Congress mulls year-end polls
An informal debate has begun in the Congress on going in for year-end Lok Sabha polls to cash in on the Centre’s decision to waive Rs 60,000 crore of farm loans, raise IT exemption limits and offer largesse to almost every segment of the population.
The Budget proposals presented by Finance Minister P Chidambaram have already whipped up euphoria in the party, which till now was despairing over price rise and farmers’ suicides. “Many of us want Lok Sabha polls along with the year-end assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, MP, Rajasthan and other states to tap this euphoria and the assurance that the loan waiver scheme would be completed by June 2008 and one crore rural landless people would be covered under the aam aadmi insurance scheme by September. Any delay may dilute its impact. Others, however, prefer a cautious approach and want to see the schemes take root lest there is a replay of the NDA’s India Shining fiasco,” said a well-placed Congress leader.
Party leaders favouring early Lok Sabha polls also feel the need to consolidate the gains from the railway and general budgets by going for the nuclear deal and the women’s bill, which they say could be brought in the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress Working Committee meeting early next week and Sonia Gandhi’s customary interaction with MPs during the Parliament session indicate what impact the Budget may have on elections. The big question is whether the allies will agree.
“Why not? The NCP is as euphoric as the Congress about the loan waiver since Sharad Pawar is Agriculture Minister and hails from Maharashtra, where farmers’ suicides have taken place. The DMK is happy as it has had its way on the Sethusamudram project and RJD’s Lalu Yadav can encash his populist railway budget,” said a Congress leader. The other view is that the allies may not like to curtail their stint in power.
The Congress plans to establish its ownership of the loan waiver and other schemes through rallies by Sonia Gandhi and other leaders.