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Congress smiles won't last forever. Here's why

Last updated on: May 8, 2013 18:02 IST

Congress smiles won't last forever. Here's why

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Anita Katyal

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leaders may be rejoicing over the impressive victory the party scored in Karnataka, but the celebrations could well be short-lived as the UPA government's credibility stands at an all-time low. Anita Katyal reports

Weighed down by a string of corruptions scandals, the Karnataka victory on Wednesday proved to be a morale booster for the beleaguered Congress, providing timely relief from the controversies it is currently battling.

However, the win could well prove to be a temporary respite for the grand old party since it has a long battle ahead in the coming months as it now braces for crucial assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi where the party faces an uphill task.

Thereafter, the Congress will face its biggest challenge during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, which could well be advanced if the abrupt adjournment of Parliament on Wednesday is anything to go by.

Reduced to a minority and plagued by controversies, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to get any work done in Parliament.

Given the prevailing mood of the people, the general elections could well prove to be the undoing of the Congress party.   

For the moment, however, the Congress is savouring its victory in Karnataka where it cruised to a comfortable majority, ousting the first Bharatiya Janata Party government in the South.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Congress President Sonia Gandhi
Photographs: Courtesy Press Information Bureau

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Congress believes that the Karnataka result had undermined Modi

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Party leaders, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, lined up to express their happiness at the Karnataka verdict.

The Congress was particularly thrilled as the Karnataka results clearly demonstrated that the scams which have hit the UPA government found no resonance in Karnataka while the BJP government's corruption scandals, poor governance and the bitter infighting in the saffron party were the prime factors which drove the people to vote it out.

Most importantly, the Congress believes that the Karnataka result had undermined Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, touted to be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

Modi election meetings had been a huge draw and it was estimated that his oratory and charisma would improve the BJP's prospects, especially in the urban areas since he is a huge draw with the middle classes and the youth.

As it happened, the BJP's calculations went awry as Modi failed to make much impact.

Reacting to the results, Dr Singh said, "I congratulate Congress for working hard," adding that the corruption by the BJP government had proved to be its undoing.

Sonia remarked, "I am happy with the victory, it's a joint effort. The legislators will now decide the leader." 

She told rediff.com that the results were on expected lines as the party had calculated that it could win up to 115 seats.

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Photographs: Courtesy Press Information Bureau

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Karnataka verdict will have little or virtually no implications for the future

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All India Congress Committee general secretary Janardan Dwivedi went further to declare that the results in the Karnataka assembly elections reflected the public's rejection of the policies being pursued by the BJP over the previous five years.

"It is the loss of the policies of the opposition and their ideology. Their views have not been accepted by the public," adding, "It is a win of the policies of the Congress".

Exultant Congress leaders admitted that this result had given them confidence to battle on as it comes at a time when the party's credibility is at an all-time low.

"After all, the countdown for the elections has begun... this is a good beginning," remarked Maharashtra Congress leader Gurudas Kamat.

His colleagues concurred, pointing out that the Karnataka verdict also showed that the Congress brand name has immense sustainability.

"It still has its place in the sun. The Congress can be down but not out. After all, it has managed to come back to power after spending nearly seven years in the opposition," said another senior Congress leader.

However, the euphoria over Wednesday's victory was tempered by the realisation that the verdict will have little or virtually no implications for the future. 

Congress insiders privately admitted that this excitement will prove to be short-lived as it has, at best, provided an opportunity to score brownie points over the BJP which had mounted an aggressive campaign against the UPA government on the issue of corruption and demanded the resignations of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

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Image: (Left) Law Minister Ashwani Kumar (Right) Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal
Photographs: Courtesy Press Information Bureau

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'UPA government's image has taken a severe beating'

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Party leaders maintained that Karnataka does not take away from the fact that the UPA government's image has taken a severe beating and its credibility is at an all-time low.

Similarly, the Congress is wrestling with internal organisational glitches while its footprint in major states is considerably reduced.

"This result does not mean anything unless we are able to fix the party in the north and win the perception battle," said a senior Congress minister, who did not wish to be named.

Both these, he admitted, are daunting tasks.

The Congress is unable to make any headway in key states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where it has ceded ground to regional parties.

The party faces strong anti-incumbency in Delhi where it has been in power for three terms while it is unable to bring about any level of cohesion in the faction-ridden state units of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and is fighting a tough battle in Rajasthan.

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Photographs: Wikimedia Commons

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Prime Minister's 'silence' has cost Congress dearly

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Faced with corruption scandals, charges of policy paralysis and a faltering economy, the UPA government is having a tough time explaining its side of the story to the electorate. 

Glum Congress leaders admit that they have "communication" has been their biggest weak point and that the prime minister's "silence" has cost them dearly.

"What we need is a speaking prime minister... We should have somebody at the helm who can speak up firmly and loudly in defence of the government," said a senior Congress minister.

The underlying fear is that like the BJP in Karnataka, the Congress could well be routed at the Centre in 2014 general election.
After all, the mood against the saffron party in the southern state is not very different from the prevailing mood against the Congress at the national level.


Photographs: Courtesy Press Information Bureau

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