No one wants to be painted as suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder. What is true of individuals also holds true of governments. Which is why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during his keynote address at the
Hindustan Times Leadership Summit
in New Delhi on Friday, underlined the fact that his was “not a one-issue government”. The issue, of course, happens to be the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, which Mr Singh fervently believes to be a key catalyst for India’s next jump in the economic sphere. While it may have sounded like an insurance policy in case the nuclear deal were to fall through because of the Left’s intransigence on the matter, the audience could also detect a sense of disappointment in his voice if the deal were to be left standing at the altar. The sigh was palpable when he stated that “one has to live with disappointments”, adding that he hoped that “common sense” prevails. To reiterate that he was serious when he stated that the UPA government had not put all its eggs in one (nuclear) basket, Mr Singh talked about the uninterrupted focus required on rural development, education, healthcare and social security. And for that purpose, his government still has a job on its hands.
While Mr Singh struck a note of quiet fortitude, UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi sounded a confident note by clearly stating that the UPA would be doing everything in its power not to bring the nation to the door of mid-term polls. She stated that the government was not looking for confrontation with the Left as the “dharma of coalition is to work together, try and understand and accommodate each other’s views”. Coming as this does days after Mrs Gandhi’s “enemy of progress is enemy of the Congress” line in Haryana, this seems like a reiteration of what Mr Singh had mentioned earlier about no ideology being allowed to “straitjacket the thoughts of an entire nation”. It was also good to note that Mrs Gandhi was keen to underline that the government’s job was hardly over despite the ship of India’s economy charting along the right path. Taking a dig at the hubris of the previous government, she mentioned that despite being proud of “our economic success”, the present government could not proclaim that India is ‘shining’ as huge pockets of poverty still exist in the country.
Even with politics — and the spectre of mid-term polls — hanging heavy in the air, the Prime Minister and the UPA Chairperson managed to stay focused on the less volatile (and more important) subject of nation-building. As Mr Singh deftly put it, “We have to survive small battles to build a modern nation.” The operative word for the rest of us being ‘survive’.