The third anniversary of the Manmohan Singh government on May 22 is expected to be low-key affair. Unlike 2006, when the UPA released a report on its achievements, this time there is no indication that the government would come out with a celebratory document. Indeed, the only function on the cards right now is a dinner to be hosted for the UPA allies whose date and time has not yet been announced. Sources said that even a routine press conference by the PM to mark the occasion is presently not on the cards.
The low key celebration is said to be in keeping with the Prime Minister's and Sonia's working styles. But the last one year has not been pleasant for them. The party suffered several electoral setbacks during this period, including in Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand (though there is now a UPA-backed government there), West Bengal, Punjab, Uttaranchal, the municipal elections in Maharashtra and Delhi and the UP polls. The bright sparks came with the Congress victory in Assam and the DMK's triumph in Tamil Nadu where the Congress is in alliance with Karunanidhi's party.
During this period, the TRS quit the UPA and the SP withdrew its support to the Centre ahead of the UP polls. Earlier, the MDMK had joined forces with AIADMK's J Jayalalitha for the Tamil Nadu assembly polls.
Indeed, for the second consecutive year, the Chennai developments have cast a shadow on the UPA's anniversary. In 2006, the MDMK-AIADMK tie-up set off a chain of events that saw Vaiko's party being cold-shouldered by the UPA at Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's behest. While the MDMK kept claiming that it was part of the UPA, it was not invited for the celebration function and dinner. This time, the bloodletting in Karunanidhi's family has led to Dayanidhi Maran's resignation from the Union Cabinet while DMK leaders reposition themselves for the post-Karunanidhi phase.
But while addressing the Congress parliamentary party on Wednesday, Sonia congratulated the PM for the UPA having completed three years in office on May 22. "Our government has achieved a great deal, whether through the introduction of new development schemes, the enactment of new laws, the strengthening of our secular fabric, the making of a transparent administration, the acceleration of economic growth and the launching of new programmes and initiatives for the welfare of farmers, the weaker sections and the minorities," she said. "We must consolidate on these accomplishments," she added.
But with barely two years left for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the UPA has very little time in its hand to do so. According to a Union Minister: "Nothing much has been done by the Government in the last one year."
The momentum created, for instance, with the right to information and national rural employment guarantee acts, lies dissipated, with the Government unable to check prices for over a year now. However, the effect of steps taken to check prices is being felt now. "While these are having some impact we must maintain the closest vigil on them," Sonia told her MPs in her customary end-of-session address.