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Woes of a prime minister and his party

 | December 23, 2011

Rahul Gandhi seems awfully hesitant to take over the reins of nation in total mess. Maybe, he is not even fit for that.


Many Indians may be wondering why a man of Manmohan Singh’s calibre continues to remain prime minister. A brilliant economist and scrupulously honest man, Singh stands utterly humiliated.

One, he is leading a government that is presiding over, so to say, a wretchedly corrupt system. I wonder whether India has ever seen such humungous scams in its 60-odd years of independence.

Two, it is not hidden that Manmohan and his political boss and Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi do not see eye-to-eye on key issues. Economic reforms are one.

It may be very hard for him to accept that since his re-election in 2009 he has not been able to get a single important law passed.

The foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail could have been a landmark step, but the opposition and some of the partners in the alliance the Congress heads in New Delhi sabotaged it, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee stating that the choice was between FDI and the fall of the government.

And the Congress must dread the very thought of an early election, given the mood of the people, who are disgusted and angry with a government that is completely paralysed and buried in scam.

It is the administration’s neither-here-nor-there stance that is ruining India. Capital is fleeing the country, foreign investors are not investing, and ministers are paranoid about big spending, afraid as they are of being blamed for grafts.

What is as worse is the total paralysis of parliament, with the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party not allowing it to function for one reason or the other. The latest is the BJP baying for Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s resignation on grounds of favouritism and nepotism.

A Congress member and former United Nations Under-Secretary, Shashi Tharoor, seemed so peeved with what had been happening in parliament that he suggested a presidential system of administration. But that will not happen.

While the circus continues both outside and inside parliament, Sonia Gandhi has remained largely silent. Is she still unwell; she returned from New York some weeks ago after treatment for an undisclosed illness.

Or, has she got herself detached from what she probably perceives as a hopeless situation? Or, is she waiting for her son and apparent prime ministerial candidate, Rahul Gandhi, to assume control?

Congress appears trapped

Unfortunately, Rahul, about 40 years now, seems awfully hesitant to take over the reins of nation in total mess. Maybe, he is not even fit for that.

In the meantime, a new version of the national food security bill – which guarantees highly-subsidised grain to 75% of India – is waiting.

So is the one that will allow the private sector to give more pension.

On Dec 13, parliament’s finance committee pounced on the government’s scheme to issue biometric identity cards for all citizens. The committee felt that this could prove to be a security risk, and saw no great benefit in this.

Compounding these are the persistently high inflation and the strong possibility of the government missing the fiscal target.

The growth forecast has been slashed from 9% to 7.5%. Even this could be optimistic, because of a marked slowdown in industrial production and the rupee’s rapid downward slide against the dollar.

Beyond this is the Anna Hazare and his team and they are clearly anti-Congress. They have been demanding a people’s bill to stem corruption.

On Thursday, Hazare saw a copy of the 74-page final version of the bill that the government plans to table in the Lok Sabha. He called is “useless” and challenged Sonia Gandhi to debate its merits with him.

The Congress appears trapped.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at[email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.


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