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Putting three years of UPA Govt in perspective

A dominant view emerging about the Manmohan Singh-led UPA goverment's three years in office is that it was certainly by the people but not necessarily for the people, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: May 21, 2007 18:09 IST
Pankaj Vohra

A dominant view emerging about the UPA government's three years in office is that it was certainly a government by the people but not necessarily for the people. For some reason, the Manmohan Singh led government which enters its fourth year in office tomorrow has not been able to project its achievements properly and many of its high points are seen as extensions of what started during the previous NDA regime.

In terms of positive points, the rural employment scheme as well as the Right to Information Act are seen as the greatest achievements of the UPA. There is also a belief that the countdown of the government has started while a contrary view is that the UPA allies will come closer after the UP polls. Most, however, feel that there will be no mid term election.

Bhisham Narain Singh, a Gandhian and former Governor feels that "it is a government of the people but not for the people. All Congress governments till Rajiv Gandhi's time had the good of the common man in mind while enunciating policies. Somehow, that feeling is not there with this government which is seen more as a government for the classes and not for the masses. Its inability to control rising prices is its greatest shortcoming. It needs to do immediate course correction and implement policies for the aam aadmi which are there in the common minimum programme with as much vigour as it is doing other things".

Dr Sushila Kaushik, former Political Science Professor of Delhi University feels that the government had targets and it was slowly getting there. She felt that "the government is very stable but if there is an appearance of stress it is due to its coalition character. But with the Congress, a historically old party as the head, there are more than half a dozen top quality leaders. However, the government has not been able to do too well on media projections. It requires an assertive profile".

There is also a feeling that the countdown for this government may have begun and many of the allies after the three year mark may want to identify themselves only with the achievements leaving the Congress to carry the burden of the negative points. But no one feels that there are any chances of a mid term poll. "No MP wants a mid term poll so why should there be any election at this stage," argues, Bhisham Narain Singh.

Congress ideologue Devendra Dwivedi said that the three years of the UPA have been very eventful. There has been acclerated economic growth and poverty alleviation programmes and so many schemes which need to be expanded. However, he agreed that there had been a failure in projection of the achievements and creating the right kind of public perception. He said that "after the UP polls, attempts are on to consolidate the UPA. Every party has a huge stake and vested interest in its continuation". Asked if some of the leaders amongst allies may want to realise their political ambitions, he said, "it is very clear that in the present Lok Sabha there is no scope for this".

Prof. Mushir-ul-Hasan, Vice Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia said that "the two most creditable achievments were the rural employment scheme and the right to information which is a radical move that will have a profound impact on how governments are run. The fact that more funds were available for education was also a heartening thing".

A top politician of Indira Gandhi vintage on condition of anonymity , however, said that the "government must dispell the impression that it was only for the rich, multi-nationals and industrialists. It has to appeal to the common man who does not either understand the meaning of high GDP growth rate or sensex. His concern is only with the prices and how his quality of life improves. The present government should wage a war against poverty and not against the poor. It must not forget the CMP of the UPA and promises in the manifesto. It should send a clear message of being in power through political means. This government has failed to govern politically".

For economist and bureaucrat NK Singh, the three years "represent a symetry in the continuation of many past initiatives as well as same thrust areas particularly spurring investment in infrastructure. Some difficult agendas like insurance, pension and labour remains substantially unaccomplished. Nevertheless improved investiments, higher savings and continued economic buoyancy with sound macro management lays a credible foundation for the continuation of the current economic momentum".

Most UPA allies also see the entry into the fourth year as an opportunity for the Prime Minister to re-shuffle his Cabinet. On record there are not many who may share the views expressed by Mani Shankar Aiyar but privately many agree with him.

"The compulsions of coalition politics and the fact of Manmohan Singh being a nominated PM have weakened the office of the Prime Minister. Several ministers have defied the PM in the past and unless, a strong message is sent, this may continue. But this government will certainly last its five years," a senior minister said.