Barely 18 months ago, romantically minded political analysts and journalists were beginning to liken the successful return of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to power as a sort of a return to Camelot moment (to be sure, some of this can be attributed to a lengthy hangover arising from Barack Obama’s 2008 victory in the US presidential race).
Contrast that with the facts on the ground today: inflation and food inflation are on the rise; the government is embroiled in a rash of controversies, one of which has resulted in the arrest of its former telecom minister by the Central Bureau of Investigation; the Prime Minister seems at a loss (the last decisive move he made was probably in 2008 during the debate over the US-India civilian nuclear agreement); and the Supreme Court, not the government, appears to be calling the shots on almost all important issues.
The issues, at this time, would appear to be administrative, not political. Inflation is on the rise partly due to the government’s inability to address what it calls “supply-side” issues and partly because of its fiscal profligacy. The appointment of a chief vigilance commissioner who is himself the accused in a decades-old corruption case, and the unwillingness to even accept that there was something wrong with the way telecom licences were handed out in 2008 (the government’s position till last year), again, can be attributed not to political pressure, but misgovernance.
While the main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has used the opportunities—on average, the government gives it almost one new a week—to raise the pitch of its protests, its own image and credibility have been dented by the antics of the BJP chief minister in Karnataka. Meanwhile, the protests, and the resultant firefighting and name calling seem to have all but stopped the business of policymaking in New Delhi.
The UPA’s first term in power saw the introduction of socially relevant schemes such as the job guarantee one. Its second term got off to a good start with efforts to move ahead with the contentious women’s reservation and right to food laws, but a rash of corruption charges have brought the wheels of governance to a halt.
What ails the UPA: political incoherence or administrative incompetence? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org