Muddling through

The UPA-II government’s celebration of two years in office looked like a pro forma official publicity function and the rhetoric made on the occasion sounded like empty verbiage to most people. The government, which returned to power with greater popular endorsement and promised much, has disappointed on most counts. It had claimed that it would perform better without the shackles of Left support, but after two years there is no single achievement it can take credit for. Politically it may be weaker in states now, notwithstanding the electoral successes in West Bengal Assam and Kerala. The BJP’s discovery that there are more people under NDA state governments than under UPA governments underlines the shaky base of the UPA. The growing threat to the Congress in Andhra Pradesh might decisively tip the scales against it.

The most striking  feature of the government has been the failure of governance, with tolerance for corruption and inability to keep promises eating away its credibility. Major scandals relating to the conduct of the Commonwealth Games and the allocation of 2G spectrum, in which the ruling alliance leaders were involved, have tarnished its image.

The actions, which came late, have not helped much because the question why they were not taken well in time has not been convincingly answered. The humiliation suffered over the appointment of the CVC added to the negative record. Major legislative measures which were promised are still in the works. The progress being made on the Lokpal bill is the result of public pressure. The food security bill has not been finalised even after many months of discussion. A new land acquisition law is yet to be passed in spite of rising land-related troubles across the country. There is no consensus and action on the goods and services tax (GST), which is an important reform measure. Judicial and electoral reform measures are in limbo. The right to education law is not implemented well. There is no success in controlling inflation and no progress on economic reform measures. There are no big foreign policy achievements also.

The last two years present a record of complacence, non-action and muddling through.  The prime minister’s image was a positive for the UPA-I government. That too has suffered dents now. The government has three more years to redeem itself. It will not be an easy task because it has to first erase the negative image and then start building anew.

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