The euphoria of the UPA completing four years in office was markedly absent at a function in New Delhi on Thursday even as PM Manmohan Singh highlighted his government’s initiatives while tempering his speech with an objective appraisal of the challenges ahead, including the spiralling prices and the terrorist threat to security.
<b1>The PM’s emphasis on inclusive growth and governance and the schemes launched by his government for the multitudes on the margins wasn’t out of place, the UPA put in place several progressive legislations and schemes. What really cast its shadow on the proceedings was the anxiety over inflation which the government has not been able to curb despite fiscal and monetary measures. “Predictions of a good monsoon give us hope and confidence that the steps we have taken so far will enable us to return to a regime of moderate inflation in 8-10 weeks’ time,’’ he said.
True to his style, Singh held out no exaggerated hopes. “The rise in global petroleum and foodgrain prices pose difficult challenges. We must tighten our belts, manage our resources and finances more prudently, and work together to steer the ship of this great country through turbulent waters," he told an audience that included Union ministers and leaders of UPA’s constituent parties before presenting his government’s fourth annual report to UPA chief Sonia Gandhi. Unlike earlier occasions when he spoke of “a caring government" or building a "new India, a caring India," this time he refrained from delivering any catchphrases, his sombre mood reflected in the absence of the usual clapping.
In her speech, Sonia applauded the PM for letting his actions speak. “He has given a vision and direction to the government," she said. She urged the constituent parties to work as a team while meeting the challenges in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. "The next year will be decisive…We have to fufill those (CMP) promises which remain to be fulfilled…We have to propagate our achievements effectively,’’ she said, her speech punctuated by two rounds of applause.
On the terrorist threat, the PM said, "We will not hesitate to take firm action against such forces wherever necessary and will work with states to counter these threats," he declared.
The PM’s formal speech made no pointed reference to the Indo-US nuclear deal opposed by the Left parties. But he talked about the people-oriented programmes such as the NREGA, the farm loan waiver, steps for revitalizing the agriculture sector and the national food security mission. He also flagged the special focus on education to unleash the creative potential of a youthful India.
Like last year, the Left was not present when the report card was released.