The party that leads the United Progressive Alliance government is in a state of moral and political confusion. Demoralised by a string of Assembly election defeats, notably in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka, and besieged by economic and political troubles, the Congress has absolutely no idea where it is going. Perhaps feeling that it has nothing to lose during the murky period leading up to the 15th general election, which must be held no later than April-May 2009, it has resorted to political adventurism. The government it heads has no answer to the spectre of double-digit inflation, which crept up to 11.42 per cent last week. The mishandling of the Amarnath shrine land affair has set off a wave of communal hate and tension in Jammu and Kashmir, and destabilised the Congress-led dispensation during the run-up to crucial Assembly elections in the State. There has been a significant falling-out of allies or those who came together, in May 2004, to enable a UPA government to be formed on the basis of a National Common Minimum Programme.
The issue on which the ruling party has chosen to make a do-or-die stand is not anything connected with the problems of the people — but the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. Curiously, it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has no known electoral base and holds office by virtue of being a member of the Rajya Sabha, who has been allowed to pull the trigger on the political arrangement that sustains his minority government. He has done this by forcing his party, under threat of resignation, to go back on a commitment the UPA made, in writing on November 16, 2007, to the Left parties. It was that the government would not proceed with the operationalisation of the 123 agreement before the UPA-Left coordination committee arrived at its “findings.” Specifically, the understanding was that the “outcome” of the talks with the secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in other words the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement, would be presented to the committee “for its consideration before it finalises its findings.” By announcing that the UPA government will soon go to the IAEA Board of Governors for approval of the safeguards agreement, the Congress is recklessly short-circuiting this process. We now have the spectacle of a government that promised transparency and enacted a quite radical Right to Information Act making decisions on key policy issues behind closed doors, in a way that lacks straightforwardness. A party that promised a secular and forward-looking alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party is now embroiled in manoeuvres that are as short-sighted as they are deficient in political logic. The Congress might be able to keep the UPA government afloat for a while by cutting a deal with ex-adversaries but the cost of such expediency will be extremely high.
Courtesy: The Hindu