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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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The Congress could not dislodge the Shiv Sena from its stronghold of Mumbai and adjacent Thane. This despite the fact that the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has lost a large number of the seats it won in the last election. According to The Hindu in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena-BJP’s tally declined from 133 to 111, in Thane from 63 to 53, in Pune from 53 to 45, in Nashik from 60 to 40, in Pimpri-Chinchwad from 25 to 13, in Akola from 32 to 18, in Solapur from 40 to 24 (no alliance) and in Amravati from 37 to 26. The alliance gained only in Ulhasnagar where it improved from 19 to 27 and in Nagpur, where it won 63 seats as compared to 54 in the last election.  The Congress-NCP failure has the Left worried. Both NCP and Congress leaders openly admit that the main reason for the so-called “saffron surge” was the division in the secular votes.

Offstumped examines the implications of the poll results in Mumbai and across Maharashtra. 

According to the Indian Express the Congress can take heart from the fact that “overall” it was still the largest party, winning a total of 275 seats throughout the state. The NCP came second with 221 seats, followed by Shiv Sena (213) and BJP (182). Independents account for as many as 84 seats, Raj Thackeray’s MNS bagged 28, RPI got 16 and BSP 17. The ‘Third Front” comprising SP, Left and other parties got a total of 49 seats.

However that overall tally can be cold comfort with most municipal corporations in play and all important Mumbai lost to the Shiv Sena BJP combine. While most media analyses have focused on the failure or Congress and NCP to come together some have also speculated on Bal Thackeray’s invoking of the delay in carrying out the Afzal Death Sentence as a factor. It is rather ironical that the delay in death sentence of one terrorist is a politically more potent issue compared to the 200 odddeaths on 7-11, well such is the stuff Indian politics is made up of.

While the BJP and Shiv Sena celebrate it would be premature to read too much into the saffron victory beyond confirmation of the theory Offstumped had advanced last year in the wake of Uttar Pradesh civic polls that in low turnout elections with a fragmented electorate, Right of Center Parties can do well by turning out the base. The larger and more important read from these poll results is for the Congress which may very well prepare itself for a doom and gloom 2007. The only poll results bearing good news for the Congress in 2007 may have come and gone in the Yogendra Yadav manufactured opinion poll about a fictitious Lok Sabha election. With incumbent governments in Punjab and Uttarakhand, a marginal role in Uttar Pradesh and practically no hope in Gujarat the rest of 2007 will see a defensive Congress looking to cut its losses. With inflation on the rise the Congress may as well brace itself for the blame for every bit of bad news on the economy.

The viability of the Manmohan Singh Sonia Gandhi lead UPA Government however seems to be on a reasonably strong wicket with that proverbial wedge issue with the Left continuing to remain elusive.

Offstumped Bottomline: The question plaguing Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury must be how long before the continued association with the UPA government will start to hurt. To some extent the hurt may have already begun with the wedge within the left on Singur and land acquisition in West Bengal. But that wedge is many miles away from widening the alliance in New Delhi. A string of BJP comebacks in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat with a reasonable performance in UP could be the excuse for an anxious Left to rethink continued support to the Congress by blaming the saffron resurgence on Congress deviations from the CMP.

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