Collapsing UPA 2

Efficient ministers, bureaucrats, judiciary and party organisation are needed to run a democratic setup effectively. Unfortunately the UPA is encouraging sycophants and liars. Those who are willing to put across the problems are kicked out or not given audience. The result of this myopic attitude of the top brass of the UPA is total chaos in the government. Without knowing the consequences the government is blindly supporting such chamchas. The best telling examples are that of handling of 2G , Adarsh scam, Common Wealth Games, Lokpal and many more. UPA fielded Kapil Sibal to counter the allegations. Good! he saved the government from complete collapse. But to save the situations he has been telling a string of lies. Considering all Indians as fools, the UPA faces are keep reeling lies without an iota of shyness. From the mishandling of Common Wealth games to Adarsh Society scam to 2G to Petroleum mess up to national security issues to Lokpal, UPA is on the fast path of death. Rest in Peace!

 

Ashok Malik writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 21 June 2011

 

Six months have passed since 2011 began and increasingly this is being written off as India’s wasted year. Caught — some would say enthralled — by domestic political theatre, it has been easy for India to ignore the wider implications of the series of corruption scandals, a paralysed government and policy and public initiatives being hijacked by amateurs belonging to one or the other civil society platform.

India will survive 2011, survive the United Progressive Alliance government and survive this storm. Yet the India story has been substantially damaged. From falling foreign investment figures to rising home-grown pessimism, the signs are telling. It is for us to read them.

There is a substantial change from even eight months ago, when US President Barack Obama addressed Parliament and called India a power that had emerged and deserved permanent Security Council membership. This summer a vacancy arose at Roosevelt House, home of the American ambassador in New Delhi. If India were still the India of Mr Obama’s praise, there would have been a clamour in Washington, D.C., for the India job. Political high-fliers would have lobbied for themselves.

Instead, a veteran diplomat — an old India hand admittedly — has been appointed. He is a trusted professional but not the sort of “A list” insider the United States President would have sent to India if it were really top of his mind. The Americans are not alone. One by one many ancient demons are coming back to haunt perceptions of India. Egregious corruption, ineffectual governance, inability to promptly honour contracts, failure to appear consistent in economic or strategic policy and goal-making: the doubts are surfacing again.

From Australia to the Netherlands, a clutch of foreign missions is constantly urging the ministry of external affairs to help clear payments to Australian or Dutch (or other) companies for services rendered during the Commonwealth Games. There have been no definite answers offered. The government is too scared to approve any payments till investigations into Games-related embezzlement are over. This could take years. In at least one case, an Australian company of long standing has gone bankrupt.

These may seem minor incidents but they are adding up. Exasperation with India, disgust with its venal and unreformed political system and concern it is slipping back to its mid-1990s (or even pre-1990s) ostrich-headed world view is growing. It would be futile to run away from that reality. In the past year India has not just stayed where it is; it has actually lost ground.

It is facile to pretend India is paying the price for democracy. Everything from coalition governments — and the failure of the Prime Minister to rein in wild political partners who may have won elections in a specific state — to Baba Ramdev submitting a list of outlandish demands, to lack of urgency on infrastructure reforms till a mythical “unanimity” is achieved can be blamed, rationalised and explained in the name of democracy.

Unfortunately, this so-called “democracy tax” is an excuse for a line of least resistance. That apart, while India’s commitment to universal franchise and free speech are applauded worldwide, the rest of the planet is driven by both political processes and economic outcomes. For India’s external stakeholders, it is not an “either/or” situation.

Global powers began to take India seriously in about 2002-2003 due to a happy confluence of phenomena. India’s economy shifted gears and GDP growth rates zoomed. The outsourcing boom matured. Key sectors — pharmaceuticals, automobiles — started to offer early evidence of India’s manufacturing prowess.

In parallel, India adopted a sober, pragmatic and modern foreign policy. It went out of its way to allay apprehensions that it was an unpredictable international actor that harboured adventurist tendencies. Finally, the US presence in Afghanistan and pressure on the Taliban and its backers in Pakistan took care of some of India’s near-term security apprehensions.

Other than 9/11 and the US intervention in Kabul, none of those events happened without effort on India’s part. Each was a hard won victory. Today, all three props of that edifice are vulnerable. The economy is shaky. A combination of high interest rates and a downbeat mood is keeping consumers from buying and manufacturers from increasing capacities (and so creating jobs).

In economic and foreign policy alike, the government has not fulfilled the potential India had demonstrated. Infrastructure, retail, land acquisition, an agricultural technology revolution, a genuine manufacturing thrust: India has been regurgitating the same promises and citing the problems for a half decade now. Where is the movement?

