Four Years of UPAII, A Saga of Corruption and Indecision

Congress led UPA II has recently completed fourth year of the second five year term in office. This government has been plodding along in the last leg of its journey before elections in 2014. Hopefully, voters will pull the plug on this rudderless ship that is sailing through a choppy sea. Scam after scam has hit the government at regular interval. Initially, responsibility was passed to alliance partners and their errant ways. Then it emerged that congress ministers are no saint either. Fist came 2 G spectrum allocation scam, then CWG scam, followed by coal block allocation scam, railway job allocation scam. Impact of scams were compounded by the charge that government was trying to manipulate investigation report on coal block allocation scam with its own interpretation. Family and friends of high and mightly politicians were not far behind. Mr Robert Vadra, son in law of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, congress party supremo, was involved in acquiring land in a congress ruled state in active collusion with ruling party chief minister. Economy is down, parliament do not function, important bills do not get passed, allies desert government, problem at international border. Government appear clueless, leaderless, moving along hoping for a miracle to happen. Since last five years of UPA government, there has not been a dull day.

This was not the scene when Sonia Gandhi proposed the name of Dr Man Mohan Singh as the prime minister. Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, president of India, swore him to the oath of high office. It was hailed as the victory of secular India where a Christian nominates a Sikh to be sworn in by a Muslim. Every thing was honki-dori, economy was growing at 8% there was optimism all around. In the first UPA innings, many hoped that reformist Prime Minister will push accelerator pedal and economy will zoom. Howevr, UPA I which was propped up by outside support of left, was not allowed to veer outside common minimum program that was agreed upon. UPA think tank believed that previous government had lost because growth had not percolated down to poor. So UPA government decided to guarantee minimum 100 days job to one member of household in rural area through MGNREGA scheme. MGNREGA paid a wage of Rs. 100 – 150 per day.

 Such schemes need money. Budgetary allocation for MGNREGA was Rs. 40, 000 crore.  When Economy was doing good no one bothered, despite murmur of corruption and waste. Problem started arising, when prime minister decided to sign civil nuclear agreement with the United States. Acute power shortage had forced the government to consider nuclear power as a source of energy. Emerging business oppurtunity in a growing economy has lured the US to get into this agreement with India. Hope was American companies will also get a share of business.

Visit to discover Indian blogs Left withdrew support from UPA government for ideological reasons. Government  survived by getting outside support, many believed government survived by bribing MPs. That was the only one time public posture of toughness taken by Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh, where he staked his position for the deal. Seen in the picture, Dr. Singh waving at supporters after securing parliaments support in the passage of Indo – US civil nuclear deal. 

Congress lead UPA came to power for the second time in 2008. This time power was secured minus left support. Everyone thought, release of its shackles, our economist prime minister will do miracles. It was anticipated that Dr. Singh will bring in more reforms, economy will gallop, India and Indians will prosper.

Alas, it was not to be. Indian economic growth story has come down from mighty 9% to measly 5%. Government earning has reduced, government spending has increased. Government has no clue how to increase revenue. Congress party, with an eye to rural vote bank had forced government to initiate populist programs like rural employment gurantee scheme, costing aroung 40, 000 crore rupees to exchequer. Not content, congress party also pushing for food security bill that is likely to cost around 100,000 crores. All these welfare schemes are good and extremely necessary. To implement these schemes government needs to earn revenue. To add icing on the cake, global economy collapsed. Many felt, India could have done much better if it had right policies and processes in place. If there was a will to act in the face of gloom and doom.

Most important industrial projects were bogged down because environmentalists clearance wece not coming. National Advisory Council (NAC) an unelected advisory body that adviced congress party on strategic matter of national importance was dominated by members with socialist ideology and anti-business agenda. Many of them had deep distrust for big business. It is good to be pro-people, but there needs to be a balance between socialism and development.  Inertia at the policy level was compounded by violent protest of tribals supported by ultra left on ground, and left leaning intellectuals on social media. Government was caught in a bind, on one hand it was not wise to to tamper with ecology and livelihood of poor people, on the other, without investment grand welfare schemes will not take off. Where is the balance? Shown in picture, Posco project bogged down by government terms and public protests. It is difficult to understand, why villagers are not convinced about the possibility of earning more and better living condition, compared to present. Who is advicing them? Is it the revenge of the left? Without money, socialist agenda cannot be implemented. It is also important to note that in a growing economy needs of peopld are taken care of by employment generation. Was anyone listening!

Government, however, had a bigger problem. Cancer of corruption was eating away its vitals. Scam after scam in mega scale hit headlines. Telecom minister gave away scarce spectrum at throw away price to people that would help his and his parties political future. Coal blocks were allocated to cronies with no expertise in coal mining or power generation. Resource allocated for Common Wealth Games was plundered by creating artificial delays, and according to some source to faciliate higher cut to politicians and bureaucrats. I have discussed common wealth games scam in earlier post. In subsequent posts I shall take up 2G spectrum scam and other improprieties.

On one side there was indecision. On the other there was crony capitalism. Industrial houses willing to invest in India, were not able to do so because there was no permission or delayed permission. Foreign investors were not certain if their investment was secured in India. This sentiment was articulated by Deepak Parekh, ex-chairman of HDPF bank in an interview to Shekher Gupta, editor Indian Express.…0.0…

What is important to note that there was no will to rectify the course of government. Scams are not unusal where big money is involved. It is imperative for  those in power show energy and enterprise to curb corruption. It appeared there was complete abdication of duty on the part of prime minister. He was in charge of coal ministry when coal blocks were allocated. Apparently there was very little due diligence and very little followup. Was our prime minister disillusioned from the very begining of UPAII? He realised early in UPA II that his hands were tied to the duties of coalition politics and to dictats of party managers, who had eye on electoral gains for next election. As a result prime minister was either not empowered or disinterested to intervene when clearance to industries, clearance to mining etc were held back. However, prime minister did not show much interest to create polcies that could create a balance between protection of environment and creation of business oppurtunity. Was it because he was incapable or he was not interested? Prime minister never got elected by contesting polls. He did not have mass base. Many believed he was not respected by his cabinet colleagues. Many openly defied him and listened to party boss Mrs. Gandhi. Some like Shoma Chaudhury of Tehelka Magazine believe that prime minister Singh was neither effete nor disinterested. He was an astute politician who had learnt the art of survival. 

“Singh’s most severe critics — Supreme Court lawyer and Aam Admi Party leader Prashant Bhushan, for instance — would concede one thing about him: he is not in the clumsy business of greed and kickbacks. His failing is subtler but, in the long run, far more corrosive..” | | By Shoma Chaudhury

It is time, I hope Dr. Singh is either replaced by a new leader, who is more interested to do his job, or UPA is replaced by a party that has more national interest at heart.

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