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Forum: The Indian Political Scenario

June 2007
Forum: The Indian Political Scenario

Has the UPA government reached the end of its line?

No, it can rise from the ashes


Since Uttar Pradesh has downsized the Congress Party in the

recent election, is it reasonable to conclude that India will retire

the Congress Party in the next election?

A question as speculative as the above deserves a rhetorical

response: Does a fractured leg imply death?

Sure, the U.P. state election is important due to the size of

the state and its being next door to Delhi. However, drawing

conclusions from this election overlooks the anti-incumbency factor

that has become a staple of Indian politics. The state elections have

metamorphosed into a forum for expressing disappointment or anger

at the party in power at the Centre. Gone are the days when a party

won comfortably at the Centre and state levels—Indira Gandhi was

the arguably the last prime minister to achieve this feat. Since the

1980s, every party and coalition in power from the Congress to the

NDA has received a drubbing at the state polls. The U.P. results merely

reinforce the adage about history repeating itself.

Parties seldom lose when the rural economy is good. The UPA has

been lucky—the agricultural sector has done better than it did under

the NDA government. That investment continuously flows into the

country, notwithstanding the presence of the Left, is a testament to

confidence in the UPA government—a contrast to the NDA where only

the urban areas shone.

And then there is coalition leadership—a well meaning but effete

Manmohan Singh as

prime minister with

a wily Sonia Gandhi

playing kingmaker

with her photogenic

(if vacuous) children

in tow, constitutes

a winning rajamantri


straight out of the

Jataka tales.

Meanwhile, the

NDA's leadership

seems to be at war

with themselves—

the juniors lack experience, the seniors lack stamina. If a known devil

is better than an unknown one, many would prefer the UPA.

There is also the issue of vote banks. The Congress and UPA have

championed minority causes, a strategy resulting in a steady vote

bank. The NDA, on the other hand, has shot itself in the foot. Its

not-too-successful wooing of minorities has been compounded with

neglect of its traditional high-caste Hindu vote bank. The NDA is

perceived as anti-everybody and pro-nobody, a sure recipe for failure.

The story goes that Viscount Wavell, Viceroy of India, made

preparations for Mahatma Gandhi's funeral in 1944 when the latter

became sick after a fast-unto-death. The sandalwood for the pyre

was ready, as was the parade and letters galore conveying their

condolences. Indeed everybody was ready except Gandhi, who

survived and lived to see Wavell leave India in 1945.

We should probably learn from Wavell's lesson and not write off

Sonia and her progeny too soon. n

Toronto-based S. Gopikrishna writes on topics pertaining to India and Indians.

Yes, it has contributed little


The UPA-communist combine came out dead last in the recent

elections in Uttar Pradesh, electorally the most significant

state in India. This is only the latest in a series of electoral

setbacks, the most recent being in Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, and

Uttarakhand. In fact, the UPA has hardly won any state election in the

last three years, despite using every trick in the book, including venal

governors, as in Bihar, Goa, and Jharkhand.

There are several structural reasons for this failure. First is

that despite relentless Congress propaganda, it was not as though

the country signed up in 2004 for rule by the Gandhi dynasty and

its retainers. What we saw was the usual tossing and turning of a

relatively mature democracy, where there is often an alternation in

power (the toss-the-rascals-out syndrome). Besides, low voter turnout

enables small numbers of ideologues to skew the results.

Second, despite the unprecedented growth in GDP, the UPA has

severely hurt the common man, its purported object of attention.

The UPA has wasted billions on a hare-brained rural employmentguarantee

scheme (read pork barrel for Congress cadres). The

Bharat Nirman project enriches politicians, with no improvement in

desperately needed infrastructure. With the rise in oil prices, and

the dramatic increase in world wheat prices at the same time that

India's production fell, food price inflation has risen to levels over 10

percent. This is incendiary: remember the onion riots of a few years


Third, the foreign policy and

national security performance

of the UPA has been abysmal.

Despite much billing and

cooing with General Musharraf,

terrorism has not diminished,

and there is justified fear

among Indians that they might

be subject to sudden and

murderous attacks by terrorists

living concealed in their

midst. The UPA is considering

exiting Siachen, and is quietly

accepting Chinese incursions into

Arunachal Pradesh. Also, the big

deal trumpeted about as raising

India's status—the nuclear deal with the United States—is turning

out be nothing more than a way for the United States to disarm India.

Fourth, the noxious pandering to Muslim, Christian, and

communist agendas is creating a backlash. Unbelievably, the prime

minister declared (and this violates the constitutional guarantee

of equal treatment to all citizens) that "minorities, particularly the

Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits

of development. They must have the first claim on resources."

The Christian religious conversion machine is running full force.

Communist cadres have shot and killed thousands of rural people in

Nandigram and Jharkhand, and the UPA turns a blind eye to all this.

You can fool all the people some of the time ? But the time has

now come for the UPA to fade away into the sunset, gracefully; or

they can do it kicking and screaming. That is their choice. n

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from New York City.

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