INFLATION AND MUSLIM ANGER WORRY CONGRESS

Congress president Sonia Gandhi says she is ready for general elections. But state units feel that rising prices of essential goods and Muslim fury over the government’s perceived pro-US tilt may hit the party’s electoral fortunes. Party sources say Gandhi is now getting not-so-favourable responses from many state units as well as some coalition partners…

Written by

Published on

Congress president Sonia Gandhi says she is ready for general elections. But state units feel that rising prices of essential goods and Muslim fury over the government’s perceived pro-US tilt may hit the party’s electoral fortunes. Party sources say Gandhi is now getting not-so-favourable responses from many state units as well as some coalition partners about the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) prospects in the event of early elections.
“We have informed the (party) president that we should try to avoid an immediate election and that we cannot go to the people over the nuclear issue,” a senior party leader reportedly said.
Gandhi indicated her party’s readiness for a fresh poll by attacking critics of the India-US nuclear deal as opponents of the country’s development. Her remarks were widely seen as Congress readiness for early elections to the Lok Sabha. A few days earlier, Gandhi had said the Congress was ready for an electoral battle. But a section of Congress leaders think differently.
Congress sources said leaders of state units are informing Gandhi that the party might get hit in Muslim areas in an early election, more so if it is felt that these are taking place over the nuclear deal.
“Although the nuclear deal is not a major issue so far among the people, the opposition will make it so. The Congress cannot be seen as a party getting close to the US because anti-US and anti-Bush feeling is strong in many Indian towns,” said a Congress leader from Kerala.

Although only 13 of the 543 elected Lok Sabha seats in the country are Muslim dominated, in scores of constituencies Muslims form a large chunk. Mass tactical voting by the community can doom the Congress if they decide to dump the party. The Congress leaders also feel that a general election might throw up another hung parliament.