It is not its electoral defeat in the Delhi MCD elections that is bothering the Congress as much as the resurgence of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has further consolidated its victories in the Mumbai corporation elections and in the Punjab and Uttarakhand assembly polls.
"The UPA was formed to keep the BJP and communal forces at bay. But the saffron force seems to have gained strength in the last few months," said a Congress leader. Though he saw some of these electoral reverses at part of a cyclical process where it paid the price of incumbency, the BJP’s emergence continued to rankle. More so, since the assembly polls in Delhi are due next year.
Party leaders concede that their electoral defeat has given the BJP and other parties a 'talking point'. Even as he tried to downplay the party’s defeat in Delhi because of incumbency and the sealing and demolition drives, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh admitted that the BJP’s morale would be 'somewhat higher' in Uttar Pradesh which is already in the poll mode and where the party is desperately trying to revive itself.
And it isn’t only the BJP, which is striving to re-emerge as an alternative in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls that would be out to demoralise the Congress. Potential partners of the third front are also expected to gang up in this battle of minds and votes.
On Sunday, AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha, Telegu Desam’s Chandrababu Naidu, INLD’s Om Prakash Chautala and B Goswami’s Asom Gana Parishad would share the platform with UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to signal a united front. Though many of these leaders may not have any impact on the poll scene in UP, their presence is meant to signal a possible third front, with one eye also on the mid-year election for a new President at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
But amid its big losses, the Congress had also managed to notch up some victories, which its media managers failed to propagate. The party snatched Tehri and Siddi Lok Sabha seats from the BJP and won the Rajnandgaon parliamentary bypolls and the zilla parishad elections in Maharashtra.