Dismal record

As the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) enters its tenth straight year in office, its stock with the people of this country couldn’t have been lower. Disgust with its corruption-ridden and inept governance, especially over the last four years, is intense and widespread. In fact, many are wondering why the UPA is celebrating at all. Its first term in office (2004-09) wasn’t too bad. Several progressive legislations such as the Right to Information Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) were enacted.

These did strengthen the UPA’s image as a coalition that was committed somewhat to inclusive growth if not to at least cushioning the impact of economic liberalisation on the country’s poorest. This contributed in part to its return to power for a second term. But the UPA frittered away the mandate it received in 2009.

Instead of using its second term to offer far better governance, the UPA has been preoccupied with misusing public funds and hanging on to power. Widespread corruption has defined the UPA-II’s time in office, earning for this government the dubious distinction of being India’s most corrupt since Independence. Scams running into thousands of crores, often including ministers in prime minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet have tumbled out with regular frequency. What has shocked the public is not just the magnitude of the scams but the sheer brazenness with which the government plodded on, reluctant to act against the corrupt. Prime minister Singh, once admired for his personal integrity, is today reviled for his tolerance of corruption. Added to its corruption, is this government’s failure to curb price rise, tackle the agrarian crisis or enhance the security of women. Indeed, it has done little for the aam admi, whose interests it claims to represent. The prime minister’s promise to punish the wrongdoers and make all future allotments of scarce resources through auction, sounds completely hollow, when he himself presided over the coal scam of mammoth proportions.

So what is the UPA celebrating then? Survival of its government, it seems. However, what has contributed to its survival is its stubborn determination to hang on to power come what may. It is its thick hide that has made it insensitive to public sentiment, which has enabled it to continue in office for nine years. With no achievements to trumpet, the UPA is going to find it hard to face the voter. As it enters its tenth year in office, its prospects for another term at the helm seem bleak.

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