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Crying wolf - The Times of India

Editorial ()
19 February 1997

Title : Crying wolf
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Times of India
Date : February 19, 1997

The Congress is once again in muscle-flexing mode, though this time
around its battle-scarred veterans are volleying and thundering a
little too loudly for comfort. The behave-or-else routine the party
had adopted with the United Front has now formally been put on
paper with the Congress Working Committee resolving it will offer
only issue-based support to the coalition government of Mr Deve
Gowda. The Congress's main charge against its ally is that it has
failed to arrest the "forces of communalism". Translated in simple
terms, this means that the Congress is blaming the United Front for
its abject defeat at the hands of the BJP-Akali Dal combine in
Punjab. This is pure piffle. The United Front is as good as
non-existent in Punjab. It was the Congress which was in power in
the state and it was the Congress again which was locked in a
virtual straight contest with the BJP-Akali Dal coalition. The
Congress paid the price for its own incompetence, nothing else. In
any case, if the Congress pulls out of its pact with the UF, it is
the BJP, whose rise Congressmen ostensibly fear, which will most
likely benefit. Indeed, the upshot of any disruption in the
present arrangement can only spell one of two things: fresh
elections or a realignment of forces. The more militant section of
the Congress may have decided to do battle on the electoral front -
witness Mr Tariq Anwar's war-like statements on braving it at the
hustings - but elections are almost the last thing a party
recovering from its run of routs needs.

The realignment scenario does not work out in the Congress's favour
either. Besides the DMK-TMC alliance, which in reality is itself
far from showing interest in the prospect, the only possible props
for the Congress are Messrs Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh
Yadav. But even their combined strength is not such as to take the
Congress to the magic figure of 273. The other partners of the
United Front will resist supporting the Congress - as opposed to
taking support from it - if only to preserve the adversarial
relationship they have with it in their respective states. There is
yet another view which credits the current rumpus to a subterranean
wish among Congressmen to tie up with the BJP and thus turn the
tables on the United Front. This too seems farfetched. At a time
when the Congress is being hauled over the coals all over again for
the Ayodhya debacle, can it afford to cosy up with the BJP? Will
Mr Sitaram Kesri, who represents the anti-BJP position in the
Congress much more than any of his immediate predecessors, agree to
go down in history as the first Congress president to align with
the BJP? Doubtful. The inevitable conclusion from all this is that
the Congress is merely scoring a point as the CPM, which has been
threatening to take to the streets, in fact, is doing. Both parties
have a public image to live up to and both have to satisfy their
restive cadres. Posturing allows them to fulfil both objectives.
In truth, today no party is in any position confidently to test its
strength and no legislator wants to try his luck with the voters
again. In the circumstances, the least they owe to the people who
elected them is not to test their patience.

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