Limbo, in Catholic terminology, is a condition in which people tainted by Original Sin but are not consigned to the flames of Hell or the pleasures of Heaven, wait out their time. The UPA in its fourth year of mortal existence seems to stuck in this ‘waiting room’ — and has no intention to budge, at least after the general elections. Take the case of the India-US civilian nuclear deal. If there were sensitive souls earlier within the government who wanted to test the waters before playing cheerleader to the deal, with polls coming, everyone’s maintaining a deathly silence. With the Karnataka election results leaving visible yolk marks on Congress faces, no one — including those handful of supporters of the deal — are risking anything. Notice the unilateral calling off of the UPA-Left coordination committee meeting on the deal that was scheduled for today. And it’s no longer a State secret that it’s just the Left which wants to put the deal on the back-, middle- and front-burner. With the government feeling more and more insecure about pitching a deal that shares very little with schemes that look good — and are good — we can safely say that matters of policy such as the nuclear deal are no longer high up on the priority list.
While we can complain against the Left as much as we want about such a policy paralysis, it must be said that the UPA on its own, hasn’t done a bad job at all at stalling its own proceedings. Whether it’s ‘smaller matters’ like a policy on retail or strategies to control inflation, this government seems to have gone into ‘mum’s the word’ mode. The nuclear deal is a contract that should have superseded party politics, being as it is a deal between the Republic of India and the United States of America. But as the UPA seems to have decided, considering that neither the government nor the Left has announced when the coordination meeting will take place next, that no policy is the best policy in these times of competitive pop politics.
Governments before this one have always been quick to subsume national interest for domestic brownie points. So it was naive of us to think that this government would have been any different. We have always resisted in believing that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the mascot of the current policy paralysis of this government. But if the N-deal— something whose virtues we had heard much about earlier on — is not being talked about at all now, we have no choice but to change our opinion. As for limbo, it isn’t a bad state to be in, considering that we still seem to be working on the principle of party politics before national interest.