After Gujarat low, Congress looking for high in northeast

February 22nd, 2008 - 10:42 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) Tripura goes to the polls Saturday, followed by Meghalaya on March 3 and Nagaland two days later. Not very significant in terms of Lok Sabha seats perhaps but crucial for the ruling Congress, reeling under successive losses and desperately in need of a morale booster. The Congress, which is gearing up for early general elections, is hoping to win the polls in at least two of the three northeastern states. Congress leaders admit that the addition to their numerical strength would be minimal but say they “desperately” need victory at this juncture and especially after having lost elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in quick succession last December.

“The elections in these small states are not very significant as they do not add much to the strength of a national party. But winning elections is a good feeling and it’s a good habit,” said political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao.

“The Congress badly needs good news now,” Rao told IANS.

“If elections in the northeastern states can give them (the Congress) brownie points, it will leave a feeling of cheer ahead of the crucial elections.”

According to Congress leaders, victory in these elections would be a “good beginning” for the party, which is preparing itself for assembly elections in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi - due later this year - and the general elections.

Some leaders in the party say elections are crucial irrespective of the size of the state.

“Every election is important for us, no matter what the size of the state is,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said.

According to Tiwari, the electoral debacle in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat did not indicate doom for the party.

“The Gujarat elections may have been adverse. But the Congress won the Lok Sabha by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and Goa, which were held at the same time.”

“The Congress is fully geared up. We have put our best foot forward,” he added.

Though the BJP is not a major force to reckon with in the three northeastern states, the Congress is bracing for a tough fight from its communist allies - which support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government from outside - in Tripura. And in Meghalaya, it is engaged in a bitter battle against the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

In Tripura, the Congress has a pre-poll alliance with the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) and the Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS). Determined to oust the Left government which has been ruling the state since 1978 barring one term, both Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi have aggressively campaigned in the state.

In Nagaland, where 287 candidates are in the fray, the major players are the Congress and the Naga People’s Front. The state has been witnessing political uncertainty since December last year when then chief minister Niphieu Rio faced a no-confidence motion.

In Meghalaya, where the Congress-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance was in power, the party is locked in a triangular fight with the NCP and the BJP.

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