Sunday, May 22, 2011

I give the UPA-2 a “Meets expectation” 7.5/10 rating.....

Thanks to all the politician bashing that’s going on in the media, I am feeling compelled to defend them! At least wherever its due, we should acknowledge the good work done by the ruling class. As the UPA-2 government completed two years yesterday, it’s mood must have been sombre.....after all, it has been rattled by corruption scandals and accusations almost since July last year. Sifting out the grain from the chaff however reveals some interesting facts.

Let’s evaluate the UPA-2’s performance:

On the economy: The economy faced its biggest challenge starting Sept 2008 and continuing till about April 2010. These one and a half years were disastrous for much of the developed world; they were difficult even for the fast growing emerging economies. India fared reasonably well during this period of time, recording a 6.5% GDP growth rate in the year ending March 2009 and then 8% in the year ending March 2010. We are now talking of growing by 8.5% or so in the next year. India’s position as the fastest growing democracy continues unchallenged. High economic growth is leading to even more investments and consequently the outlook for the future is generally better than it is in most countries. The one major worry on the economic front....though caused largely by external factors (related to oil prices, strife around the globe) is the high inflation rate. There is a perception that the UPA could have done better.....but in my own belief, this perception is more political in nature than based on cold facts. High inflation is a phenomenon around the’s not India’s problem alone. On the economic front, I would give the UPA a 7.5/10 rating.

On security issues: There have been no major terror attacks since Nov 2008 when 26/11 happened. There is generally a consensus that Chidambaram has been able to bring a lot of gravity to his job (of course he did take over from a real nincompoop Shivraj Patil!). He’s managed to galvanize the plethora of security agencies into a more coherent and united fighting force. The recent goof-up about the “Most wanted” terrorists is so small that it takes nothing away from him. It must be remembered also that Police is a subject under state authorities; so Chidambaram cannot do anything with respect to the security in most parts of the country directly. His mandate includes larger issues.....modernization of internal security forces; improving the intelligence set-up; fighting cross-border terrorism etc. I do wish Chidambaram had done more in terms of improving the perception of the security forces and the police. The police in particular continues to be perceived as the most corrupt of all government departments. I would give Chidambaram an 8/10 rating.

On trade: India’s exports have been growing at a feverish pace; fast outpacing the overall GDP growth rate. At nearly $250 billion, India is now in the top 15 exporting countries. While it’s in the top 10 as far as GDP is concerned (in fact, it is #4 in GDP on a PPP basis), its ranking on exports is lower primarily because India has never focused much on exports. The new confidence of Indian businesses of looking at the world as their oyster is now helping propel Indian exports forward. With imports of nearly $350 billion, total trade is $600 billion.....a number that makes India a very important trading partner to the world. It is this trading muscle (and the underlying economic muscle) that is bringing the world’s biggest leaders to India. If India does manage a seat in the UN as a permanent member, it will be because of this economic muscle. I would give Anand Sharma a 9/10 rating.

On governance: There have been accusations against the UPA government on the subject of governance. To a large extent, these have been unnecessarily blown up by media. Chief amongst the embarrassments to the UPA is the entire CVC issue when Thomas refused to quit as the CVC. Why he was appointed one was questionable in the first place; not being able to ask an official to quit is a different and totally unacceptable situation. I am going to talk about corruption charges am not including them here. The affairs in Karnataka with an over-enthusiastic and partisan Governor is also giving the UPA unnecessary blushes. But apart from these two issues, I really cannot think of much to blame the UPA with. I would still give the UPA a lower rating of 5/10 on governance.....largely for its inability to handle the accompanying perception.