As for foreign policy, a country that was rewarded with an exceptional nuclear deal three years ago — the rules of global nuclear commerce rewritten only to accommodate India — has reverted to trademark diffidence. It barely counts even in Afghanistan, where the Americans are pushing for talks with the Taliban if only to give Mr Obama space and make symbolic “the tide is turning” gestures for his planned 2012 re-election. In short, India’s decade of good fortune is over.

Of course what this also means is that the supposed India-China rivalry has, in the medium term at least, devolved into a no-contest. India has chosen the worst moment to resort to navel gazing, give its economy sleeping pills and doggedly aim for strategic self-goals. In the past few months, China’s stock has actually risen. Its consumers are beginning to buy more, not enough for the West to be satisfied but more than the Chinese were willing to concede when the financial crisis broke in 2008.

The importance of China to the global economy is difficult for Indians to appreciate. In Canberra, the Prime Minister refuses to meet the Dalai Lama lest China — the largest buyer of Australian commodities — is offended. In something as obscure as the wine trade, expectation of demand from Chinese wine drinkers and collectors is pushing up 2011 prices to levels where these are 20 per cent above an anyway overheated 2010 market. In Asia, middle classes from Indonesia to the Philippines are increasingly looking to a life under the Chinese umbrella.

None of these groups and individuals has an option; and the India of 2011 is not even a ghost of an option.

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Weak government attracts strong troubles

A weak government with string of scandals attract strong troubles. this is clearly evident from the everyday happenings in the UPA government. Baba Ramdev who commands lakhs of followers through his yoga teachings and marketing strategies is the latest personality who challenged the weak kneed UPA. Coalition partners, opposition members, underworld dons, naxalities, external threats and other innumberable troubles keep attacking the government at the centre. Its inept handling is compounding the existing crisis. May be the UPA feels great after putting off Ramdev’s fast at the Ramlila grounds at Delhi. But actually it is weakening its position day by day.

The Deccan Chronicle writes on 6th June 2011

After both sides struck an initial stance of reasonableness, the government reckoned that yoga guru Ramdev was probably disinclined to end his protest campaign at Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds, although he had agreed to do so in a letter submitted the previous day to the government ministers negotiating with him.

Sensing that the Ramdev movement had, in effect, been organised by the RSS, and then finding arch communal troublemaker Sadhvi Rithambara, known for spewing venom against the minorities, was sharing the Ramlila Ground stage with the yoga teacher, it was expected that concern and alarm would follow in official circles, not to say among a broad swathe of public opinion.

The eviction of the saffron-wrapped yoga teacher and his followers by the Delhi police from the Ramlila Grounds past midnight on Saturday thus occasions little surprise. It transpires that Baba Ramdev had sought official permission to hold a “yoga camp” there but instead he nourished a political jamboree seeking to instigate people against the government. This was unfortunate.

Baba Ramdev had told followers that 90 per cent of his demands had already been met. Some of the issues raised by the yoga guru are indeed reasonable. The corruption question finds an echo among all sections of citizens.

It is beyond considerations of party politics and ideology. The Centre, for instance, can without delay clear legislation — one of Ramdev’s key demands — intended to provide relief to ordinary people against petty harassment and bribe-extraction at service delivery points, for instance when picking up a ration card, a driving licence, a water connection or a death certificate.

When governments don’t take care of such basic needs of citizens, they lay themselves open to the charge of imperviousness, and typically fire middle and lower middle class angst, which generally drives protests in urban India.

Worse, in such situations, an absence of governmental initiative makes possible large-scale mobilisation of disgruntled elements — as we saw in the case of Ramdev and Anna Hazare. Such collectives can be exploited to irresponsible ends by demagogues of any hue — from Naxalites on the far left to the communal far right.

Popular concern and frustration with the official machinery has been exacerbated by instances of corruption in high places that have come to light in the last eight or nine months, detracting from the government’s moral authority. Even so, it would be foolish and dangerous if society permitted half-baked ideas of demagogues to take hold, and permit such elements an opportunity to overrun the system.

It cannot be overemphasised that, in particular, the issue of repatriation of black money in foreign tax havens is complex and not amenable to overnight solutions as it presupposes negotiations with foreign governments. The idea of declaring all Indian black money overseas a national asset is even more complicated.

After the police action at Ramlila Grounds, it is a pity that a national party like the BJP lost perspective and begun comparing it with the Emergency. It would be useful to remember that if it were indeed the Emergency once again, the party would not be free to belt out anti-government messages from the podium of its national executive in Lucknow.