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Sonia, UPA favour Lok Sabha polls in April

Saubhadra Chatterji in New Delhi | November 07, 2008 02:22 IST

General elections are likely to be held in April next year, which has been emerging as the most acceptable option in the Congress camp as the party and its United Progressive Alliance government are apprehensive about the ripple effects of the global economic slowdown on India and want time to enable this to abate.

Although there are many views in the party about the timing of the Lok Sabha polls, party sources claim that Sonia Gandhi [Images] is in favour of an April election.

Government managers, under these circumstances, have kept the option open of calling another session of Parliament in February after the December episode of the extended monsoon session, to pass the vote-on account.

According to sources, if the party finally decides to face elections in April, there will be another session from February 23 to pass the vote-on account.

Last month, the Congress strategy managers had virtually finalised a February election. Now, as the global economy heads towards recession, and the Manmohan Singh [Images] government is becoming apprehensive about its repercussions on India, the Congress party wants to push them back as much as possible.

While the decline in inflation has come as a relief for the ruling party, the global economic situation has emerged as its bigger concern.

As the Congress-led government desperately tries to stave off its adverse effects by unleashing an array of monetary and political measures, it fears job cuts and a domestic economic slowdown could take a toll of the party's prospects.

"If it is not a happy time for voters how can it be a favourable time for the ruling party," asked a senior minister.

Top party sources told Business Standard that although the final decision is yet to be taken, Sonia Gandhi has conveyed that she is personally in favour of an April election.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had proposed the early election idea, has endorsed this. However, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee are comfortable with holding the elections in February.

Key partners of the UPA like Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and M Karunanidhi of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam too, are totally opposed to holding elections any time but April.

As most of the UPA partners are worried about their prospects after elections, they are persuading Gandhi to allow them to hold on to office as long as possible. Prasad recently said, "We are always ready to face elections but what is the hurry? April will be a good time for elections as a lot of work is yet to be done."

Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Prakash Karat [Images], who had withdrawn his support from the UPA forcing a trust vote in July, too feels that the government will go to elections in April.

Karat is showing no hurry to finalise alliances in different states.

"The elections will probably happen in April. We still have time to forge alliances," he said earlier this week.



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