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Leadership deficit

columns Updated: Sep 01, 2011 10:27 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The UPA will face its toughest test next week when Parliament reconvenes and takes up a whole lot of issues including the scams and acts of omission and commission by the government and the Congress's key functionaries. While there are ample indications that the government, after its bitter experience during the winter session, may agree to the Opposition's demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the 2G scam, there are many Congressmen who are sure to resist such a move.

Amid this confusion, the onus of coming out clean rests with the government. The manner in which some of its ministers are conducting themselves in public, particularly those who have made a lateral entry into politics, has only added to the perception that there is no cohesion within the ruling combine. The fact that the Congress core committee, which takes decisions on important issues, does not have any member from its coalition partners has only strengthened this impression. In other words, the UPA does not seem to be following the coalition dharma in its true spirit. Instead, it is dependent on a handful of leaders for major decisions. This has led to a power struggle within the Congress and this is hurting the government as well as the party.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been caught in the crossfire and appears confused while dealing with important matters. Her weakness is that she wants to maintain a status quo and this stems from her inexperience. The enthusiasm with which she had started her political innings seems to be diminishing thanks to the power play within the Congress and the UPA. It seems she is slowly losing control.

Equally dangerous is the fact that several bureaucrats have assumed more power than is permissible in a democratic set-up. They are playing a proactive role in the decision-making process but have no accountability. This has emboldened the judiciary to give directions in areas that it used to leave alone.

The result of all this is that at one level, the executive is either a prisoner of indecision or is oblivious of the many wrongdoings. The legislature is indifferent or has not been able to make any impact on decision-making due to the nature of coalition politics. Naturally, the judiciary has become proactive. Politics thus is the biggest casualty and politicians are bearing the brunt. The agenda of the Congress to strengthen itself in the Hindi heartland lies unfulfilled because of three reasons: first, some deliberate activities of some of its key players; inability of Gandhi's advisers to give her sound guidance; and the failure to comprehend the ground realities accurately.

At one level, the Manmohan Singh government is functioning on the lines of the PV Narasimha Rao government. It's allowing things to drift and the party to weaken. Perhaps this is a key to its survival. The coalition partners are either under attack (A Raja and now Sharad Pawar) or unhappy the way Mamata Banerjee keeps on expressing her disenchantment with some decisions. To add to the misery of this government is the growing belief - rightly or wrongly - that differences between the top two leaders of the government and the party are growing in these troubled times.

This session is crucial for the future of this government and the coalition. It is in everybody's interest that the UPA as a coalition and as a government exhibits greater cohesiveness and speaks in one voice. The two top leaders must bury their differences, if any, and lead from the front. The errant leaders should be strictly dealt with. Otherwise the writing is on the wall for all to see. Between us.