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VP in, Cong no longer weepy

- Party counts four gains from ceremonial polls

New Delhi, Aug. 7: Four dividends from two coronations — that was how Congress managers read the balance sheet after Hamid Ansari today become the lone Vice-President after S. Radhakrishnan to get a fresh term.

Down in the dumps of despair till a few months ago, the party is now counting a quartet of gains.

One, the decision of the Janata Dal (United) to back Pranab Mukherjee for President;

Two, Mamata Banerjee’s sagacity to eventually recognise the national dominance of the Congress and the party’s willingness to empathise with her political instincts;

Three, the Left’s readiness to do business with the UPA;

Four, the BJP’s failure to cement ties with Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal.

Betraying the relief of a castaway who has stumbled upon straws, many Congress leaders said they expect these factors to influence future political realignments.

Ansari’s comfortable victory margin — 490 votes to Jaswant Singh’s 238 — was interpreted by the Congress leaders as confirmation that the UPA still had some life left in it to counter the BJP.

That the principal Opposition party failed to attract partners even in the hostile season for the government came as the icing on the cake for the UPA. Not to mention the travails of Team Anna.

The ruling combine was buoyant on the eve of the monsoon session of Parliament, hoping to use the new-found energy to salvage its sullied governance record. A confident government is expected to test the waters for pushing reforms and passing legislation in Parliament, UPA sources said.

Although Ansari’s victory was a foregone conclusion, NDA candidate Jaswant generated some curiosity with a boast woven around the Mahabharata. When polling was going on in Parliament, Jaswant had said: “We know how many Kauravas were there and how many Pandavas were there and who won ultimately.”

The vice-presidential arithmetic turned out to be different from that of the epic, although Jaswant bagged a few more votes than what Congress managers had initially calculated. The Congress leaders were hoping that Ansari’s tally would cross 500 but fell short by 10 votes.

While 736 of 787 votes were cast, eight ballots were declared invalid. The invalid votes were primarily because voters left identifiable marks on the ballot. Parties like the BJD, TDP, TRS, AGP and the RSP abstained from voting.

Ansari’s election makes life comfortable for the ruling combine in the Rajya Sabha, where the question of majority crops up time and again to torment the Congress. Ansari’s candidature also helped Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh reach out to the secular parties, particularly the Left. One political takeaway from the two elections is the consolidation of parties on either side of the secular divide.


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