After months of bad news, the mood at the Congress headquarters on Friday was distinctly upbeat, with results of the [elections to] State assembles setting the stage for the party's chintan shivir next month, and providing it with the confidence to make changes in the Union council of Ministers.
The Congress made it clear that winning Assam for a record third consecutive term, the United Democratic Front (UDF)'s squeaking past the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala, and the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine trouncing the Left Front in West Bengal, more than compensated for the defeats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
Indeed, the Congress took special pleasure in the defeat of the Left Parties in its bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, and in the fact that its principal rival at the national level, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made virtually no mark in this round of elections.
The troubled relationship between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress at the ground level in West Bengal appeared to be forgotten in the excitement of the remarkable victory that Mamata Bannerjee forged in the State: all top Congress leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, showered Ms. Bannerjee with congratulations and good wishes, and she, in turn, asked the party to join her government.
Simultaneously, the defeat of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham-led government in Tamil Nadu was being seen in party circles as a blessing in disguise, as the southern party will now find it hard to bring any pressure on the Central government to ease up on the corruption cases filed against its leaders. Senior Congress leaders stressed that the party's relationship with the DMK remained on a strong footing.
The people had voted for “stability and change,” a beaming Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told journalists at the Congress headquarters here. Obliquely referring to the Left Parties which had opposed the civilian nuclear deal with the United States in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)'s first tenure, he said “certain political parties” had tried to destabilise Dr. Manmohan Singh's government in July 2008, but that the people had given a renewed and enlarged mandate to the Congress-led UPA in 2009.
For the last one year, Mr. Mukherjee continued, some parties had tried again to destabilise the government, but the people had clearly voted against such efforts. “Look at the figures – the BJP has won just six of the 828 assembly seats, one in West Bengal and five in Assam. The party which claims national status could not touch double digits,” he said.
Returning to the Left Parties, the Finance Minister said, “The other political parties aided and abetted the BJP inside and outside Parliament, and they have met their fate.”
Paying fulsome praise to Ms Bannerjee for “dismantling the communist Party of India(Marxist) in West Bengal” and reducing the Left Front to double digits, he concluded, “The people have given their verdict for Mamata Bannerjee.”
In Kerala, as in West Bengal, Mr. Mukherjee stressed, the people had voted for change.
As far as Assam was concerned, he said, it was “a vote for stability, development and reconciliation”, stressing that the party's efforts “to bring back the misguided elements in the United Liberation Front of Assam into the mainstream” had been endorsed by the people.
The icing on the cake, for the Congress, was that the results came on a day that the Supreme Court set aside the Karnataka's Speaker's decision to disqualify 16 MLAs ahead of the no-confidence motion last year, which had ensured the survival of the B.S. Yeddyurappa-led BJP government in the State. This is especially as the Congress' charges of corruption against the BJP government have so far not made much impact.