India's present Government in power is officially termed as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and has completed three years in power this month. In the last three years, this motley coalition headed by the Congress Party has neither been united, nor progressive and nor an effective alliance working towards the betterment of India.
To gain political power in New Delhi, the Congress Party claiming to be the oldest political party, threw political morality to the winds, and embraced a number of regional leaders with narrow political visions. As part of the quid-pro-quo the Congress leadership had to accept tainted Cabinet Ministers with corruption cases in courts against them and some with criminal cases against them. So much, for the 'Progressive' part of this coalition. Further, these regional political satraps reserved the right to drop their Cabinet nominees without the Prime Minister or Sonia Gandhi having a say in it as seen recently in the exit of Communications Minister Maran by the DMK due to family rivalries, notwithstanding that he was a young and dynamic Minister doing a good job.
One wonders whether India's first Congress Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru and the founder of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty would have in a similar situation accepted compromises on political morality to capture political power at any cost. The answer is that it was very unlikely that the Congress under Nehru would have ever compromised on political morality as has been done now under Sonia Gandhi's leadership.
It would be fair to state at the outset that report cards are not like balance sheets where both assets and liabilities are reflected and reconciled. Report cards tend to be more monochromatic where the failures stand underlined in red and are more eye-catching. Of course, if taken in the right spirit and objectively, the failures underlined in red in a report card, could lead to introspection and improvement.
The present Indian Government has to be termed as the Congress Government because the Congress is the single largest party in the coalition and it was Sonia Gandhi as President of the Congress Party who staked her political claim to the President to form the Government in coalition with regional entities. So for all practical purposes this three year report card is of the Congress Government and Sonia Gandhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh happens to be the Chief Executive Officer under the overall command, control and directions of the Congress President. The tendency by Congress spokespersons to differentiate the Congress Party from the UPA Government in terms of policy failures is politically untenable.
The present Column intends to examine at the macro-level the foreign policy, defence and security, internal security and political policies of the Congress Government in the three years of existence so far. It is not the intention here to draw relative comparisons with the previous governments. The focus would be on the record of the last three years and readers can draw their own conclusions in terms of relative comparison.
The Congress Government's main focus in its foreign policy in the last three years was to achieve crowning glory by a speedy and successful materialization of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The second major foreign policy pre-occupation was with Pakistan. As on today, both these major foreign policy obsessions of the Congress Government can said to be failures. In both cases the progress is more rhetorical than substantive. This arises from a misreading of the underlying political intentions of USA and Pakistan. On the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, the policy establishment centered in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was dismissive of India's Atomic Energy Establishment's strategic reservations and the Government deviated from the established convention of attaining bi-partisan political support for its foreign policy initiatives. On Pakistan, the Congress Government much against the prevalent public opinion was in a an appeasement mode, chiefly under US pressure, so that General Musharraf was not destabilized, as he was vital for US strategic interests. In the bargain, it can be said that India's national security interests were ignored.
In the defence and security sphere, vital strategic issues like the demilitarization of Siachen and demilitarization in Jammu and Kashmir were politicized by the Congress Government. A strategic sellout on both these counts would have taken place had there been not an overwhelming public outcry and serious reservations by the security and intelligence establishments.
In terms of defence preparedness, the Indian Air Force deficiencies of 136 combat aircraft continues, affecting the operational capabilities of front line squadrons. The Congress Government has also shied away from the creation of the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff.
India's internal security stands seriously affected by internal security management being politicized due to narrow political considerations of minority vote-banks. Terrorism and proxy war now stands more deeply embedded in heartland India in the absence of deterrent laws and the police establishment being wary that they would be hauled up unnecessarily by their political masters and the Indian media, once again for political gains. The Congress Government on assuming power speedily abolished POTA the deterrent law against terrorism and the pattern of bombings all over India thereafter including India's 9/11 at Mumbai are well recorded.
The Congress Government's political policies in the last three years have focused entirely on scoring brownie points for all sorts of reservations for Indian Muslims, OBCs etc and in the process ignoring the general social and economic upliftment of India's backward sections, irrespective of caste and creed. These policies have been politically and socially divisive for India. The Congress Party seems to forget that the freedom struggle was fought more by people other than the Indian Muslims and OBCs.
In this connection I would like to quote some observations made by NEWSWEEK International Editor Fareed Zakaria in an address in New York. Zakaria is quoted to have said that in India, democracy has not allowed the rule of the majority. (INDIA Abroad). He further added that 'What you see issue after issue, state after state is that powerful minorities, farmers, minority interests have been able to capture the political system and extract government benefits for themselves'.'
India's higher education system which was the engine for India's stupendous growth is being wrecked in this Government's tenure by a Human Resources Minister obsessed with imposing additional reservations in a willful manner. This has been widely resented by India's growing middle class. And this will cost the Congress votes in ensuing elections.
With such a record it was no surprise that the Congress Party has been faced with a string of electoral defeats in Mumbai, Punjab, Uttarkhand, Delhi and the dynasty not having been able to swing Uttar Pradesh in terms of better showing.
The Congress Party, sooner or later would have to discard its obsession with minority and reservation based political philosophies and re-invent itself in tune with a resurgent India whose rise is being powered by Indians who have not been the beneficiaries of Congress Party's political philosophies.