Saturday, June 28, 2008

Minimum PM /Power & Politics/ Mail Today-June 23,2008

Sometime in August last, Manmohan Singh made one of the most ill- timed, ill- advised statements he has ever made as Prime Minister. “If they (the Left) want to withdraw support, so be it” he said in arare interview to a Kolkata newspaper. Since then, the UPA government has been living on daily wages. Manmohan considers the nuclear deal critical to his governance paradigm. With his economy managers unable to contain inflation, the Left obstructing his reforms agenda and his ministerial team lacking in substance, the deal, he hoped, would at least ensure his place in history. But he sized up Prakash Karat wrong. Those who have dealt with Karat will tell you that compromises don’t come naturally to him, draw him out for aduel and Karat transforms into aformidable fighter. In an earlier column, Ihad written about what has now become regular feature in this regime –the meeting of the UPA- Left coordination committee on the nuke deal. The two sides get together every now and then and decide to do nothing more than meet again in afew month’s time. Last Wednesday, they were to meet for the ninth time but there were afew twists, so they decided to meet aweek later. But ominously, by late evening, TV channels reported that Manmohan had threatened to quit if the deal, whose deadline is staring his government in the face, is not done. Success has many fathers and failure none. The deal is as good as dead and the Congress Party, instead of rallying around the good doctor is busy preparing a charge- sheet against him for bringing the party to such apass in an election year. But if blame were to be apportioned, the party leadership should split it in equal measure. Aseries of flaws accompanied what is perhaps the most contentious bilateral agreement India has ever signed. The Congress leadership failed to build apolitical consensus around the deal. The media hype and active involvement of corporate houses and US lobbyists in pursuing the deal put so much pressure on the political system, it hardened opposition to it. Some Opposition leaders were shocked to hear from American interlocutors who came to India to convince them about the deal that the Congress party had assured them of support of a majority of the political parties while the reality is they did not even try. It could have activated senior party to reach out to the NDA to build apolitical consensus on the matter which would have isolated the Left, but didn’t. The managers bungled. There is amoral to this story. Ahead of government can lead from the front only if he has the political mandate and the authority that goes with it. Manmohan didn’t have either, yet did what he thought was right. He made promises but couldn’t deliver. In politics, you seldom get asecond chance. The weekend saw his miseries pile up. South Block keeps mum on anews report which says India has been sitting on massive reserves of uranium enough to feed our energy requirements for 40 years. It’s astory that knocks the bottom out of Manmohan’s case that the country needs foreign uranium for energy. Worse, with inflation at 11+, a13- year high, the credibility of the economist in Manmohan stands eroded. And so the beginning of the end. Minimum Karat: Formidable

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