Anybody who claims to know how exactly events will unfold after Friday prayers on September 21 is either a brave fool or a smart liar. Frankly, with neither Mamata Banerjee nor Sonia Gandhi showing any signs of relenting from their respective positions on the stand-off between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress 48 hours after the West Bengal Chief Minister set her 72-hour deadline, any comment at this stage would at best be idle speculation.
It is anybody’s guess as to how the final act of this drama will play out. The denouement could be as startling as Mamata Banerjee’s declaration of war on Tuesday. Ceasefire agreements without actual cessation of hostilities are not unknown in history. Similarly, battles are known to have turned into protracted wars.
Those hoping for some clarity by Friday evening could feel let down. Funeral rites in politics can be a prolonged affair – that is, if the alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress is formally declared beyond resuscitation. On the other hand, both sides could go through the motions of taking their alliance off the ventilator but delay the signing of the death certificate – politics is not bereft of miracles.
Conventional wisdom has it that in the end the Congress will let go off its ally in West Bengal and firm up an alliance with either the SP or the BSP. This could be either in the form of one of these parties joining the UPA or both of them pledging not to withdraw their ‘outside’ support even while making the necessary noises to keep their constituents in good humour. We have seen this routine once too often in the past, most notably during the infamous cash-for-vote scandal in 2008.
Whichever way Friday ends, the UPA regime will be denuded of whatever dignity it still retains – it has long been stripped of all vestiges of morality and integrity. The Government may survive, Manmohan Singh may get to stay on in the Prime Minister’s residence, Sonia Gandhi may continue to remain the super boss of a derelict regime. But it would be despised by the vast majority of Indians, many of them who voted for the Congress in 2009.