Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MARGINALISATION OF CONGRESS GATHERS MOMENTUM

After failing to get new seasonal friend Samajwadi Party to allow it to contest in more than 17 of the 80 seats in UP, the Congress had to swallow the humiliation of being given just 14 of the 42 seats in West Bengal in its seat sharing arrangement with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress. In fact some of the the seats allotted to it were won by the Left by huge margins in the last Lok Sabha elections. The Congress, therefore, may find it difficult to increase its present tally of six seats, which was the whole idea behind strengthening Mamata Banerjee through a pre-poll alliance.

The unkindest cut of all has, however, come from two trusted allies of the Congress whose leaders are senior minister's in the Congress-led UPA government. Laloo Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, rattled by the performance of Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister of Bihar, have today announced a seat sharing arrangement in the state. Laloo's RJD will contest 25 seats, down one from last time while Paswan's LJP will contest 12, up four. This means that the two strongmen of Bihar have left just three seats for the Congress, undoubtedly from constituencies from where it will find it difficult to emerge victorious. The Congress was demanding six seats, but its demand has been summarily dismissed.

If the performance of the Congress in the Bhadohi assembly constituency of UP where it got just over 2000 votes (1% vote share) is any indication, the Congress is set to be wiped out in UP and Bihar. As it is, it is contesting in only 24 seats on its own in UP and probably three in Bihar. So, if out of the 120 MPs that these two states send to the Lok Sabha, the Congress manages to retain the two seats of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and a couple more at best, it is difficult to see how the party is going to lead any non-BJP alliance that may be in a position to form the government after these elections

When you own friends and partners start treating you dismissively as a non-player, it is never a good sign. Add to that the manner in which Naveen Patnaik's defection from the NDA has energised the Third Front and Mayawati in particular, and only the most optimistic supporters of the Congress will see it emerging from the elections without its strength seriously eroded.

The marginalisation of the Congress will gather even more momentum in the coming days in other states too. The real fight, as I had said in my previous post, is going to be between Mayawati and the BJP, even though it is not yet apparent to most. Keep watching this space.