Dilemmas drive UPA govt to despair

In 2012, galvanised India fought back for justice

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory” – economist John Kenneth Galbraith

(Top)Activists protest against Centre for giving permission for FDI.  (Right) Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal broke up following which the latter formed his own party  The Presidential election which elevated Pranab Mukherjee to Rashtrapati Bhavanwas not without drama .PTI/DHNS

The  ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was embroiled in many a scam in the last two years forcing the harried coalition  to fight for survival this year.

The Trinamool Congress of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, one of its allies, chose to exit from the UPA over the latter’s decision to go for foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, forcing the government to depend on the two regional parties from Uttar Pradesh— the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The parties came to the government’s rescue especially during the voting on the FDI issue in just-ended winter session of Parliament, bailing out the government which many say was with conditions.

No sooner the FDI brouhaha died down, the commotion on the Bill providing quota in promotion for SC and STs started. While the BSP was the prime mover of the Bill, rival SP was strongly opposed to it. Finally, though the Rajya Sabha passed it, the SP ensured that it was stuck in the Lok Sabha.

The government had to tread cautiously though it supported the BSP on the quota issue.

The unpredictable Mamata finally withdrew support from the UPA in September opposing the FDI policy under which foreign companies were allowed to invest up to 51 per cent in India’s retail sector.

 The twin issues of FDI and quota Bill, in a way, have set the agenda for 2013, too.
 The quota Bill exposed the fragility of the government which is expected to continue until the next Lok Sabha elections scheduled for 2014.

The SP, which can put the UPA government on the mat, won a massive mandate in Uttar Pradesh winning in 224 of the 403 seats, relegating the Congress to fourth position.

The Congress had a shocker. In Amethi and Rae Bareli, the pocket boroughs of the Congress since the days of Indira Gandhi, it managed to win only two of the 10 Assembly seats in these twin Lok Sabha constituencies.

There were elections in Punjab, which was retained by the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine while the Congress managed to wrest Uttarakhand from the BJP by a slender margin of one seat.

The year ended on a high for BJP’s Narendra Modi in Gujarat as he secured a hat trick of wins while the Congress had the last laugh in Himachal Pradesh.

The Presidential election—which elevated Pranab Mukherjee from the Finance Ministry to Rashtrapati Bhavan—was not without drama. SP supremo Mulayam Singh, who appeared to have struck a pact with Mamata to support an alternative candidate, changed his stand overnight and backed Mukherjee. 

Mamata held on to her stand almost till the end but finally supported the fellow Bengali. However, unlike in the past, the Presidential poll issue reached the Supreme Court which put the matter at rest ruling in favour of Mukherjee.

The Congress battered and bruised by charges of corruption against the UPA government and electoral reverses almost brought its general secretary Rahul Gandhi, son of party chief Sonia, to the party forefront, making him head of the co-ordination panel for the 2014 elections.

The miserable performance in UP, where Rahul was leading the poll campaign, and the party’s apparent effort to shield Rahul from Narendra Modi, meant that the Congress general secretary was not in the forefront of the Gujarat poll.

The coal scam and demand for inquiry against Sonia’s son-in-law Robert Vadra did not help the Congress image during the year.

The BJP wasn’t without problems in 2012 either. Despite the gains in Gujarat, the party lost two states in which it was in power—Uttarakhand and Himachal—and is unlikely to storm into power in other states.

 That party president Nitin Gadkari faced charges of irregularity and his second innings in the post is still in doubt has not helped the main opposition. 

With just about 18 months to go for elections, the party will face a dilemma in 2013 over choosing its prime ministerial candidate. The Modi win has compounded that problem, amid several candidates hankering after the post.

After the break up with Gandhian Anna Hazare, activist Arvind Kejriwal announced formation of Aam Aami Party which added to the government’s woes by coming out with exposes, which included disclosures on Vadra and external affairs minister Salman Khurshid.

Like the last three years, 2012 ended on a bad note for the UPA government.

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