At best mediocre

A dispassionate stock-taking  on the first anniversary of the second UPA government would not give its leadership great  achievements to be proud of. It has claimed  much credit for its performance, but it is natural for governments to overstate achievements and gloss over failures. The government could have made a better mark in its first year in almost every area. When it assumed power there was euphoria and relief that it was not dependent on the outside support of the Left parties. But a more confident government did not turn out to be a better government. The UPA-I government perhaps did better under pressure from the Left than when it was free to take its own decisions. Even its stability cannot be taken for granted as the scare over the cut motions during the Budget session of parliament showed.

The government’s one-year record is a mixed bag, but there are more negatives than positives. The negatives, though, are more in the nature of lack of action than wrong actions. The inability to control the unrelenting price rise is the biggest failure, especially when the government is led by an economist. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s personal image is still clean and bright but his control over the various ministries and senior colleagues is in doubt. Both the prime minister and the UPA  leadership have had to put up with a non-performing agriculture minister, an absentee railway minister and a telecom minister facing credible charges of massive corruption. The Maoist threat has become more real and immediate in the last one year. On the positive side, the right to education has become a mandate but it will take years for it to become a reality. The relations with Pakistan are less strained  than an year ago, but the future is still uncertain. The state of the economy is better and it seems to have weathered the problems created by global recession. But the credit for this should rather go to UPA-I than to this government. The first year of a government offers opportunities for action, especially necessary but unpopular action, because it has goodwill on its side and there is time for the good effects of the action to materialise. Seen from this perspective, the UPA government missed some opportunities.

The government should use its first anniversary to take a more critical view of itself and rely on its strengths to deliver better results in the coming months and years.

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