Opposition BJP considered a press meet to critique the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s second edition that completes 100 days in office on Saturday but gave up the idea. Riven by internal fights, mounting an offensive against the government is beyond it.
Around the same time in 2004, the BJP had paralysed the first Manmohan Singh government, the PM had said: “We’re living in abnormal times. Never in the history of any government, the first 100 days have been characterised by the daily turmoil that we witness in Parliament.”
With the BJP in tatters, the Left fighting for survival and allies dependent on the Congress more than ever, UPA-II doesn’t have to worry about its longevity, unlike 2004. But that doesn’t mean it has nothing to worry.
Sixty-two per cent of those who exercised voting right in the 15th Lok Sabha elections voted for UPA’s return, but only 57 per cent of the HT opinion poll respondents rate its first 100 days either excellent or good.
The sample size is too small and exclusively urban to suggest any national swing against it, but the drought and spiralling prices indicate turbulence for the UPA.
UPA-II has tried to consolidate and expand the inclusive growth agenda by passing the Right to Education Act and promising a national law for food security. However, lower growth — expected to be around six per cent this year — may come in the way of grand ambitions.
During the UPA’s first tenure, economy grew at more than eight per cent annually.
Politically, UPA-II has effected a paradigm change in the debate of inclusion. Unshackled from erstwhile allies who acted as pressure groups for caste and linguistic interests, the UPA’s second innings target groups are women and youth. The new education law, 50 percent reservation for women in local bodies are the steps in the direction. With such measures, the Congress hopes to make caste politics redundant.
The government has scored as far as internal security is concerned, with even the BJP chief ministers praising Home Minister P Chidambaram for his quick understanding and action. Of the two other sectors the UPA wanted to give an extra push to, road construction appears to be on track but health looks a bit wobbly.
The first electoral test of UPA-II is only weeks away — the Congress will be seeking another term in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal.