The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The Congress seems fated to suffer endless travails in Uttar Pradesh. But fate is helped by human action or, as in this case, inaction. There had been many warnings that Ms Mayavati, the Bahujan Samaj Party leader and chief minister, was angling very seriously for Congress members of the legislative assembly, offering tempting material rewards for those of willing flesh. This has been going on for some time, since the rebellion against her within the Bharatiya Janata Party, the BSPís coalition partner. The lid blew with the chief ministerís decision to arrest the BJP-backed independent, Mr Raghuraj Pratap Singh, who led the dissident movement, with charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The BJP is finding it difficult to speak in one voice after this. Strong criticism of Ms Mayavatiís allegedly politically motivated action from some of its most powerful members in the state unit, including Mr Rajnath Singh, seems to be pointing to strains in the coalition. It is unfortunate for the BJP that its enthusiasm about POTA has been so neatly turned on the head. One of the major objections to POTA had been its potential for misuse against political enemies. The BJP could not have expected its coalition partner in one of its most prized states to apply the law against one of its own men.

Ms Mayavatiís political acumen was never in doubt. Her marginalizing of her political mentor, Mr Kanshi Ram, her careful calculation of electoral arithmetic in the selection of BSP candidates before the assembly elections in order to appeal to a much wider cross-section of the population than was expected from a backwards classes party, her decision to keep Mr L.K. Advani on her side should all have prepared the Congress for her game of tempting Congress MLAs to change sides once her own majority support was threatened. It is a measure of the Congressís lack of coordination and its characteristically suicidal casualness that it should now face this embarrassment. It is not much use to threaten to go to court over the speakerís decision to grant recognition to the breakaway group as a separate party on the basis of a legitimate split. The legal tangle may be sorted out in time, but enormous damage has already been done. The Congressís efficiency and organization in UP are already under question, and there can be no getting away from the fact that neither the MLAsí loyalties nor the Congressís cohesion can be called exemplary. With elections in four states fast approaching, the Congress cannot afford to send signals of such uncertainty to its voters.

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