2006 12:35 IST
It was a year of consolidation for the Congress which seemingly mastered the art of coalition with Manmohan Singh government crossing the half-way mark of its period in power.
Bharatiya Janata Party appeared desperate to come out of the morass and the Left made occasional noises on issues dear to them but not in any hurry to rock the boat at the Centre.
That in effect sums up the political scenario in 2006 which also saw the leader of the ruling alliance Sonia Gandhi experience the rough and tumble of politics when she resigned and triumphantly returned to the Lok Sabha in the wake of the office of profit row.
The ruling United Progressive Alliance also saw a bit of turbulence in the outgoing year with TRS walking out of the coalition as its chief K Chandrasekhar Rao accused the Congress of playing fraud on the issue of separate Telangana.
A suspense arose over the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam being part of the alliance as "big brother" Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu wanted it to be kept out for breaking ranks in the state polls. As the year came to a close, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren brought embarrassment to the government after being sent to jail following conviction in a murder case, the first such instance involving a cabinet minister at the Centre.
The new year could have in store more problems for the government as the "tainted ministers" issue could come to the fore. There appeared concern in a section of the political class over what was dubbed as "judicial activism" with the Supreme Court making it clear that there was no need to seek sanction before prosecuting politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases.
Controversial MPs like Pappu Yadav and Mohammad Shahabuddin remained behind bars while signs appeared alarming for the likes of Sadhu Yadav. There was nothing much to write home about the opposition NDA except that it remained in one piece. This was despite severe internal problems in the BJP and in its relationship with the Sangh Parivar.
The saffron party made its first southern foray as it became part of the Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka. It lost power in Jharkhand as Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav played some deft strokes to have indirect control over the mineral-rich state after losing Bihar.
Rajnath Singh was re-elected as the BJP chief for a full-three year term but Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani more than made it known that they were still very much around.
The year had its flavour of "backward" politics as the Congress, whose fortunes dipped after the Mandal and Mandir issues, came to the fore, sought to widen its base while leading the coalition, moved for other backward classes quota in higher educational institutions and talked of reservation for Muslims as government brought in the Sachar Committee report.
The year also saw attempts to put the Congress-led government in the dock over issues like Iran, Iraq, the Prophet Mohammad cartoon controversy and the Indo-US nuclear deal.
While Mulayam Singh Yadav and Telugu Desam Party's Chandrababu Naidu announced formation of a Third Front ahead of assembly polls in five states including Assam, it failed to gather moss as the Left parties kept their distance from what was being projected as a non-BJP, non-Congress venture.
Yadav's Samajwadi Party got a bloody nose in the local body elections in Uttar Pradesh, whose results came as a badly needed reprieve for the BJP as also to a certain extent for the Congress. This was especially so as the Assembly polls are round the corner.
Shock was also in store for Congress in Karnataka where it failed to keep its coalition with Deve Gowda's party as JD (S) suddenly pulled the rug from under the feet of Chief Minister Dharam Singh and teamed up with "communal" BJP to "teach a lesson" to the Congress. The irony was that it all happened when the Congress was in the Plenary Session mode at Hyderabad to ratify the Presidency of Sonia for the third time in a row and was proclaiming that the party cannot abdicate the task of strengthening its organisation even in states ruled by allies.
Predictably, the Left won the Assembly polls in West Bengal and Kerala. The performance in Kolkata was all the more creditable as the CPI(M) used "brand Buddha" to telling effect to further consolidate its thirty-year hold over the state, making mincemeat of Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the Congress. It is another story that as the year came to an end the Singur issue saw a new friendship between Congress and Trinamool and the Communists were seen batting for capitalist Tatas.
Despite eight per cent growth and talk of a broad consensus on reforms, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained a worried man over their implementation as the Left put spokes on every conceivable measure aimed at liberalisation, rejecting suggestions to give political space to the ruling alliance in the matter.
The Women's Reservation Bill remained a distant dream despite the government assuring the Left that the long-delayed measure would be brought in the winter session of Parliament.
RJD chief Lalu, who proclaimed himself as the "minister number one" saw rebellion in the ranks on the issue with his partymen derailing plans to introduce the measure if it failed to have sub-quota for backward women.