New Delhi: They may be
battles for control of five states. But the overall outcome will
mean a lot to the Congress and to the United Progressive Alliance
(UPA) government it leads.
Analysts feel a good performance will be a morale booster to the
UPA government that is battling an image crisis, while a poor
showing will add to its woes ahead of the country's presidential
Of the five states facing the ballot, the contest in Uttar Pradesh
-- the country's most populous -- has greater portends for
national politics. With 403 assembly and 80 Lok Sabha seats, it
will be a four-way race involving the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP),
Samajwadi Party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress.
The Congress has high stakes in the other states too. It rules
Manipur and Goa and is the main opposition in Punjab and
If the Congress fares well in the staggered polls, it will give a
shot to the Manmohan Singh government and enhance the stature of
Rahul Gandhi as a strategist and mass leader.
Rahul Gandhi is focussing almost all his energy in Uttar Pradesh,
in the hope of repeating the 2009 Lok Sabha magic when he led the
Congress to the number two slot, surprising friends and foes
If the Congress wins Uttarakahand and scores well in Uttar
Pradesh, it is sure to boost Congress prospects in the Rajya Sabha
election in the two states.
The two states together have at least 11 Rajya Sabha seats falling
vacant in April. The Congress is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha,
a critical handicap for legislative business in parliament.
Congress leaders said the party's performance in the five assembly
polls would determine the degree of external support needed to get
its candidate through in a presidential contest.
If BJP batters the Congress in Uttarakhand and Punjab, the former
will be dlighted.
Elections will be held later this year in Himachal Pradesh and
Gujarat, where the Congress has been reduced to a poor second
vis-a-vis Narendra Modi.
Political commentator S. Nihal Singh said if the Congress performs
well in the polls, it will stabilize the Manmohan Singh
"In that case it will be in a better position to deal with
difficult allies like the Trinamool Congress. It will feel little
more confident in pushing reforms which have got struck," Nihal
Singh told IANS.
Political analyst B.R.P. Bhaskar said: "If BJP or Congress improve
their position in Uttar Pradesh, it will go in their favour in the
overall national context."
A Congress surge will add to Rahul Gandhi's stature and help the
process of generational transition in the party.
Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed told IANS that the outcome of
assembly elections will not make a difference to the central
government. But BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the polls will have
"an important bearing" on national politics.
"The elections, specially in Uttar Pradesh, will have a direct
impact (on national politics). I do not see a good result for
Congress. The UPA alliance can break," Naqvi warned.
The staggered polling began Jan 28 in Manipur. The results will be
declared March 6. The last phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh will
conclude May 3. Goa goes to the polls the same day.
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