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Congress may win battle, but lose war

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | July 22, 2008 11:41 IST
Last Updated: July 23, 2008 12:28 IST

History is in the making in the Lok Sabha. Although most MPs of the ruling and Opposition parties on Monday felt that the Manmohan Singh [Images] government would scrape through, Tuesday's debate and voting will still be watched keenly. provides a guide of what is likely coming your way after the vote.

If the government wins the vote:

a. Hurdles remain to conclude the India-US civil nuclear energy agreement, but the momentum to finish it will be unstoppable. Opponents of the deal may not concede defeat yet, but the first round goes to Prime Minister Singh.

India is set to separate its weapons making factories and civil nuclear energy producing plants. An important event in India's nuclear history. It will also boost India's strategic alliance with the United States of America like never before.

b. Victory for the United Progressive Alliance today opens the window of opportunity for the pro-economic reforms lobby who wants a big ticket favour from the government. The UPA government may or may not oblige depending on political opportunism.

But if one interprets Dr Singh's body language on Monday combined with Congress party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's [Images] recent utterances in Lucknow in favour of the nuclear deal, it is clear that the UPA government is using the stand-off over the atomic agreement to get the Communists off its back and introduce some big time moves in the economy.

c. The current debate and political turbulence will not change the common man's life. The tamasha is not about how to control inflation or provide more opportunities for the have-nots. The political crisis is just a mechanism employed by the Congress party to dump the Communists and hug an earlier adversary, the Samajwadi Party, and attend to its unfinished agenda before the government's tenure ends.

Paradoxically, if the UPA wins the vote today, it will become weaker as the governing entity. The pressures and issues that have worked to keep it in power today while cobbling up a majority will ask for their pound of flesh. Indian businessmen may have allegedly been lobbying in New Delhi, but there are influential lobbies working with American business groups as well who wanted the UPA to win Tuesday's game.

d. Since Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati is the unmistakable political winner in domestic politics the UPA and National Democratic Alliance will both try to decipher what lies ahead once the Telugu Desam Party, Mayawati, the Left parties and the Telegana Rashtra Samithi join hands. The NDA and UPA will have a hard time keeping its flock together in the coming six months. The flip side of Mayawati's gains is that she will face legal charges faster; more seriously, she will be hounded.

e. If the UPA government wins, it is obvious that many of us and most Congressmen who thought that Dr Singh is an apolitical personality, not a hardcore Indian political animal, will eat their words. He is a cunning, street-smart politician who stands shoulder to shoulder with politicians like Amar Singh to achieve his goal.

f. Today's win also brings to the surface that Congress party President Sonia Gandhi [Images] is pro-liberalisation, is not averse to US-centric globalisation and is a calculating politician who handled the Communists for four-and-a-half years without really giving away much.

g. In view of the touch and go situation before the Lok Sabha votes today, the obvious question is why did Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh risk their power for the sake of the India-US nuclear deal? Is the deal that important? The answer will determine Opposition politics. Anti-Americanism will be one of the political issues in the next general election.

h. There is no denying that dirty politics over the deal has bruised the UPA government's standing. The Congress may well realise in coming weeks that it has won a battle but is at the very real risk of losing the war.

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