Citing objectionable remarks by the Tamil Nadu Congress president, Karunanidhi summoned his seven Central ministers to appear in Chennai on the day of the Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana assembly results. Was he withdrawing from the Central government? A nervous Congress apologised. Apology accepted. Crisis over. Nevertheless, the Chennai meeting took place. The assembly results jolted the Congress. Karunanidhi hardened again. He demanded action against the state president. Is this the shape of things to come?
According to the grapevine, Sonia Gandhi was contemplating a snap mid-term poll if she won. She didn't win. But she lost her allies' trust. They now suspect her intentions. Will they make Congress a minority government? That would enable the President to override its call for dissolution of Parliament and for mid-term polls.
But why a mid-term poll? With the BJP in a shambles and regional parties at sixes and sevens, Congress dreamt of a Lok Sabha tally beyond 200. That could have been Sonia Gandhi's calculation. Or miscalculation?
The election campaign legacy holds little promise of smooth functioning. Can one forget Ram Vilas Paswan calling Cabinet colleague Laloo Yadav corrupt? Or Laloo calling Paswan corrupt? Laloo said his biggest mistake was to ally with Paswan in the last Lok Sabha election. He said he would never repeat that mistake. So, will he now commit the bigger mistake of working with Paswan as his Cabinet colleague?
Can one forget Sonia Gandhi saying that for 15 years of Laloo's rule there was no progress in Bihar, that crime had escalated? Or forget Laloo saying that Sonia should not campaign for his party in a single seat in Bihar?
Can one forget the Left saying that both FDI and defence spending must reduce? Or that the President's address was "mediocre"? Chidambaram presented the budget. Will the Left be allowed to amend it? Keeping India secular is proving pretty costly.
Centuries ago, a Roman soothsayer in Sonia's birthplace warned Julius Caesar about the Ides of March. Sonia might recall Caesar's fate. The Ides of March are here. If the Third Front idea revives, where will the Ides of March take the Congress? Minus the BJP, Congress and the Left, most, if not all, remaining parties could form the potential Third Front. They would account for over 200 MPs. If they form a Third Front government, would BJP and the Left topple it or extend outside support to avoid a mid-term-poll?
March could be an interesting month.
(Puri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)