The immediate provocation for the "unhappy PM" stories may have been the DMK's threat to pull out of the UPA if the divestment of the state-run Neyveli Lignite Corporation was not put on hold (the DMK's headbutting resulted in the entire disinvestment process being stalled). But this time it was not just the allies or even the Left parties making the PM's life miserable. The real problem was mounting tension between the PM and his party. As many Congressmen saw it, an apolitical prime minister had been taking too many policy positions for which there would be a political price to pay. In grand old Congress tradition, there continue to be several views on the Indo-US nuclear deal, the petrol hike leading to escalating prices, the PM's ambiguity on reservations, disinvestment, economic reforms and even the proposal to build a security shield around the disputed site at Ayodhya.
Since it is another fine tradition in the Congress that all good news must be credited to the Gandhi family, and all bad tidings blamed on lesser mortals, the prime minister had become the focus of Congressmen's ire. His position was not helped by the fact that Congressmen admit that as far as mass politics go, this PM simply does not count. Says a party general secretary: "For a while now it had been felt that the party's voice should be heard. Now Soniaji has allowed us to speak loudly on issues like the price hike even if it meant criticising Manmohan's dispensation. The purpose is to keep the PM on tenterhooks."