The communication gap between the UPA government and the people seems to be widening in view of what is being seen as the former's inability to project its achievements effectively. Political pundits and analysts feel that rightly or wrongly, an impression has been created that the government is facing a conflict within on whether to pursue the liberalisation agenda or take into account the concerns of the aam aadmi. Right economics is not right politics, which is evident from the criticism offered by several Left parties.
In terms of positive points, the rural employment scheme and Right to Information (RTI) Act are seen as the UPA's greatest achievements. There is also a belief that the countdown of the government has started while a contrary view is that UPA allies will come closer after the UP polls. Most feel there will be no mid-term election.
Bhishma Narain Singh, a Gandhian and former governor, feels "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. That feeling is not there with this government, which is seen more as a government for the elite. Its inability to control rising prices is its greatest shortcoming. It needs to do immediate course correction".
Dr Sushila Kaushik, former political science professor at Delhi University, feels the government, on the whole, is on the right path. "The government is very stable but if there is an appearance of stress, it is due to its coalition character. But with the Congress as senior partner, there is no cause for worry. However, the government has not been able to do too well on media projections. It requires an assertive profile," she feels.
There is the feeling that many of the allies may now want to identify themselves only with the achievements, leaving the Congress with the negative points. But no one feels there is any chance of a mid-term poll. "No MP wants a mid-term poll, so why should the-re be an election at this stage," argues Singh.
Congress ideologue Devendra Dwivedi says the last three years have been eventful. There has been accelerated economic growth and poverty alleviation programmes. However, he agrees the government has failed to project its achievements.
Professor Mushir-ul-Hasan, Vice-Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, says: "The two most creditable achievements are the rural employment scheme and RTI. The fact that there are more funds for education is also heartening."
A top politician of Indira Gandhi vintage, on condition of anonymity, however, says the "government must dispel the impression that it is only for the rich. The common man does not understand high GDP growth rate or sensex. His concern is only with prices and how his quality of life improves. The government should be seen as waging a war against poverty, not the poor. 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, these three years "represent a symmetry in the continuation of past initiatives as well as some thrust areas. Some agendas like insurance, pension and labour remain unaccomplished. Nevertheless, improved investments, higher savings and continued economic buoyancy lay a credible foundation for the continuation of the current economic momentum".
Most allies also see the entry into the fourth year as an opportunity for the prime minister to reshuffle his cabinet. On record, there are not many who may share Mani Shankar Aiyar's views but privately, many agree with him. "The compulsions of coalition politics and 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.