Rumblings within the ruling Congress party that suggested the “jettison” of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the party’s electoral failures in state elections in 2007, cited in a secret diplomatic cable published on Monday, are a timely reminder of the dangerous implications of failure for Congress in elections this month.
The electorates of Assam, Kerala, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will go the polls this month to elect new state legislatures, in the first tests of public confidence in India’s ruling party that has been implicated in a string of multi-billion-dollar corruption scandals over the past nine months.
Singh, a 78-year-old technocrat and economic reformist, had his leadership questioned by senior aides to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who mooted a more politically sellable replacement following electoral defeats in Punjab and Uttarakhand, detailed a U.S. state department cable accessed by WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu newspaper.
The Prime Minister, who has seen his previously impeccable reputation tarnished by a number of government scams committed on his watch over the past nine months, may find himself under similar pressure from the party’s “old guard” — the socialist bloc more closely aligned with the party’s left-leaning past — should Congress stumble in the upcoming elections.
“Following a string of recent local-level electoral defeats in Mumbai, Uttarakhand, and Punjab, Sonia Gandhi and her personal advisors are very concerned that the impending Uttar Pradesh elections will turn out horribly for Congress. As a result, some are advocating that she jettison Prime Minister Singh… and put a more saleable political face at the head of the government,” wrote the U.S. embassy’s Charge D’Affaires Geoffrey Pyatt in the secret cable.