The government and the Congress on Wednesday distanced themselves from Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remarks that the Manmohan Singh-led coalition should course correct as it was losing the support of the common man.
"The alarm bell should be rung… I fear a government that is attempting to have an economic policy for the aam aadmi may not get the aam aadmi's endorsement… It is our job to understand this at the midpoint and undertake course correction," Aiyar had said in a recent TV interview.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi didn’t agree with Aiyar’s assessment. "Our government is working for the poor. It has done what several earlier governments could not," he said.
Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan too claimed the UPA was completely focused on the common man.
With two years to go before the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, Aiyar’s call for course correction found expression in the views of experts. "There is need to take a fresh look at policies relating to the aam aadmi as to why they are not as effective as they were meant to be… There is need to look at agriculture, for instance," said Satish Deshpande, professor at Delhi University.
According to Abhijit Sen, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, "there are a number of areas where the UPA has performed well. But it has failed either to be as inclusive as it should have been or to publicise its achievements". Sen said that instead of taking price rise and inflation head on, the government allowed the media to have a field day with the issues.
Writer and commentator Rajendra Yadav said he may have been tempted to describe the Manmohan Singh regime as a replica of the AB Vajpayee government but for the UPA's secular credentials. "For the rest, things are much the same. The government is pursuing the same economic policies of the NDA … Its attraction to 'India Shining' is very much the same."
Privately, some Congress leaders too are wary of the “stagnation” in the UPA’s functioning. "The dynamism of the first two years is missing… Several promises were fulfilled at that time largely because the National Advisory Council was active. But after Sonia Gandhi quit, things have been dragging," said a Union minister.
(With inputs from Srinand Jha)