Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Petrol Price Hike: Mulayam In, Mamata Out

One clear implication of the petrol price hike is that in the political equations at the centre, Mamata is out and Mulayam is in.

In my previous story, I had argued that, with the changing political equations, Reforms initiative would now be decided by Mulayam, not Mamata, nor Manmohan. First Post, I believe, was the first to identify this change in political equations with its great story: With Mulayam on its side, UPA won’t need Mamata anymore.

Of course, Mamata and Karunanidhi are not happy with the petrol price hike. They are all over the media shouting their heads off and have plans to request that the centre roll back the hike. With Mulayam on their side now, fat chance that Congress would roll back the price hike, except maybe a token amount.

What is also clearly a sign of changing times is that Mamata has immediately given a statement that they won’t be withdrawing from the government. Gone is the bravado and bluster she used to show around nearly all previous government decisions, with a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, threat of withdrawing support. Well, now Congress does not care if she does withdraw. With the financial package for Bengal still hanging with the centre, Mamata has very little option but to fall in line.

As for Karunanidhi, he would mostly restrict himself to making the right political noises, and very unlikely resort to any serious action against the centre. How can he, with CBI cases against his daughter Kanimozi and key lieutenant Raja, and a possibility of a case being launched against his wife? With Kanimozi just out of Tihar jail after a long stay, I doubt Karunanidhi would be in any mood to take on the centre.

As for Mulayam, he very well might be the silver bullet that Congress has been seeking for a long time. No doubt he will extract his pound of flesh. But with a host of criminal cases against him, his family and his friends, he has a lot of opportunity for quid pro quo with Congress.

Of course, political equations are always very dynamic and uncertain, and one can never know what new equations could develop overnight.

But one thing is certain, if Congress is able to push through this price hike, that would mean a major change in the political landscape of the India.