With the image of his government in tatters,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will present the last Report Card of UPA-II on May 22 in which he is expected to list the positives such as Direct Benefit Transfer and FDI in retail in a bid to boost the sagging morale of Congressmen with elections less than a year away.
Battered by series of scams and the recent sacking of Cabinet Ministers P K Bansal and Ashwani Kumar,the Prime Minister’s task to present a positive picture is not easy.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and leaders of UPA constituents will be present at a dinner in which Singh will present the Report Card on the fourth anniversary of UPA-II.
Gandhi is expected to showcase her backing for the Prime Minister in the backdrop of reports that the two had sharp differences,which has been denied by the party.
The Prime Minister is expected to unveil plans on the occasion on the way ahead for the much-talked about National Food Security Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill,seen by the party as game changers in the next Lok Sabha elections. Representatives of Trinamool Congress and DMK will not be at the dinner as the two key allies have left the UPA.
Despite the challenges ahead,Congress leaders like Mani Shankar Aiyar are unfazed. “I think the greatest advantage we have is because of the most incompetent opposition in Independent India.”
“They are thrammed first in Uttarakhand,then in HP and now in Karnataka. Consequently,we have nothing to fear from this divided opposition and should use the coming year to trumpet our achievements but in a modest way,” he says.
As against this,the Left and the Right are one in their assessment that a return of the Congress-led coalition to power is unlikely.
“This is the most failed government after Independence because it has failed on all fronts,” BJP’s Prakash Javadekar says.
“Corruption and inflation have become its hallmarks and non-governance and absence of leadership have become its signature marks,” the BJP leader says,as he insisted that political history of India shows that in such a situation,”regime change is imminent”.
CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury says it differently: “The UPA-II rule has been marked by two major things — one,the rapid succession in which scams have unfolded and two,the unbridled manner of implementing economic reform measures by the government.”
“As a result,it has cemented what began in the NDA period — that is,creation of two Indias — Shining for the rich and Suffering for the poor.”
But for Aiyar,the opposition credibility does not appear much.
“While they get temporary advantage and certain orgiastic frenzy over scams and scandals,they are unable to press their advantage because they know on the floor of the House we will defeat them both in debate and the vote. So they compound
their incompetence with cowardice so just as they are driving themselves to wild excitement on the TV channels,” he says.
The anniversary is being held close on the heels of the just concluded Budget session of Parliament,whose second phase was a washout over BJP demands for the resignation of the Prime Minister over the Coalgate issue.
The CAG has spoken of a Rs 1.86 lakh crore presumed loss in the 100-odd coal block allocations. The allocations had taken place when Singh was handling the charge of the Coal Ministry.
Yechury as also CPI’s D Raja insist that many important election promises like Women’s Reservation Bill,Lokpal and Judicial Accountability Bills have not been implemented.
“And now at the fag end of its term,they are talking of food security which was promised four years ago. It was in the first speech of the President to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament when UPA-II rule began. The President had then said food security will be implemented in the first 100 days of UPA-II,” Yechury says.
Opposition has no good word about the ruling alliance with Javdekar faulting it for “destroying” many Constitutional institutions,”subverting” the CBI and even creating
“obstructions” in judicial process.
Yechury is equally devastating. He alleges that on the political front,”the UPA-II government has mastered the art of manufacturing majority (with due apologies to Noam Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’).”
He claims that the Manmohan dispensation has been a “minority” government since Trinamool Congress pulled out and the DMK withdrew support later.
“It has been continuing in office managing external support of SP and BSP. UPA-II has thus set a new political trend,” he says.
Raja feels that the UPA-II could not get going as it did not have a Common Minimum Programme like the UPA-I had.
But the Left and the Right differ on the way forward. Yechury and Raja feel people are looking for relief which neither the BJP,nor the Congress can provide.
“The country needs alternative policies and not merely a political alternative for coming to power. And that (alternative policies) is what the Left is working for,”
Javadekar says that he was “very sure” a regime change will happen in 2014 like in 1977,1989 and 1998. In 1998,BJP-led NDA had come to power.
Aiyar seeks to puncture the opposition.
“I think people will understand that a khichdi government formed by a collection of regional leaders,who have nothing in common but their bloated egos,is not good for the country. They will also realise that a divided BJP is not a national party but a small regional party,and will not give them the national responsibility. Therefore,I foresee a Congress-led coalition in 2014,” he said.