UPA on life-support

Hours after the DMK withdrew its support to the UPA government, two senior Congress ministers P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath were still claiming that the government was “absolutely stable,” but it is plain and clear to everyone that the Manmohan Singh government is now on a life-support system whose ‘plug’ is in the hands of SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati. Both Mulayam and Mayawati have iterated their outside support to the UPA for the time being, but the the SP's overnight aggression over Union minister Beni Prasad Verma’s ill-timed remark accusing Mulayam Singh of having ‘links with terrorists’ and the party’s strident demand for Verma’s sacking from the cabinet, are indicative of the extreme vulnerability the UPA government suddenly finds itself in.

The UPA-II had actually entered the ‘danger zone’ last September itself when the mercurial Mamata Banerjee had withdrawn her party Trinamool Congress’ support on the retail FDI issue. But the arrogant Congress leadership refused to acknowledge that its allies were increasingly discomfited and getting impatient with its dictatorial style of functioning and concentration of more and more power in its own hands.

The complacent mode that the Congress had got into might have been the reason for its complete bewilderment at the speed with which the DMK decided to completely pull out of the UPA. DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, who had reasons to be extremely unhappy with the way the Congress ‘manipulated’ to put the entire blame for 2G scam on his ministers, was clearly biding his time. Karunanidhi realised that the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue was as good as any to dump the UPA and chart out a new course. His arch rival, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha had already stolen a march over the DMK on the Tamils’ problem, and Karunanidhi had to do something dramatic to prevent the ground slipping further under his feet.

As far as the Central government is concerned, the UPA’s support base has now reduced to 224 as against the requirement of 271 for a simple majority. With just about a year’s time left before the next parliamentary elections, no party may be ready for advancing elections and, thus, the government may not fall, but its legislative and administrative powers will be constrained by the likes and dislikes of the ‘outside’ supporting parties. The UPA may not agree with the description that it has become a ‘lame duck’ government, but it can hardly walk without the crutches.

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