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UPA steps into third year with hope, confidence

The completion of two years also signals the Congress coming to grips with the nitty-gritty of coalition politics.

india Updated: May 14, 2006 12:22 IST

The Manmohan Singh government steps into its third year next week with the hope and confidence of completing its full term and a reasonable sense of satisfaction over its achievements on political, economic and external fronts.

The Congress-led UPA government's completion of two years in office on May 22 belies BJP's initial expectation that the coalition, propped up by a highly critical Left from outside, would crumble within a matter of months due to "adverse" planetary and conflicting political configurations.

It also signals the Congress coming to grips with the nitty-gritty of coalition politics which, according to political pundits, is here to stay for a long time -- a view endorsed also by the Prime Minister and his party President Sonia Gandhi.

However, the Congress suffered major political reverses at the state-level as it lost power in Karnataka in January following the withdrawal of support by the JD(U) and in Kerala after losing the just-concluded assembly elections to the LDF.

The party was able to offset these setbacks by returning to power in Haryana last year and retaining, at least partly, its rule in Assam and Pondicherry and helping its major Tamil Nadu ally, DMK, dislodge the Jayalalithaa government in the April/May elections, which also covered West Bengal.

The UPA's optimism about running its full five-year course at the Centre stems from the fact that it has successfully placated its on-and-off sulking allies and the vociferous Left, which often has threatened to go beyond barking to really bite, but without pulling the rug from under the government.

Even after their stupendous show in West Bengal to return to power for a record seventh time in a row and and in Kerala, leaders of Left parties have only talked of assuming a bigger role for themselves at the Centre, not of rocking the boat.

The UPA can also take heart from the political developments in the past one year which saw the BJP book major losses -- its former Chief Ministers Uma Bharti and Madan Lal Khurana parted ways and LK Advani stepped down as party President after enraging the RSS with his comments on Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

The BJP also took a body blow in the death of its General Secretary Pramod Mahajan, widely viewed as a Prime Ministerial material.

Also, the office-of-profit controversy which appeared to blow up in the face of the Congress was deftly turned into an advantage through the resignation of Gandhi as an MP and her subsequent re-election with a thumping margin of over 400,000 votes in the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency.

The bypoll also provided an opportunity to her son, Rahul, who was her campaign manager, to prove his political mettle, prompting the Congress President to indicate that elevating him in the party hierarchy is an idea whose time has come.

The crisis sparked off by the Paul Volcker committee, which had named the Congress and the then External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh besides some other individuals and entities as non-contractual beneficiaries in the Iraqi oil-for-food deals, was managed by removing the Minister from the Cabinet and the setting up of the Justice RS Pathak Inquiry Authority, whose term was recently extended by three months.

The principal opposition at the Centre, however, had some solace as it won the assembly elections in Jharkhand and teaming with the JD(U) brought down the RJD-led government in Bihar.

First Published: May 14, 2006 12:22 IST