The Achiever & “The Underachiever”
Now even Time has delivered a nasty jolt to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, when it declared the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “The Underachiever”. It is noteworthy that some time back the same Time magazine had done a cover feature on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, praising him as a great achiever as he “means business”. It looks as if Indian masses are crazy for Narendra Modi and that is why the national and international media now sharply focussed on Modi’s able leadership. But it is a shame for India that on the latest cover of its Asian edition, Time magazine says in its blurb: “The Underachiever. India needs a reboot. Is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh up to the job?” Writing under the caption, “A Man In Shadow”, the magazine describes Singh as someone “unwilling to stick his neck out” on reforms that will put the country back on the path of growth. “Investors at home and abroad are beginning to get cold feet. Voters too are losing confidence, as rising inflation and a litany of scandals chip away at the government’s credibility,” it says, adding that Singh has “wasted the past three years”.
So another verdict is out and it has further rubbed salt into the wound of the Congress. Perception all round are that the UPA II has been an all-round failure. It has failed to deliver the goods and measure itself up to the expectations of people. Not many would like to give it a mandate to rule the country again. That the UPA has been sliding on performance ever since it came to power in 2009 has been stated repeatedly in these columns. It has been trapped in governance freeze and policy paralysis with the party and the government pulling in different directions on crucial issues. The general level of satisfaction over the performance of the Prime Minister and the government is low and the disenchantment runs high even among those people who had backed the government in 2009. Obviously, the biggest issues where the government is perceived to have failed to deliver are controlling prices, inability to check corruption and tread the path of reforms. The inflation scenario shows no sign of easing and prices of essential commodities are shooting up, affecting people across the class spectrum. The rupee is falling each day. Against this backdrop, the government does not seem to be taking the route of reforms. Furthermore, the country is witnessing a collapsing Sensex, the global rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgrading India’s outlook, and the news that industrial output contracted by 3.5 per cent, bringing the average industrial growth rate for the last fiscal year almost as low as it was during the global financial crisis in 2008-09. The litany of scandals during the last three years has taken away the country’s image and confidence of its people in the country’s ability to outperform other emerging economies.
This gloomy scenario becomes murkier by the statement of the Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid. While talking to an English daily, Mr Khurshid said the root of problems plaguing the Congress was the lack of “ideological direction” from its next generation leader Rahul Gandhi. He said: “We need a new ideology to meet contemporary challenges… Until now we have only seen cameos of his thought and ideas like democratising elections to the Youth Congress. But he has not weaved all of this into a grand announcement. This is a period of waiting.” One hopes Mr Khurshid’s bold statement would infuse candour into the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to right the wrong. For, it seems to be a mockery of things that in spite of having an economist Prime Minister, the UPA government at the Centre lacks in orientation in combating the above-mentioned issues, which are eating into the vitals of the country. In short, the country is heading for a major political and economic crisis, but the Prime Minister and his coalition are living in a world of their own.
Verbosity is not an alternative to policy, as the UPA is endeavouring to cover up its shortcomings through sermonisation. This was supposed to be India’s time, India’s century. We were regarded in international circles as the next superpower, a rising tiger. But our political ineptitude has ensured that we miss the bus, once again. This is not the first time India has squandered opportunities. India’s economic history is full of instances where we failed to seize the moment and our political inaction ensured that we remain a third world pariah. Success only comes to individuals and nations who act decisively when the moment comes. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is behaving like a poor & hapless leader. If at all the PM failed to deliver, why the UPA Chairperson is not taking responsibility to see that the government should at least run? The sycophant-dynasty loyalists like Khurshid and Digvijay Singh have pronounced many times to install the Gandhi scion to lead the government. So it is high time Sonia Gandhi took a hard decision to save both the government and the Congress. Or is she waiting for Pranabda, for extra-constitutional protection of her son who has proved fruitless for the Congress till now?