On corruption: A pet subject of mine! The Congress has been lambasted for an increased level of corruption. This is a silly argument to start with. Cases of corruption being unearthed relate to the’s not as if the UPA-2 is responsible for having created them. Of course, it hardly helps that the corruption charges related to the period of time when the UPA-1 was in power. My complaint with the corruption charges is that they have been bloated beyond reasonableness. Take the 2G issue. After so many months of sustained investigation, what has the CBI found? ONE link of possible corruption between DB Realty and DMK? That’s it? There is nothing at all on Unitech? What about Reliance? Why are Sanjay Chandra and the Reliance officials then being held in jail? What happened to the Rs 1.76 lac crores of scam? Where is all that money?? I think it was all CAG’s intentional and politically driven activism.....and media’s competitive urge for survival. As I have argued that giving spectrum cheap was the government’s prerogative.....CAG has no right to comment on it. Giving spectrum cheap has brought about a social, cultural and economic revolution in the country lifting so many millions out of poverty. UPA goofed up in not being able to defend it’s actions properly. There WAS corruption in the way Raja flouted procedures....but that sum of money is only some Rs 200 crores. Take the Kalmadi affair. I cannot understand why everyone is acting so stunned. The total charges of corruption against Kalmadi relate to ordering goods and services worth a mere Rs 200 crores. This is the size of the order.....the size of the corruption must be no more than 10% of this. Is that ALL???? Besides, let’s not forget Kalmadi took decisions like many of us have when faced with a time crunch.....he cannot be panned for that. Our media made Kalmadi an ego issue and that’s why it hasn’t bother to apologize to the public for having misled it to believe it to be a Rs 70,000 crore scam. Further, one forgets that Kalmadi was one small cog in a big wheel.....a wheel that includes the BJP as well. There are corruption charges against the BJP led MCD which will soon come out. As also, the charges against this party in the 2G affair will come out soon. The Adarsh scam is one that could be easily avoided in the future by having sensible real estate policies. Increase the FSI in Bombay to 4 or even higher. In fact, make a high FSI mandatory. It’s like the sign on an expressway which says “No stopping” Bombay, in the real estate sector, there should be a sign which reads “No small buildings”! One last point: As I pointed out in a previous post of mine (April 29th, “BJP and Left as corrupt as Congress).....the extent of corruption is the same in all parties. In fact, the Congress comes out the best. In the top 13 corrupt states, 5 are BJP ruled; 4 Congress ruled. Likewise, 5 out of 7 BJP ruled states are in the list of the most corrupt (71% corrupt). Only 4 out of 12 Congress ruled states are in this list (33% corrupt). On corruption issues and taking a positive approach towards making changes, I will give the UPA a 7/10 rating.

Failures: I think the UPA’s failure has been in defending its reputation better. It seems to have become “too decent” for its own good. Accepting mistakes and being introspective is not appreciated in Indian politics....and it now appears, even in English media. I have argued in the past that the Congress must fight dirty.....give it to the opposition where it hurts the most. Bring the attention on the BJP on Karnataka. Apart from the corruption there, ask the question: why is the state faring so poorly on economic growth?

The real truth is that the UPA’s overall rating would still be 7.5/10. Not bad at all! The fact is that the UPA is today led by some very decent people. Both Sonia and Manmohan Singh give the Congress an enviable image of being committed to cleaning up corruption and being personally above board. There are many ministers who are performing exceptionally well: Chidambaram, Pranab, Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni, Praful Patel, Kamal Nath, Antony......some UPA allies like Sharad Pawar and Raja have unfortunately harmed the UPA’s image. But such is coalition politics. One can complain about cannot get out of its grip!


  1. The UPA has ensured that there is a policy paralysis in the government. Very important policies not least like the FDI caps in various sectors have been discussed ad-nauseum but nothing has been done about it. The corruption levels are so high in just about every sector. If you look at the most corrupt states in India, they will ALL be Congress ruled! There is no defending this inept and corrupt government. The economic performance is largely despite the government not at all because of them. And please don't get me started on fiscal responsibility!

  2. SK, you are being unfair! Policy paralysis is a result of the campaign of negativity. Any government would go into paralysis. They were not like this earlier. Regarding corruption, you've got your facts all wrong. Read my post of April 30th which talks about relative corruption of political parties. BJP is 71% corrupt; Congress 33%. Your facts are wrong! Besides the level of corruption is grosslly exaggerated.....what happened to the 1.76 lac crores of 2G "scam". Till date, there is nothing but Rs 200 crores being pinned on Raja! Don't get taken in by all the media hype. It's all driven by an agenda

  3. Iam speechless ! Check your facts dude ! its because of ppl like you, India is in a such a mess.