Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Power & Politics/ Mail Today, July 06, 2009

WE ELECT a government in the hope that it will stay in office for a full five years. So it’s somewhat meaningless to judge a government by what has been achieved in its first 100 days.

If the people don’t expect miracles to happen in the first 100 days of a new government, why is Manmohan Singh selling dreams by asking his cabinet colleagues to roll out a 100 day agenda for their respective ministries? It’s actually a scary prospect as it raises expectations of the public and fuels misplaced enthusiasm among ministers.

That perhaps explains why as the government approaches the 50th day of its first 100 days, less than half a dozen of the 32 cabinet ministers have done the prime minister’s bidding and drawn up a time bound agenda. For their troubles, they are still collecting the flak. Take a look: Law Minister Veerappa Moily promised to put in place a package of judicial reforms by September but is being pilloried by his own party, the press and the public alike for his comments on gays; HRD minister Kapil Sibal introduced a slew of packages to tackle the mess in the education sector but now even his partymen are accusing him of being “ overenthusiastic” and ignoring the views of the states; Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy announced a 100 day package for urban renewal but is now facing the wrath of environmentalists.

That these and the other ministers who announced 100 day programmes are all from the Congress should come as no surprise. Because, this is what coalition dharma is all about. Congress ministers are more likely to fall in line while ministers from alliance parties have their own priorities. Mamata Banerjee was so busy with panchayat elections in West Bengal, I wonder where she found time for the railway budget she unveiled last Friday; Sharad Pawar has his hands full repairing the damages in the NCP-Congress alliance in time for the Maharashtra assembly elections later this year; the DMK troupe couldn’t care less about prime ministerial 100 day directives; they have their own longer term agenda.

But thank God for small mercies. Murli Deora would have had to eat his words and tear up his agenda papers since among his first major decisions has been to order an increase in the prices of petroleum products, a move that has even the allies, not to speak of the opposition parties, baying for his blood. The home ministry has prepared an omnibus 100 day agenda that seeks to “secure internal security and preserve communal harmony” but P Chidambaram will be busy the next few days picking the brains of his cabinet colleagues Moily and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to formulate the government's response to the Delhi High Court’s landmark verdict decriminalising homosexuality.

I am sure this is not what the ministers set out to do. The people of this country do not judge their rulers by what they have achieved in the first 100 days or even the first 200 days. Just as they take time to make assessments, our ministers also should take their time but do a good job.

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