UPA government steps into third year on Sunday

UPA-II government cabinet ministers
New Delhi, May 21: 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, May 22, 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 tomorrow evening to mark the oocasion.

From 2G scam, the Commonwealth Games scandal, the Adarsh Housing row and the P J Thomas affair, the Prime Minister may not 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 Commonweath 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, Government had to eat a humble pie on the appointment of P J 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 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 Lok Pal 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 D P 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.


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