Time’s short and the task daunting for UPA
The possibility of a mid-term poll in the country is remote— no matter who says what. I’ve held this view and even written about it in the aftermath of the poll results that shocked the Congress and had a sobering influence on the BJP.
While it might suit the BJP to keep the speculation alive, its objective primarily is be put the UPA off-balance and show it as a dysfunctional coalition. Short of a snap poll, the saffron parivar, which won Goa but fell short of expectations in UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand, will use every trick in the book to embarrass the ruling combine in the ongoing budget session of Parliament.
No, I’m not taking about cut motions on money bills that can bring down the regime. The BJP and other elements in the Opposition benches, especially the Akalis, will seek to stall policies and programmes that can resurrect the UPA’s failing image.
The schemes on the radar of UPA’s adversaries might include FDI in retail, the food security bill, the direct tax code, the proposed land acquisition and compensation law and the national counter terrorism centre. India is a Union of States and not a federation. But the Opposition wouldn’t be shy of presenting an exaggerated picture of the State’s federal features to put a finger in every pie the Centre cooks.
To ward-off the BJP led onslaught, the UPA will urgently need to place its house in order. How? Well, it must setup without further delay a coordination committee of coalition partners where such proposals are discussed in advance to avoid any public display of differences within the alliance.
And to make the arrangement work better, the Congress has to strengthen its numbers in the two Houses of Parliament by settling the terms of engagement with the BSP and if possible the Samajwadi Party.
The BSP should be amenable to reason. After the drubbing she got in UP, Mayawati’s natural impulse will be to be in power or at least on the right side of it at the Centre. Likewise, it suits Mamata Banerjee to use her clout to get a good financial package for the bankrupt West Bengal rather than risk a mid-term poll when her popularity is a notch or two down after the thumping victory in the assembly elections.
Mamata also knows the Left parties do not want early polls. They will be too happy to lend the UPA the numbers if the Trinamool chooses to walk out.
But the UPA’s real challenge will be to walk the tight rope while pushing reforms and pro-people programmes. Arrogance will have to be replaced with a sense of accommodation, riposte with reason and a lax, opaque administration with efficiency and transparency. Without these attributes, an honourable survival might elude the Congress-led political conglomerate. It must remember that there are battles to be fought in Delhi, Himachal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat before the 2014 war for the next Lok Sabha. Time’s short and the task daunting.