But those who were thinking that the game is over, let me tell you it is not. A lot of things are left to happen
--Mamata Banerjee, while leaving the Writers' Building on June 15 evening
The remark of Ms Mamata Banerjee that the game is not yet over has given rise to a fresh bout of speculation regarding the possible political scenarios in the wake of her losing the Presidential poll cards as a result of her badly and impulsively playing them.
In my view, for Mamata, the Presidential game is over. She will not be able to retrieve her cards. If she was trying to hint that she still has some cards up her sleeve, she was just whistling in the dark in a moment of understandable petulance. Nothing more.
Once Dr APJ Abdul Kalam decides not to be a losing candidate and spoil his brilliant record in India’s contemporary history, nothing can stop Mr Pranab Mukherjee from winning. The only question now is whether Mr P.A. Sangma will withdraw thereby enabling Pranabda to win unopposed or will he remain in the field as a mark of protest over the non-nomination of a tribal candidate for India’s high office? Even if Sangma remains, Pranabda’s win is certain.
My own feeling is that the political managers of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who have proved adept in managing and overcoming what seemed a major embarrassment, will now focus on placating Sangma either by offering to support Sangma himself or a tribal candidate of mutual choice such as James Lyngdoh, former Chief Election Commissioner, as the Vice-President in order to satisfy his tribal pride.
The speculation and assessments that with the storm over the Presidential elections blowing over, it will now be smooth-sailing for the Congress and the UPA till 2014 are over-optimistic. Mamata’s Presidential game is practically over. Her pinpricks game will continue. Even before the controversy over the Presidential polls she had repeatedly demonstrated her pinpricks value. That value remains intact and could increase in the coming weeks as a result of political developments in Andhra Pradesh. One understands from sources in Delhi that the political managers of the Congress are worried over the dangers of Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy being able to induce large-scale defections of Congress MLAs and MPs following the electoral triumph of his supporters in the bye-elections the results of which were announced on June 15.
If that scenario materialises, the political roller coaster will continue. The union cabinet headed by Dr Manmohan Singh is now facing pinpricks from West Bengal. It may start facing pinpricks from AP too.
There are various speculations as to what Mamata can do next. One view is that being an emotional person, she may be thawed by Pranabda’s references to her as “almost like my sister” and she will be a mellowed person now so far as the Presidential polls are concerned. She has herself sought to give the impression that she is far from mellowed.
Permanent defiance is a defining characteristic of Mamata. The Communists learnt it to their cost in WB. She will be looking for ways of fresh defiance of New Delhi even if she has lost her Presidential cards.
Dr Manmohan Singh is not going to regain his credibility as a result of the feel good atmosphere in the Congress following the favourable developments relating to the Presidential polls. The political crisis that seemed to be looming on this issue has been skilfully overcome by the political managers of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.
The national crisis due to public perceptions of large-scale corruption, collapse of governance and the economic downslide continues.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies