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India wants Dr Singh to go!

By Virendra Kapoor
December 30, 2011 14:52 IST
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The Congress-led UPA is down in the dumps as 2011 draws to a close, but whether the BJP is in a position to exploit its misery is in doubt, notes Virendra Kapoor.

In the previous 365 days the ruling United Progressive Alliance government would be hard put to find one thing that went right for it, though Manmohan Singh can preen on being the longest serving prime minister outside the Nehru-Gandhi family.

If he draws satisfaction from the sheer longevity of his term, he is welcome, but the way things are, the country cannot seem to wait a day longer to see him go. Such is the mess his government has created in the past year or two.

Frankly, if things could go wrong, they did for the ruling coalition in 2011. To begin with, it had to face the ignominy of its senior members being sent to jail for corruption. Several others are biding their time.

Should the Commonwealth Games scam get investigated in right earnest even Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit could be in trouble.

Again, the government was forced on the back foot by the Anna Hazare campaign for the creation of a strong anti-corruption ombudsman. It was people power versus the UPA government. The argument that Parliament alone had the wisdom to make laws was found to be wanting, for very often MPs could be out of tune with public opinion.

Remember that the Emergency resolution was adopted by Parliament with an overwhelming majority. Remember too that Parliament had adopted the infamous defamation bill during the Rajiv Gandhi regime. It did not become law only because the entire media rose like one man to oppose it.

So the argument that only Parliament knows what is good for India is untenable, though for want of a better institutional framework one has to necessarily trust the MPs to do the right thing by the country.

Worse, at the end of 2011, everyone had forgotten the so-called India Story and double-digit growth. Outside the members of the official economist clique, led by the prime minister's sidekick Montek Singh Ahluwalia, no economist worth his foreign degree predicts that the GDP will grow at nine-plus percent.

The last quarter saw growth slip alarmingly. At this rate, instead of Ahluwalia's nine percent, we will soon be back to the Hindu rate of growth of 3.5 percent or thereabouts.

The loss of faith in the India Story is aptly illustrated by the sorry plight of the rupee which is now in free fall, though of late the Reserve Bank of India has begun to prop it up artificially.

Notably during the year, Congress boss and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was stricken by a mysterious illness. It caused her to stay away from India for an extended period. In the absence of the main anchor, the ruling coalition and the Congress party in particular seemed all the more wobbly, especially when heir apparent Rahul Gandhi wasn't confident enough to take charge of the family firm.

Of course, the year was significant for an open spat between the number two and number three in the government, with the nominated number one enjoying the fun from the sidelines.

It was a new low in inter-personal relations between senior Cabinet colleagues that someone should suspect the other of having his office bugged and seek outside intervention to debug and sterilise it.

Home Minister P Chidambaram stayed in the news throughout the year for all the wrong reasons. Despite his tall claims to fight the twin threats of the Maoists and jihadi fundamentalists, he failed to neutralise both, with the two groups launching a number of vicious attacks, including the one on the Delhi high court.

Chidambaram also remained under siege for his bungling in the 2G scam, withdrawal of criminal cases against his former hotelier client, and, of course, for the unwise flip-flop on the Telangana question.

Having first conceded the demand, he was obliged to retrace the step when forced to take a wider view of the problem of carving out Andhra Pradesh. In the end, the government may have succeeded in 'normalising' the situation with the usual mix of money and muscle power and the onset of protest inertia, but sooner than later Telangana will again haunt the UPA.

As for the Opposition, well... the Bharatiya Janata Party failed to resolve its leadership question, with L K Advani submitting to the superior authority, and presumed wisdom, of daughter Pratibha, and still clinging to prime ministerial ambition.

Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, spent much effort on cultivating Sonia Gandhi and others in the government, unmindful that her job to spotlight the corruption and other ills of the ruling coalition was a priority.

Thanks to her, the BJP was unable to highlight the corruption of a key member of the Gandhi family. Swaraj also nearly succeeded in torpedoing the BJP campaign against Chidambaram.

As for BJP President Nitin Gadkari, well... he lost a number of kilos after surgery, but whether the party he headed gained from his getting more agile and fit physically was yet to be established.

In sum, the Congress-led UPA is down in the dumps as 2011 draws to a close, but whether the BJP is in a position to exploit its misery is still in doubt, though Indians tend to vote out governments rather than vote them in.

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