The Prime Minister held a press conference, one of his rare ones, on January 3 this year. There were a lot of expectations from people but this columnist always thought the Prime Minister will stick to the conventional form of communication, which he did. There were two things which he said that were different one good and the other negative. The good one was that for the first time he made a direct comment that if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister it would be disastrous and he said a strong Prime Minister should not mean allowing innocent people to die on the streets of Ahem. That I think he should have said long back but still better a bit late then never. The negative part is that when he was asked about the performance and scams etc., he came up with excuses that were not expected from him. He said most of the scams relate to the UPA-I period and then the people had given them a mandate for UPA-II. Well this picture tells only the half truth.
People have given them the mandate at a time when they didn’t know about the scams. Everybody thought that the growth rate was good, everything was good. In UPA-II period the UPA-I scams came out of the cupboard, and the whole reputation of the Government has gone. This brings us to the more important points. What really is the performance of UPA-II? Two things I must say. One, it is true that because of CAG’s reports and rather strongly-worded reports, the image of the Government took a beating from which it could never recover. However, the Government could have done damage control. It could have cancelled the illegal licenses on its own instead of waiting for the Supreme Court to do so. It could have canceled the coal block allocations which it still has not done. The Government itself did not, they were dragging its feet. More important than that, in the UPA-II period apart from the scams the real economy has not done well. That is not so much due to the fault of this Government. The world economy is at a low level now. Exports have taken a beating because Europe and America are not doing that well. But unfortunately because of the scams and because of this dual authority between the Congress President and the Prime Minister, there has been total lack of management. And Ministers like Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma etc. who are very close to the Prime Minister, they talked to the press in a very patronising way, as if they have the answers to all the questions. They have forgotten that they had been elected and again they have to get elected. A little humility would have gone a long way to retrieve the image of this Government. Unfortunately, arrogance of power has made them all drunk. The Prime Minister is right that way — history will not be so harsh on him as the contemporary media and all of us are. That is because five-years in a country is not a big period. The UPA-II after all has ruled only for five years. Five years have so many situations the world over and you have to do fire fighting all the time.
The status of initiatives now, like giving a boost to manufacturing etc. will take time to pick up. Yes, lots could have been done. I am not giving him a clean chit. When UPA-II began, it could have taken up a massive infrastructural program, and a massive manufacturing program. They started so little too late. In 2011 they have got out a manufacturing policy. Two, two and half year is so little. Similarly, roadways, highways, there is a big dispute between the Road Ministry and some advisors to the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. Nothing gets moved between the two of them. In the NDA Government’s time, the average road building was 11 kms a day. In UPA-I plus II combined it will not be even 3 or 4 kms a day and UPA-II will be worse than UPA-I. This does not augur well for an economist Prime Minister assisted by an able Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. I think this is where they have really bowed down. But the overall assessment is average. The Government has not been too great, it has not been too bad. The scams related to the UPA-I period but UPA-II did try to solve the problems day by day, because the problems were too big and their ability was limited.