UPA-II steps into third year

Last Updated: Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 09:38

New Delhi: Dogged by scams and unable to
move ahead on economic reforms in a big way, the UPA
government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh steps into
the third year of its second term on Sunday, probably hoping to
come out of its shackles.

For 79-year old Singh, who got to the Prime Minister`s
seat after Sonia Gandhi refused to assume the office in the
summer of 2004, it has been hopping from one problem to
another in the last over eight months.

The only relief that came for the party heading the
ruling coalition at the Centre was the recent results of the
Assembly Elections. The party retained its government in
Assam convincingly, managed to wrest one in Kerala and was in
a happy position in West Bengal where the ally knocked the
Left front out of power after 34 years.

The coalition has arranged some celebrations at the
Prime Minister`s residence this evening to mark the
occasion.

From 2G scam, the Commonwealth Games scandal, the Adarsh
Housing row and the PJ Thomas affair, the Prime Minister may
not have had such a harrowing time in the last few months
than when his government was surviving on the support of the
Left parties during the first term.

In the 2G spectrum allocation scam case even the Supreme
Court was prompted to pull up the Prime Minister asking him
why no action was taken against the then telecom minister A
Raja despite several indicators pointing to a looming scam
ahead.

Similar was the predicament of Congress president Sonia
Gandhi, who is also the UPA chairperson, as she faced tough
days requiring continuous firefighting operations.

The issue of price rise continued to confront the
economist-turned-politician Prime Minister with the government
appearing helpless and the unprecedented rise in fuel prices
that could have a cascading effect.

Apart from Raja landing himself in Tihar jail, the
other bigwigs to give him company there are Congress MP
Suresh Kalmadi, charged with irregularities in the conduct of
the Commonwealth Games, and DMK MP Kanimozhi, not a good
advertisement for the government at celebrations time.

The Niira Radia tapes had their own story to tell on the
matters of governance.

With egg on its face, the government had to eat a humble
pie on the appointment of PJ Thomas as the Chief Vigilance
Commissioner.

Topping all these was the controversy over the "most
wanted" list of fugitives sent to Pakistan adding further
embarrassment to the government.

With the dependence on the Left parties no more
there, it was expected that UPA-II would be able to carry out
crucial reforms of the finance sector and the retail industry.
But nothing seems to have moved on the issues.

With government in problems, Opposition parties, both
the Left and the Right, never had it so good.

The Winter Session of Parliament was washed out
entirely amid a strident demand for a JPC into the 2G scam,
being dubbed by the opposition as the biggest scandal in
independent India with a notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore
to the exchequer.

With corruption being the flavour of the political
season, Gandhian Anna Hazare shook the entire political class
by his indefinite hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar here in
the four days of his protest action that brought the
government to its knees on the issue of a stronger Lokpal
Bill.

In fact, the second year itself had not started on an
auspicious note as May 22, 2010 celebrations for the first
anniversary were cancelled following a plane crash in
Mangalore.

Opposition leaders say that the UPA-II was bound to be
doomed from the start. Samajwadi Party general secretary Mohan
Singh wonders as to how could the coalition work when it has
"no agenda" like the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA-I,
which has done "good work" like NREGA and Right to
Information.

CPI leader D Raja echoes the feelings insisting that
the UPA-II has no future and "it will collapse". "It is just a
matter of time," he feels.

But NCP general secretary DP Tripathi, whose party is
part of the UPA-II, obviously disagrees. He claims that UPA-II
is marching under the leadership of Manmohan Singh and it was
a ‘Uniquely Popular Alliance’.

Making the best out of a bad situation, the refrain of
Congress leaders from Gandhi downwards was that no party or
government had acted so speedily when incidents of graft had
come to light.

A Congress leader said in exasperation that the
government has hardly any scope not to take action when the
country was being virtually run by the courts, the CBI and the
media; the remark inadvertently reflected the drift and the
crisis of governance.

Faced with problems, the UPA-II failed to project a
cohesive picture with Prime Minister himself pleading that he
was not as big a culprit as he was being made out to be and
that he has to work under coalition compulsions.

While the DMK is in political doghouse, there have
been growing strains between the Sharad Pawar-headed NCP and
Congress. Mamata Banerjee’s focus has shifted to West Bengal
after she assumed power, ending the 34 year Left rule.

The year ahead is a challenging one as the elections
to several states including Uttar Pradesh are scheduled. The
UPA will also have to decide who will be the next President
and Vice President.

In the eyes of global leaders and investors, the
country is "coming of age". A number of global leaders have
acclaimed India as a responsible, rising power, inviting it to
take the seat at big table of world affairs.

An economic growth rate of 8.5 per cent this year puts
India firmly alongside China as one of the world’s
fastest-growing large economies.

Yet, seen from within, India appears to be confronted
with a crisis of governance, feel analysts.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 09:38

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