UPA Unmasked:

Intensify Mass Struggles against this Corrupt, Callous and Repressive Regime

It has now been one year since the incumbent UPA government assumed office in May 2009. Going by the poll-time promises and pronouncements of the Congress, “inclusive development” was to have been the keyword for the UPA-II. A government that cares for the aam aadmi, a government that would deliver essentials like employment guarantee and food security – this was the great promise that saw the UPA comfortably return to power in the last Lok Sabha election. But at the end of the first year, the poll promises are mostly forgotten – the rhetoric of food security has been overshadowed by the grim reality of unprecedented food inflation even as the government is preoccupied with Operation Green Hunt, threatening to gag every dissenting voice under the draconian UAPA. It’s time the ruling coalition renamed itself as the UAPA government!
The big promise of food security turned into the UPA’s biggest act of betrayal. On the one hand, agricultural growth rate went further downhill, turning negative last year, and on the other hand, food prices kept spiraling away. Just when the threat of starvation loomed larger and larger and more and more people badly needed some food support, the UPA government stopped paying even lip-service to its food security rhetoric! A shameless UPA government even went so far as to cite food inflation as the reason for delaying the food security legislation! And the draft of the government’s intended food security framework indicated a further dilution of the existing PDS provisions, with no signs of any serious correcting move to end the BPL fiasco.
Along with food prices, fuel prices too contributed heavily to the general surge in prices of almost all essential commodities. Fertiliser prices were hiked on the eve of the budget, while the budget itself announced yet another major increase in fuel prices. Having survived the cut motion voting in parliament, the government has again returned to announcing fresh hikes in fuel prices. As a special anniversary gift to the people, the government has already announced a massive hike in CNG and piped gas prices and an Empowered Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to meet on June 7 to decide on freeing petrol and diesel prices! As the UPA completes the first year of its second term, the people can expect celebratory fireworks in the form of a fresh surge in prices.
Corruption has emerged as another hallmark of this government. When the country was reeling under back-breaking inflation, UPA ministers were busy with the money-spinning corporate carnival of the IPL. By easing the flamboyant Sashi Tharoor out of office, the government hopes to hush up the entire IPL racket, but the chinks are clearly showing in the armour of different ministries. From A Raja of DMK to Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of the NCP, the list of tainted ministers is getting longer.
Even after the Central Vigilance Commission recommended a CBI probe into the 2G spectrum scam and the CBI raided telecom minister A Raja’s office in October 2009, the UPA government has been protecting the minister in the name of ‘coalition dharma’. And now they are trying to brush the 2G scam under the 3G carpet by pointing to the ‘unexpected’ earnings of Rs. 67,710 crore in 3G auction. Let us however note that even the 3G booty is pretty small by global standards – a similar auction in the UK had fetched almost three times as much amount way back in 2000 (£22.47bn in 2000 as against £8.3 billion yielded by the 3G auction in India in 2010). And if the 3G license could be auctioned through competitive bidding why on earth did the ministry issue the 2G license on a hush-hush first-come-first-served basis?
This corrupt corporate-friendly government is also proving to be extremely callous and arrogant. When Shashi Tharoor equated economy class to cattle class, many might have thought it was a slip of the tongue (keyboard?) on the part of an inexperienced politician who is yet to master the language of mass communication. But what about a seasoned politician like Sharad Pawar who advised the people to stop taking sugar if they found sugar prices too high? Or for that matter, what about the ‘leader of the masses’ Mamata Banerjee who blames passengers for a stampede caused by the criminal inefficiency and negligence of her own department? These are not aberrations, but characteristic glimpses of governance, UPA style!
The BJP often accuses the UPA government of speaking in multiple voices while some media analysts paint a picture of drift and disarray. Well, Jairam Ramesh’s statement issued in China, describing the Home Ministry’s attitude to Chinese telecom companies operating in India as “alarmist and paranoid”, was surely sacrilegious not only for the Congress but for the entire Indian ruling elite – and Ramesh will surely have to pay a price as Tharoor has had to do for his acts of indiscretion. But to try and find a real contradiction between Digvijay Singh and P Chidambaram, or what is even more ridiculous, between Sonia Gandhi’s article in “Congress Sandesh” and the Manmohan-Chidambaram take on Maoism and internal security is only height of wishful thinking. The BJP would of course like to push the discourse further rightward and towards a harder state so it can regain its lost initiative and brush up its faded identity, but the Left and democratic forces will only be befooled if they take the so-called ‘differences’ within the Congress too seriously.
Behind all these ‘multiple voices’ there is a singularity of purpose – to confuse the opposition and the people and hold on to power. The way the Congress first accepted the Telangana statehood demand and then referred it to Justice Sri Krishna Committee, not to mention the divisive game it played on this issue by whipping up people’s sentiments, or the way it got the women’s reservation bill passed in the Rajya Sabha only to put it back in cold storage are no ordinary flip-flops. These are all characteristic features of an unscrupulous power game that India’s oldest ruling party is quite adept in playing. It played it at the time of the nuke deal vote in 2008 and it played it again to defeat the cut motions on April 27.
The people of India are however not amused and will certainly not remain silent spectators to the Congress power games. The popular response to the April 27 Bharat Bandh, the renewed spurt in worker-peasant struggles in different parts of the country and the voices of protest against the UPA’s UAPA-OGH regime are a clear pointer to the shape of things to come.