New Delhi, Oct. 16: Last Sunday, while addressing his first rally for the Maharashtra elections at Akola in the Vidarbha region, Manmohan Singh had asked voters to strengthen the hands of Congress president Sonia Gandhi by teaching the Opposition BJP a lesson.
'The BJP-led Opposition has not accepted the fact that people rejected them four months ago. Defeat them again to make them realise that they have been rejected,' the Prime Minister said.
Singh said at another rally that there were efforts to destabilise his United Progressive Alliance government.
The verdict from Maharashtra could become a pillar of stability for his government. Moreover, the defeat of the saffron combine has dashed the BJP leadership's hopes of bouncing back in the national polity.
The Maharashtra and byelection results have strengthened Sonia's position as the unquestioned leader of both the Congress and the UPA. It is a mandate endorsing the UPA arrangement she has helped set up with Singh as the Prime Minister as it had come under attack during campaigning in the state.
The Congress leadership can now expect to deal with a 'less strident and more responsible' BJP in Parliament.
Though the Congress conceded its position as the single largest party in the Assembly to its ally ' the Nationalist Congress Party which won two more seats ' what mattered to Sonia today was victory and, more clearly, the decisive defeat of the BJP.
At a brief interaction with reporters at 10 Janpath this evening, she referred to the 'different' pre-poll views about the Maharashtra verdict and expressed happiness with the outcome.
With the result expected to give confidence to both Sonia and Singh, the Congress is likely to enjoy greater flexibility to implement its policies and programmes. Singh can bank on Sonia's stature as the unquestioned leader to take the hard decisions his government wasn't taking in the last four months, partly because of the negative attitude of the BJP-led Opposition and partly due to a lack of clarity within the UPA.
Sonia can now steam ahead with preparations for the next round of Assembly polls in Bihar, ally Laloo Prasad Yadav's turf, Jharkhand and Haryana early next year.