New Delhi, Mar. 5 : A couple of days ago, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani had remarked that the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre appears to be moving towards announcing a mid-term general election.
Advani's concern over a general election being held earlier than scheduled is not misplaced, given the political developments that are taking place within Congress party circles following the presentation of Budget 2008-09 proposals by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.
Inspired by the Rs.600 billion-loan waiver for farmers, the Congress leadership has decided to pull out all stops to take maximum advantage out of the announcement.
Congress president and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has been meeting party representatives and leaders from various states over the past week, and has sought to drill across a message to them to derive the maximum benefit from Budget 2008-09, and in particular inform the agriculture community about what is being done for them.
She also decided to traverse the length and breath of the country, meeting party rank and file and the common man, to deliver the Government's pro-people actions and achievements over the last four years.
The first of those meetings or rallies is scheduled to take place on March 9 at Delhi's Ram Lila Ground.
State Congress leaders have already addressed a rally in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, which is presently a BJP stronghold.
A series of public meetings are to be held in the state to counter the ruling BJP. Chhattisgarh is expected to go to the polls in October-November this year.
Gandhi also met with former Karnataka Chief Minister S. M. Krishna on Tuesday, and is believed to have told him to quit his current post of Maharashtra Governor as soon as possible, and return to state politics.
With Karnataka currently under President's Rule and headed for assembly elections in May this year, the political stakes are high for the Congress party, and in the fitness of things, Gandhi has decided to rope in an urbane and experienced Krishna to present the Congress as a viable and acceptable political alternative in Karnataka.
Simultaneously, Gandhi has asked her son and MP from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi, to undertake a four-day trip of Orissa, said to be one of the least developed states in the country, from March 7 to 10, to inform the locals there about the Congress party's initiatives in the past and present, and the achievements of the UPA Government so far.
According to a Congress party release, Rahul Gandhi is undertaking the tour "to reach out to and begin a conversation with the people from a cross-section of Orissa's society."
The party statement said that the tour will cover several districts of the state, and will include interactions "with youths, students, tribals, farmers and party workers."
There is also the matter of the future of the crucial US-India civil nuclear deal. The UPA Government might be professing that it will carry all sections of society, including the Left, in deciding the next steps on the deal, but with the United States mounting pressure on New Delhi to go ahead and reach a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and seek the approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and then ensuring compliance by July this year, the Government in all likelihood my opt to take the bull by the horns, and just go ahead with deal sans the Left.
This could lead to the Left withdrawing outside support to the UPA, and diktats of natural political progression suggest, that general elections be called earlier than scheduled. For those, who do not know, general elections are only due in the middle of next year.