Forum: The Indian Political Scenario
Has the UPA government reached the end of its line?
No, it can rise from the ashes
By S. GOPIKRISHNA
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
with her photogenic
(if vacuous) children
in tow, constitutes
a winning rajamantri
straight out of the
seems to be at war
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
By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN
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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