If the Solapur and Ernakulam bypolls were the trailer, the assembly polls in November and next year's general elections will be no cakewalk for the Congress. Party chief Sonia Gandhi has already admitted the twin debacles in the supposedly safe seats were "a setback". Both Solapur and Ernakulam are traditional Congress bastions. But in the first, ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was working for its rival and in the latter it was a Congress vs Congress affair—the K. Karunakaran faction openly campaigned against the official party candidate. In fact, things have come to such a pass that on October 1 the Karunakaran group of 23 MLAs met and asked that chief minister A.K. Antony be sacked by November 19 (Indira Gandhi's birthday).
The Solapur LS seat was lost due to Sharad Pawar's alleged machinations, backing the Sena-BJP candidate Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil. The latter, incidentally, is the brother of NCP leader and PWD minister in the S.C. Shinde cabinet, Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil. Pawar even admitted there was some "confusion" among NCP workers because of loyalties to the Patil family. Whatever the reason, Congress nominee Anandrao Deokate, a minister in the Shinde government who had vacated his assembly seat to clear the way for the CM's entry into the state legislature, was crushed by over 1.2 lakh votes.