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UPA crisis blows over, PM remains cool

By Renu Mittal
July 25, 2009 23:58 IST
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For the Congress party, it is 'mission accomplished' after the 'silent operation' it launched in what is being touted as the 'non-cooperation movement' with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

According to senior leaders, the party's leadership is satisfied that the message to Dr Singh to 'listen to the party' and 'hold wider consultations on key issues affecting policy matters' has been received by him loud and clear.

A senior leader said that not a single leader, Member of Parliament, Member of Legislative Assembly, minister or party worker spoke a word and it was this silence which ensured that the message hit home.


By Friday evening, the Congress leadership had also received the message that the prime minister was ready to toe the party's line. But the party has once again cautioned that no decisions should be taken unilaterally that can create problems for the ruling alliance in the months ahead.


The reference was to Mamta Banerjee, who took a very strong line against the Land Acquisition Bill, throwing tantrums during the cabinet meet even when the prime minister asked her to support it. A senior party defended the Railway Minister's stand and cautioned the government that nothing should be done to jeopardise the alliance with
the Trinamool as the Congress needed her just as much in Bengal as she needs the Congress.

Similarly, on the Free Trade Agreement, the prime minister tried to push it through in the cabinet meet but the objections of senior ministers like A K Antony, who is known to be close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, prevailed. Now, a Group of Ministers has been set up to look into the issue with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee likely to head the GOM.

With many outstanding issues including Pakistan having been cleared, the prime minister will speak in the Lok Sabha on July 29 and Sonia Gandhi will speak to the party Members of Parliament on July 30, when she addresses a meeting of the general body of the Congress Parliamentary Party. Gandhi will also host a dinner for Congress MPs on July 29.

For now, the crisis facing the United Progressive Alliance government has blown over.
But the strain is evident from the fact that the Prime Minister's Office went all out to put stories in the media about Congress leaders supporting the PM and backing his initiative on Pakistan.

A senior leader said that while a section of the media may take their cue from the PMO or go by certain planted stories, the PM is certainly not in that category and, "he  understands the finer nuances of politics".


"While he is not known to be a politician, he understands politics better than most politicians and is also clever," said a leader close to Gandhi who has observed Dr Singh since many years.


Sources say that the problem between the PMO and the party is much wider and deeper than most people realise and the epic-centre of the earthquake, which just hit the UPA, was not Pakistan but a host of other issues. These issues need to be addressed, said the sources, as they have been pending since the formation of the government in May.


Pakistan, though an important issue by itself was merely an excuse to drive the message home, said sources.


The issue was the style of functioning of the PM and the attempts of the PMO to project him as a larger-than-life figure.

Interestingly, avid supporters of Dr Singh do not get tired of peddling the line that since Rahul Gandhi is not ready to become the prime minister yet, the Congress president has no option but to continue supporting Dr Manmohan Singh as India's premier. 

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Renu Mittal