PM’s agni pariksha?
On weekends I have some fun on twitter and get in return a sense of the popular mood. So this Sunday when I tweeted in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s defense against charges hurled at him and some of his cabinet colleagues by “Team Anna”, the response was overwhelmingly negative.
Now most among those who came down like a tonne of bricks were internet warriors. They badgered me with hyperbole, exaggeration, invectives and highfalutin nationalistic jargon.
Their arguments didn’t impress me but the ferocity of the attack did. The Premier’s stock is on the decline even among the more reasonable, understated people. There’s an all-round atmosphere of disillusionment with his regime at libraries, the neighborhood mother dairy, the metro rail and clubs with members boasting of erudition.
The case against Singh is of omission. His personal integrity is still not questioned. He’s lampooned largely for abandoning duty, for not measuring up to leadership principles and priorities. That should explain why Anna isn’t entirely on the same page as some of his associates given to the activism of over-reach.
But that’s little comfort for the PM who until recently was the other name for probity and honesty. He cannot set the house in order all by himself. He needs numbers in Parliament to initiate big ticket administrative, economic and policy reforms, a la the Indo-US nuclear agreement where the Congress risked the government and its ties with the Left to ensure the deal.
The pressure isn’t any less on Sonia Gandhi whose party and the coalition it heads is under a two-way attack by those accused of corruption (Andhra’s Jagan Mohan) and those claiming to fight corruption (Anna’s team). But for the floundering BJP, things would have been beyond redemption for the grand old party.
The Singh-Sonia combine must find ways to restore the PM’s authority, the government’s credibility and the Congress’s acceptability. All this would need a magic wand which nobody in the UPA has— not yet. A scalpel then should do to for some surgery at the top before the presidential election.
The next two months will decide the UPA’s future for the next two years.