By R. Balashankar
Hail the UPA crowd! They have accomplished the unenviable task and proved politics is the art of the impossible, Compromise My Principles on Unlimited Private Agenda. The UPA seems to have only a single-point programme and a simple-minded obsession: undo the NDA achievements and stop the BJP.
With great flourish, hours before the CMP was released, the CPI All India Secretary, D. Raja told Organiser, ?We support the Congress to undo the NDA government'swork. For us, the BJP is Enemy Number One? (see page 10-11).
This might be the first time in the history of any democratic country, that a government is formed with a declared objective only to undo the previous government'sachievements. In the bargain, Dr Manmohan Singh, whom the CPI and the CPM in 1991-1995 described as IMF agent (see Desha-bhimani), has been forced into eating the crow. Remember, sale of shares in profit-making public sector units (now called navratnas) was started by Manmohan Singh during the Narasimha Rao government. VRS, labour retrenchment, FDI in core sector, fast-track power projects (which never came up but drained the nation, like Enron), private airlines, withdrawal of government from social service areas such as health, education, electricity, water supply, etc., signing the WTO, dereserving small-scale sector with opening them up to MNCs, all these started during that period. Till recently, the Congress cheered the globalisation programmes of the NDA government. There was hardly any difference between the NDA manifesto and the Congress manifesto (see page 20).
The UPA government has yet another dubious distinction. Five persons with criminal cases pending against them are there as ministers. Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mohammad Taslimuddin, Jai Prakash Yadav, M.A.Fatmi from RJD and Subbalakshmi Jagadisan, who went to jail on Rajiv Gandhi'sassassination case, are ministers in the cabinet. The Left parties are reportedly unhappy about the inclusion of these ministers but when asked, the CPI leader D. Raja said they have left the issue for the Prime Minister to decide. ?The Prime Minister makes the cabinet, it is for him to see,? he said. The PM has revealed his mind. His logic. Till they are convicted they can be in the cabinet!
Make no mistake, the UPA is only an arrangement to enjoy power without responsibility. Departing from the previous government'seconomic programme would make good political rhetoric, but a poor agenda for governance.
The Congress president is more tuned to the Communist clamour. ?The damage done by the last government,? she said, ?has to be undone.? However, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, seem to profess an entirely different paradigm. Both are eager to play to the reform gallery and outdo the NDA in market-friendly reforms. ?We are the original reformers, the better reformers,? claims Manmohan Singh.
In a recent interview, the Prime Minister said that opening up of the insurance sector would not have been possible without the support of the Congress Party. The new Electricity Bill and the new Labour Reform Bill 2003 were also adopted in Parliament because of Congress support. Manmohan Singh even commended the National Highway Programme of Vajpayee government. The National Science Policy and the National Youth Policy 2003, formulated by the NDA government waxed eloquent on Nehru'svision of independent India. The NDA government was never tired of emphasizing that the education reforms, be it induction of value education, textbook review, or inclusion of fundamental duties, were in pursuance of the Education Policy, 1986, formulated by the Rajiv Gandhi-Arjun Singh team.
A thorough scrutiny of the conduct and intent of the NDA and the Congress segment in the UPA would reveal the similarity between the two. In fact, the Left parties with their neo-Communist rhetoric would look total strangers to their own alliance partner. Make no mistake, the UPA is only an arrangement to enjoy power without responsibility. Departing from the previous government'seconomic programme would make good political rhetoric, but a poor agenda for governance.
Dr Singh has to content with half a dozen back-seat drivers. The back-seat driving communists have no dearth of conditions. The UPA is facing the challenge of negotiating around the claustrophobic, compartmentalised mindsets of the comrades. The godmother, Sonia Gandhi and her children wield the stick. Big brother, CPM, which won 18 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala demanded that not a single Congress representative from the state be inducted in the cabinet. The Prime Minister obliged but he inducted a Muslim League Rajya Sabha MP, E. Ahmad, as one of the MoS. The CPM has already lodged a protest and demanded that he too should be dropped. The classic situation in Bengal is a comic-tragedy. Flaunting the new-found clout of communists over the Congress, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya said in a rally in Kolkata (May 24), ?If we tell them stop, they will stop. If we tell them go, they will go. If we ask them sit, they have to sit, if we ask them to get up, they have to obey.? As the cadres cheered, a red-faced Congress PCC chief requested the CPM to be more cautious with their words. If anyone was in doubt about the dismal effect the Leftists were having on the nation, the Sensex showed it, dropping 700 plus points in a single day, the highest in its history. True, economy and politics should not be Sensex driven. But they should not shatter the investor'sconfidence. This happens when you have strange bedfellows.
The NDA and its allies in each state are a complimenting force. The UPA allies, on the other hand are daggers drawn in each state, ever eager to spill the blood of the other?be it Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala or Tamil Nadu. It'sa fool'sparadise the Congress is in, if it thinks of building on the gains of 2004. The moment the party starts entertaining such ideas, comrades will become their worst ever tormentors. In two years there will be Assembly polls in Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura and Tamil Nadu.
Within 48 hours of assuming office, the HRD Minister, Arjun Singh demanded the reopening of the probe into Rajiv Gandhi assassination. This was obviously meant to harass and embarrass DMK, whose nominee Subbalakshmi Jagadesan served eight months in jail for harbouring the assassins. Congress insiders say that this was a deliberate attempt to fix the DMK, for creating the first crisis for the government immediately after the portfolios were announced. The CPM is daily demanding the dismissal of the A.K. Antony government in Kerala.
Dr Singh is lucky: He inherited a sound economy from the NDA, a huge foodgrain stock, a 114billion dollar foreign exchange reserve, a 10.2 per cent export growth, an 8.4 per cent GDP growth, less than 5 per cent inflation, a buoyant manufacturing sector and better investment climate.
Within a week they have turned hope into anxiety, exuberance into depression. It'smessage: Repeal POTA; they are terrorist positive, Hindu negative. They sure can undo, even outdo, but will they take us forward?