Barring Trinamool, no party seeks mid-term election

The Congress is quite sanguine about the stability of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition it heads despite the party's disastrous showing in the just-concluded State elections. The Congress' optimism stems from its belief that, barring the Trinamool Congress, no party — including the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Left — wants to precipitate a mid-term election.

Government sources said the next few weeks will see efforts to placate the Trinamool through budget proposals and on controversial issues such as the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC); on the latter, the first round of discussions will be at the level of officials next week, and later with the political bosses.

Indeed, on Wednesday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said: “My view [and] … that of the PM … is that if we continuously and regularly stay in touch and talk to our coalition partners and Opposition, [then] on issues … beneficial to the people…, I … hope, they will understand and support [us].”

With the budget session starting on Monday, government parliamentary managers are bracing themselves for the daily jousting with the Opposition and the tantrums of the chief ally, the Trinamool. Apart from the NCTC, the Centre wants to push through key initiatives such as FDI in multi-brand retail, pension reforms and the Goods and Services Tax Bill that require support from the States. It also needs help with the Lokpal Bill, the failure to pass which has damaged the UPA, despite the many anti-graft measures it has put in place. And then there are the presidential elections due in July, for which it will need to forge consensus.

Simultaneously, even though the Congress targeted the Samajwadi Party (SP) during the recent Uttar Pradesh elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself, sources said, has made overtures to the victorious Yadav duo. After the results came in, he made it a point to congratulate Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son, Akhilesh Yadav, separately. In 2008, it was the SP that came to the UPA's rescue at the time of the confidence motion debate following the Left parties' exit on the issue of Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, the Congress, which has staked its claim to form a government in Uttarakhand, with three Independents and one Uttarakhand Kranti Dal MLA, is hoping to lure three Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs as well, not just to have a cushion but also to use it to forge a better understanding with Ms. Mayawati, now vulnerable after her party's defeat in Uttar Pradesh.

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