With the last year of Manmohan Singh’s five year term billed as an election year, the Prime Minister has just about 18 months to complete the unfinished task of his government as he races against time to do so, his challenge made all that more difficult as he strives to balance conflicting interests of coalition partners and give economic reforms a human face.
According to Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunsi, the Government is keen to complete by the end of the 2007 Budget session in May, three-fourths of the agenda in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) so that it can claim with the people that it has delivered on its promises.
In the last few months, it has managed to address itself to the disadvantaged sections.
It reached out to the poor, the rural folk and the ordinary people through the Right to Information and the National Rural Employment Guarantee laws.
The OBC quota in education bill was adopted by the Lok Sabha on Thursday and the Tribal Rights bill is slated to come in the Lower House on Friday.
But it has yet to deliver on its assurance of ensuring affirmative action, including job reservations in the private sector, for Dalits.
But its main challenge at the moment is to check prices and address the problems of farmers and agrarian distress. The issue of prices has been on the party and government’s agenda since May and of farmers’ suicides and agrarian distress virtually since it came to office. These issues had exercised the previous ND A regime as well.
Singh’s unfinished tasks with regard to the CMP include a reservation act to codify reservations, bringing the women’s reservation and Lok Pal bills, establishing a new Commission to look into Centre-State relations and revamping the administration system now being examined by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily.
While the Indo-US nuclear deal---opposed by the Left as well as by the Opposition BJP--- is expected to help address the country’s energy requirement, the UPA has yet to meet its promise of marking 6 percent of GDP for education and 2-3 percent for health.
Presently, the Government is engaged with the Left parties in trying to find a middle ground on the Insurance, Banking Regulation and Pension Fund and Regulatory Authority bills.
The Forward Trading and Warehousing bills--- that are required to check hoarding and speculation in food-grains and rein in prices of essential items---are still before the Standing Committees reportedly because of contending pressures. The ticklish issue of labour reforms is another major challenge it has to grapple with.
But if the compulsions of coalition politics is behind delays in certain areas, the Government has also dragged its feet on issues where the decisions lie with it.
For instance, it has yet to appoint its Governor in Chhattisgarh. Rameshwar Thakur holds charge of Orissa as well as Andhra Pradesh at present. The post of chairman of the SC/ST Commission has also been lying vacant since Suraj Bhan’s death in August. And the key question is whether the PM will go for a shake up of his Cabinet mid-way through its term to refurbish his Government’s image.