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Congress wooing back old allies

With intense speculations over the possibility of an early poll sending jitters through the political spectrum, it seems that the Congress-led UPA is reconciling fast to the prospect of such a situation actually arising in the near future. Consequently, the government is back to its old game of indulging its allies – past, present and potential – by doling out sops or holding olive branches of assurances to woo them back. Evidently, Congress-led UPA has toned down its arrogance, particularly in the wake of post-
budget disgruntlement and the withdrawal of DMK from the Centre citing the Tamil crisis in Sri Lanka, despite the anti-Lankan resolution that India voted for. Moreover, as calls for a third front get shriller by the day, with regional satraps like SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav calling Congress a ‘cheat’ and ‘very clever’, the party has woken up to the bitter reality of it riding a rather rocky boat. It is for this reason that Congress-led UPA has decided to indulge in some policy of appeasement, and has been trying to forge pre-election alliances in the garb of ‘giving in’ to some of the longstanding demands of the regional leaders and their cash-strapped states.

The fact that the government has decided to stamp Bihar as a ‘backward’ state is clearly indicative of the UPA’s courting of Nitish Kumar and to wrench his Janata Dal (United) out of the BJP-led NDA oppositional combine. This is of course a jointly played out bluff because the central government has no business of declaring any state as backward, which is the job of the finance commission, and no such report will be filed until October 2014, well after the next general elections. Similarly, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s landing up in Uttar Pradesh to open 300 bank branches along with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is nothing but an open dalliance to prevent the SP from increasing its pitch for the potential third front. Chidambaram’s guarantees come just hours after the PM’s comments on the possibility of SP withdrawing external support, and reek of a timely wool to plug the gaping holes in UPA’s confidence and political calculations. In the same vein, UPA has also promised the TMC leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee a release of Rs 270 crore under the MGNREGA. In addition, the ministry of rural development is also mulling over the proposal for roads to be built in Naxal-affected districts in the state, although UPA had long been rejecting, on purely technical grounds, the TMC supremo’s pleas to waive off interests on the enormous debts that she inherited from the Left Front government. Obviously, Congress has realised that in this tumultuous time, number crunching to secure the 2014 elections can only be achieved by somewhat pacifying the dissatisfied regional honchos. Though the ties with Tamil Nadu-based parties look severed at present, political contingencies might as well drive Congress and one of the two warring parties into each other’s arms in order to ensure mutual survival.
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