The Congress once again has shown that it has no match in the matter of political skulduggery. At a meeting hosted by the Congress trouble-shooter Pranab Mukherjee, the BJP inexplicably caved in on the issue of price rise after the week-long blockade of the Parliament. The Congress managed to achieve what it had been maintaining since July 27, when the House was first adjourned after the ruckus over skyrocketing price rise, that it was ready for a discussion under rule 193, which does not have voting. However, the Opposition led by the BJP, including UPA’s supporting parties such as the BSP, the SP and the RJD, had been adamant on a censure motion. The result—the week-long parliamentary impasse over how to discuss the price issue. After Pranabda’s initiative, the Congress emerged as the victorious. The BJP too tried to show as if it had defeated the Tartar. And the obvious loser was the aam aadmi! Though both the parties, especially the Congress never tire of claiming to champion the cause of aam aadmi, it is now no secret to gauge how tangible the claim is! If the BJP had to ‘feather’ its cap with the compromise formula, crores of rupees from the public exchequer and the precious time of the two Houses could have been saved, if it had concurred with it sooner. It is difficult to escape a sense of cynicism about the compromise exercise.
Although in this round the Congress might have stole a march on the BJP, the truth about the spiralling prices is well known. The Congress positioned itself since 2004 as the well-wisher of aam aadmi pledging to work for his interests. But the relentless rise in prices of essential commodities—particularly the food items—has broken the back of the common man. Even as the Centre is touting an 8 per cent growth rate and painting a rosy picture of our progress, the harsh reality is that starvation deaths are on the rise. For all its glib talk and brave yet empty rhetoric, the UPA has failed in its basic responsibility towards the nation. The government is callous enough to derive pride and satisfaction from an impressive annual economic growth but is it of any consequence to a billion people who are confronted by an uncertain future? The government should be held responsible for allowing foodgrains to rot in the absence of storage facility. It is to be noted that in India, 3 per cent of the people earn about Rs 20 per day, 40 per cent eat one meal a day and about 40 per cent eat whatever is available. That means only 20 per cent eat according to their choice. Here, it is worth mentioning what Sitaram Yechury disclosed the fact in the House during the price rise debate that is the number of billionaires in our country has doubled from 26 to 52—the combined asset value of these 52 individuals today is equal to 25 per cent of our GDP. This shows the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. In this backdrop, the callousness and irresponsibility in rotting of foodgrains is unmatched in history. Official estimates have put out a figure of rotting foodgrains at 61,000 tonnes, but it is an under-statement. Further, the government is insensitive to the plight of common citizens, as it is busy with allowing people to generate private wealth in the name of Commonwealth Games. The whole nation watches with anger that it is not merely the stadiums which are leaking; it is the government’s coffers which are leaking too. Corruption in the tendering process of National Highway Authority of India is quite evident, as different ministers are at loggerheads with each other. What is more, the government appears to be clueless about handling the Kashmir issue and there is no concrete policy to deal with Maoists and Islamic jehadis. Moreover, India went ahead with talks with Pakistan and later realised it was a misadventure. In fact, the UPA has become a divided house—somebody sitting in Kolkata can arm-twist the central government anytime. Likewise in Chennai, DMK’s writ runs so prominently large that the Centre cannot dare interfere in its functioning. It was evident when the central government was not able to use its investigative agencies to probe allocation of 2G spectrum for the telecom companies. Instead, CBI was used against the BJP in Gujarat. And furthermore, National Advisory Council’s rebirth seems determined to bend the government to its will. The Prime Minister, who looks frailer than ever and seems disconnected from government’s affairs, is merely a spectator when all this is going on.