The Congress refrained from out rightly demanding President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh but made it clear that it would welcome any central intervention in view of the lawlessness that marked the local body elections in the state.
UP Pradesh Congress Committee chief Salman Khurshid cited instances where torn ballot papers were found and said that his party has taken its complaint to the Governor and the state election commission.
With assembly elections due early 2007, the demand for central rule is expected to gather strength, with the BJP lending its voice to it. But other than heating up the atmosphere politically, little else is expected to come out of such a demand.
In fact, leaders believe that dismissal of the SP-led government would give fresh live to Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav who has to fight the anti-incumbency building up against his regime. His party's performance in the civic polls has not been encouraging.
But a war of words is in the offing, with the PCC alleging that the SP had helped the BJP win in those areas where it apprehending a Congress victory. "They did it in several places," said Khurshid, adding that his party lost by small margins in several seats.
Jitin Prasada, who represents Shahjehanpur in the Lok Sabha, also alleged that the SP fielded a Muslim candidate in his area in order to polarize the election. The presence of a Muslim candidate prompted a consolidation of Hindu votes for the BJP.
In this backdrop, the civic polls may not be a reliable "dipstick" for the assembly polls. Besides the question mark over the BJP's performance, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)----which allowed its members to contest as Independents---has yet to show its hand.
In the coming days, the Congress will analyse the poll results in which it read its own revival. Its vote share leap-frogged from 11% in 2001 to 27.30% now, pushing the SP to the third position with 20% votes. In 2001, the Congress had won one mayoral election, 19 nagar nigams and 11 nagar panchayats. In 2006, the tally rose to three mayors, 21 nagar nigams and 33 nagar panchayats. The sore point? The BJP's vote percentage touched 39%.
Though the Congress rejected the contention that the saffron party was on the come-back trail since its success was confined to its traditional base in urban areas, spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi admitted that the BJP's performance was a matter of introspection, though not of worry. "Yeh chinta ka nahi, chintan ka vishai hai," he said.
Rubbishing reports about the party's defeat in Amethi, Chaturvedi said that of 11 nagar palikas and nagar panchayats in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Congress won 7, while Independents got three (including the Amethi seat) and the SP one. The BJP, which had won three in 2001, drew a blank while the Congress bettered its tally from three in 2001 to seven this time.
Chaturvedi rejected the argument that Congress' improved performance was due to BSP's absence from the poll scene. Claiming that the dalit party did not want to expose itself by contesting the election, he said: "Certain myths would have exploded had the BSP contested the elections."