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India set for history-making election outcome

New Delhi: India prepares to count Friday the millions of votes cast in five states, the results widely tipped to end more than three decades of Communist rule in West Bengal, cause upsets in possibly two states, and probably throw up two more women chief ministers.

Although the April-May electoral battle took place only in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and West Bengal, the entire country will keenly await the outcome as it is bound to cause ripples in national politics.

While most post-election surveys have predicted a huge win for Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, a development that is bound to shake up the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), there is no unanimity on other places — although there are definite pointers.

For the Congress, battered in recent months by corruption charges, the best possible scenario will be a decisive victory in Kerala and retaining Assam, even if by a slender margin.

“If this happens, the Congress will have something to cheer about,” political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told IANS. “Everything is at stake for the Congress.”

But if the Assam-Kerala script derails, “it will cause tremors in the Congress”, Rao said.
In both West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the Congress is a junior partner to the dominant player. So even victories may not fetch political dividends. In any case, the chances of the DMK-Congress alliance retaining power in Tamil Nadu are as remote as a Congress win in nearby Puducherry.

Irrespective of what happens in the five states, the one result that is bound to give sleepless nights to the Congress will the widely anticipated victory of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy from the Kadapa Lok Sabha by-election in Andhra Pradesh.

Son of the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Congress veteran Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Jaganmohan dumped the Congress after being denied his father’s mantle and floated the YSR Congress party, causing cracks in a state considered vital for Congress long-time survival.

Even the most sympathetic analysts admit that the Congress is fighting for a second place in Kadapa, knowing that Jagan will win. If that second spot goes to the Telugu Desam Party, it will be a Congress disaster.

Andhra Pradesh played a key role in the Congress returning to power nationally in 2009. Jagan’s win can break up the party in Andhra Pradesh, causing irreversible damage.
Admitted a Congress source: “We are aware of the dangers Friday. We have certain expectations, we also know our limitations.”

A sweep by the Trinamool in West Bengal will seriously dent the wider political aspirations of the CPI-M in a manner few may have expected even two years ago.
It will bury 34 uninterrupted years of Marxist-led Left Front rule that had baffled foes and friends, giving the CPI-M a space in political books globally.

But a Trinamool win will also make Mamata Banerjee, who is sure to quit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government to be the chief minister, that much more powerful vis-a-vis a possibly weakened Congress.

The likely rise of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu will also worry the Congress, which will now have to deal with a party that is openly hostile to the way Sri Lanka, across the sea, crushed the Tamil Tigers.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not a major player in this election but it hopes to improve its tally in Assam, where the Congress would need luck to overcome a strong challenge from three major opposition groups.

If the Congress retains Assam, it will give Tarun Gogoi a third stint as chief minister.
Normally, Kerala’s voters throw out the ruling coalition in every election. And this may well happen again. But some feel that for the first time the state may buck the trend and re-elect the Left.That, Congress sources say, is unlikely.

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