enters into risky alliance By
NEW DELHI - A
10-day-long political soap opera in India has come
to an end.
By confirming its support for
the governing United Progressive Alliance, the
Samajwadi Party has eased threats to the existence
of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's governing
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) raised by the
exit of key member the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee, aka Didi, last
week withdrew her support for the coalition over
planned petroleum price hikes, legislation that
will allow foreign direct investment in retail and
corruption scandals, likely concerned these would
impact on her pro-poor, anti-globalization image.
Didi's move was perhaps
the maverick leader earlier pressurized Singh to
sack the railways minister, Mukul Roy, for daring
to introduce a controversial railway fare hike.
The TMC's withdrawal of its 19
parliamentarians left the UPA two seats short of a
273-seat majority, leading to talk of a snap
election. However, the support of the Samajwadi
Party with its 22 parliamentarians has saved the
alliance - for now.
Questions have been
raised over the future political survival of the
UPA, and Singh, as opposition parties will not
ease up on the ruling alliance over the
Commonwealth games, 2-G mobile phone "Coal-gate"
scandals. Inflation also rose more than expected
to 7.55% in August, driven by higher prices of
food and manufactured items.
liken the government's reform efforts as desperate
attempt to arrest Singh's image as a
"non-performer" in the eyes of Western media,
pointing to him allowing FDI in retail, and
improving Indian risk to foreign capital with a
slew of measures like reducing taxation on foreign
borrowings from 20% to 5%.
tenure has been a tale of economic disappointments
and policy paralysis as growth declined to 5.5%
(in April-June quarter) from an average of 8.5 %
an annum from 2003 to 2011.
electoral capital of his own, Singh merely appears
to be filling a prime ministerial berth as Rahul
Ghandi, son of the ruling Congress Party President
Sonia Ghandi, is groomed for the role.
Though Rahul has never talked openly on
the issue, the Congress had historically been
unwilling to abandon a socialist and protectionist
stance. Congress' declining popularity with the
aam-aadmi (common man) is another reason
why Singh's liberalization drive may be
It was Singh who supported
the Indo-US nuclear deal, while Sonia was the
initiator of pro-poor public spending under "UPA
2", which has been in power for three years.
Coupled with a non-conducive political
environment, especially as the Samajwadi Party's
chief, Singh Yadav, has promised to support a
motion against FDI in retail, the road to reform
does not appear smooth.
opportunism also underscore the likelihood he
could pull the plug on UPA 2, particularly as he
mentioned the prospect of an early national
election last year and has spoken of the need for
a "third front" of regional parties to counter the
dominance of Congress and the opposition Bharatiya
His alliance with UPA 2
could well be a check on his staunch rival,
Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which
the SP trounced in March's Uttar Pradesh assembly
elections. SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said
his party had aligned with the UPA to "keep away
the communal forces".
For its part, the
UPA is not unaware of its dependence on the Uttar
Pradesh behemoths, the SP and the BSP, without
which it would stand discredited in leading a
majority government from New Delhi.
many prime ministerial aspirants among those
lending support to the UPA could translate into an
unwarranted pressure on the center for a rollback
of reforms that could well push Congress over the
With the Gujarat and Himachal
Pradesh Assembly elections scheduled for November
and December the coming winter may turn into a
season of re-firming up of political lines as the
fairweather friend of the Congress, Singh Yadav,
goads regional satraps.
Bhardwaj is a New Delhi-based freelance
journalist. She can be reached at
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