Congress strikes two birds with one stone
However, the way the election process panned out might be the boost the Congress party needed ahead of the 2014 general elections, not only politically, but even for the economy.
With Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee all set to be India’s 13th president, the party has every reason to cheer, at least for now. The Congress will have the benefit of having one of its most loyal ministers at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, and he can come in handy in 2014.
From the economy’s perspective, the Congress has sent a clear signal that it has had enough of Mamata Banerjee, its key ally. She has left no stone unturned when it comes to blocking New Delhi’s initiatives to push through reforms, something desperately needed to get the economy back on track.
The Economic Times headline sums it well – Dada to walk the lawns, Didi can take a walk. It was high time the Congress put its foot down and sent a clear message to her. The strategy seems to have worked.
Banerjee gave the Congress sleepless nights when she said her choice was former president APJ Abdul Kalam, and that she had support from Samajwadi Party head Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has promised outside support to the government when needed.
Even her proposal that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could be considered for the president’s post was a signal that she had lost confidence in the leader, something that upset the Congress further.
But by Friday, Yadav’s U-turn helped the Congress go against Banerjee’s choice for a change. For a person who is used to getting the Congress to do what she wants, Banerjee will now feel sidelined.
The Congress has played its cards smartly this time. Before going against Banerjee’s will, it would be hard to believe that leaders did not do the number crunching to safeguard themselves in case she decides to pull out of the coalition.
But after this episode, the government will again need to focus on the India growth story and devise ways to revive the economy. There are many likely contenders for the finance minister’s role, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who might step in for an interim period.
Though Mukherjee might leave the finance ministry at a bad time for the economy, with Mamata Banerjee cornered, the presidential elections will only make life easier for the Congress party and the next finance minister.
(Follow Aditya Kalra on Twitter at @adityayk)