New Delhi, May 20: The Congress-led UPA government will complete four years in office on May 22 amid the shadow cast by rising inflation and price rise and the continuing face-off with the Left parties, which provide the crucial outside prop to the government, on the Indo-US Nuclear deal. The fact that the Manmohan Singh government had reached the last leg of its five-year rule, weathering many a political storm, is a standing testimony to the ability of the Congress to run a coalition government, which it was forced to experiment for the first time in its 123-year-old history after the May 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
"Coalition has become a reality at the Centre. We have now learnt how to live with it. We have acquitted ourselves well as a coalition leader. Our success lies in the fact that we have managed to keep together all the coalition partners, except the Telangana Rashtra Samiti which broke ranks with us on the issue of statehood for Telangana," a senior Congress leader told UNI, while pointing out that the same coalition partners might even fight the next Lok Sabha elections together.
Though the government may not launch any major programmes in the next one year of the current term because of the possibility of surcharged political activity ahead of the elections, Congress sources claim that the UPA had fulfilled almost all its promises in the election manifesto as well as in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCP), which forms the basis of governance of the UPA coalition.
The introduction of a Bill a fortnight ago in Parliament to provide for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and State legislatures is highlighted as the last in the series of promises made by the UPA. Though the fate of the legislation is not known in the face of stiff opposition from the RJD and the Samajwadi Party, the Congress claims that the introduction of the legislation demonstrated its commitment to empowerment of women.
UPA sources hoped that its landmark legislations like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the Right to Information (RTI) Act would continue to be the diamonds on the crown of the UPA.
The decision to waive the farm loans totalling Rs 60,000 crore is cited as a major achievement of the UPA government, which also claims that it had managed well the internal security by waging a relentless war against terrorism and improved relations with its external neighbours.
The government's special focus on the welfare of the minorities, especially the Muslims, and the 27 per cent OBC quota in higher educational institutions are highlighted by the UPA leaders as 'revolutionary' decisions which would give the ruling coalition a headstart in the next elections.
Though the fate of the Indo-US Nuclear deal is still hanging in balance because of the continuing intransigence of the four Left parties, UPA managers cite it as another major achievement as the move seeks to make the country self sufficient in its power needs as part of the effort to further fuel the growth of the economy.
The prolonged delay in the signing of the nuke deal had created a dent in the image of the UPA, besides betraying the compulsions of coalition politics. But Prime Minister Singh has been expressing the hope that the deal would be struck.
More than the coalition partners and the supporting Left parties, the credit for the smooth going of the UPA goes equally to Prime Minister Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi who struck a perfect balance in their functioning. The BJP-led Opposition had been accusing Dr Singh of being a weak Prime Minister with all his powers concentrated in the hands of Ms Gandhi. But both Ms Gandhi and Dr Singh gave no room for the emergence of such a public perception.
When there was a demand for projecting AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, as the Prime Ministerial candidate, Ms Gandhi put a lid on the debate immediately by asking the leader concerned to stop sycophancy. The ending of the debate on Rahul-for-PM had relieved Dr Singh of a major embarrassment.
The performance of the government in the past four years was rated as more than satisfactory, but the continuing headline inflation had been a big headache at a time when the UPA has been striving to achieve economic growth of nine to ten per cent.
The next one year is crucial for the UPA government as it heralds run up to the Lok Sabha elections with heightened political activity.
UPA insiders believe that the government will complete its full five year term before facing the next Lok Sabha elections in May 2009.
But it all depends on a multitude of factors, including the outcome of the Karnataka assembly elections and the mood of the Left parties vis-a-vis the nuclear deal.
The Left parties had already announced that they would review their support to the UPA government after the Karntaka assembly poll. The verdict of the people in about eight states, which are going to polls this year, might also influence the longevity of the government.