Amid serious allegations of rampant corruption, multi-crore scandals, policy paralysis and poor economic growth, the ruling Congress-led coalition United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in India has completed four years in its second consecutive five-year term in office. The coalition showcases ‘achievements’ but the opposition highlights ‘stagnancy’ and ‘paralysis’.
Dr. Manmohan Singh — India’s prime minister and also the economic expert with an ‘honest’ image — in his report card presented to the countrymen pledged to bring the slow economy back on rails and said that those found guilty of corruption would not go unpunished.
But Mr. Singh’s critics say the government and the prime minister are in complete “denial mode” when it comes to scandals and scams. There are others who describe Singh as the “captain of a sinking ship”.
A series of corruption scandals like the Commonwealth Games scam, 2G Telecom scam, Coal-gate and Rail-gate scams have caused much embarrassment to the ruling coalition and forced the resignation and sacking of some of its cabinet ministers for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices.
Two cabinet ministers, Pawan Bansal — Railway Minister— and Ashwini Kumar— Law Minister — had to resign after corruption charges.
Gang rapes and cases of molestation against women in India’s capital have also given rise to some serious questions regarding the safety and dignity of women.
As the Congress leadership is busy highlighting ‘achievements’ of its coalition government in the last nine years, India’s news channels are covering yet another scandal – this time, spot-fixing in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) for cricket.
India’s growth rate has taken a severe beating in the last couple of years and come down to below six per cent while the consumer price inflation continues to be in the double digits.
Corruption, scandals, slow economic growth and other issues like inflation have provided enough ammunition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition in India, to take a dig at the UPA coalition.
While Congress was in a celebratory mood on its fourth anniversary on May 22 and hosted a grand dinner for its allies, two top BJP leaders had decided to go for an all-out attack against the government.
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj put a question mark over Dr. Singh’s leadership quality and claimed that the UPA has failed on all fronts. “With utter sadness I have to say that Manmohan Singh is a Prime Minister, not a leader. He is neither the leader of his party nor the leader of this country. The UPA has not been able to provide capable leadership,” Sushma told journalists in New Delhi.
Arun Jaitley, another important BJP leader, alleged that the government has misused the country’s premier investigation agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “This government has only one accomplishment, that it has ruled for four years by misusing the CBI. Had it not misused the CBI against its allies, it would not have completed four years,” Mr. Jaitley told media persons while sitting alongside Sushma.
Some critics in India sarcastically describe the CBI as the ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’.
The opposition also seems unhappy with the government’s “lack of courage” to confront China with regards to its latest incursions in Ladakh — a mountainous region in disputed Jammu and Kashmir. Chinese troops were reported to have entered up to 19 Kms within Ladakh region where they had also allegedly erected some tents. Later both sides withdrew their troops from the Depsang Valley and Daulat Beig Oldi and agreed to maintain peace and tranquility in border areas.
Soon after the aggressive and sudden military advances into Ladakh, the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on his just concluded maiden foreign visit to India described India as a “strategic partner and a good friend”.
BJP’s Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had expressed caution that the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh could snowball into a “Kargil-like” situation. “The Prime Minister has said the incursions are a localized issue. To say so is wrong. After all, what had happened in Kargil? India should give up its ‘confused and contradictory’ policy towards China and take serious measures.”
On its part, the Congress leaders accuse the opposition BJP for disrupting Parliament proceedings by preferring to stage protests against the scams instead of debating issues on an appropriate platform to find possible solutions.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi put her weight behind the country’s prime minister and rubbished all charges of a possible rift between Dr. Singh and the Congress leadership. “The government has the greatest respect for the Prime Minister who is carrying out his responsibilities with the greatest dignity in the face of unrelenting hostility,” she said on the anniversary event.
Like other major news channels in India, CNN-IBN also debated the fourth anniversary of the UPA with a panel of experts, which included Vinod Mehta, N Ram, A K Bhattacharya and Rudranghsu Mukherjee.
In its program ‘The Last Word’ hosted by veteran journalist and television host Karan Thapar, experts were unanimous in their criticism of Dr. Singh for his ‘strange silence’ on important matters and the Congress-led UPA for not doing enough to put a check on corruption and inflation.
The debate revolved around the question ‘Can Dr. Singh recover his political strength’?
The editorial chairman of The Outlook Group, Mr. Vinod Mehta, said, “Oh, I think it is very unlikely. The party has made it clear that he (Dr. Singh) is there only till 2014… As far as his reputation is concerned, things have gone to such a stage where the one thing that he had going for him, it was his personal integrity, there is a question mark there also. The whole thing is so extra-ordinary that people are actually thinking that Dr. Manmohan Singh may have taken money himself, which is absolutely untrue. But that is the public perception. So that is how far he has gone down.”