Smiles and trials

Although the 2G octopus has surfaced again, its tentacles striking in all directions after the Supreme Court cancelled the 122 licences to telecom operators, 2012 seems to be going well for the UPA. The CBI trial court has absolved home minister P. Chidambaram of any complicity with former telecom minister A. Raja. While this may not be the final word on the matter, but whatever the outcome, this issue will have no impact on the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
The Supreme Court may have given the UPA something to smile about, but the mess brought on by its poor governance in 2011 will continue to haunt the coalition. For starters, the apex court has debunked the UPA’s theory of “zero loss to the exchequer” in the 2G spectrum scam.
Certain spokespersons of the ruling coalition, appearing in various panel discussions on news channels, have been trying to implicate the NDA regime for the 2G spectrum mess. Surely, blaming the NDA for a decision taken by the UPA government is insulting the intelligence of the voting public.
Many politicians are addicted to hearing their own voice, but harsh words often weaken the discretion required of those at the top of the power pyramid. The fact of the matter is that the UPA made serious errors in allowing the DMK to commit these criminal acts. Mr Raja has been in jail for over a year now and K. Kanimozhi spent close to six months behind bars before she was released on bail.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was dependent on the UPA at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu, yet it was allowed to indulge in criminal acts. Now, both the DMK and the Congress face a grim electoral future in Tamil Nadu. Ten DMK ministers have already been arrested on charges of possession of disproportionate assets. Sheer greed prevented the DMK from sharing the spoils with anyone else and that is why no one in the Congress, either at the Centre or in the state, has been charged in the 2G spectrum case.
While electoral challenges will continue in various states, the UPA at the Centre must focus on performance.
I was happy to read Mr Chidambaram’s comments on the Koodankulam nuclear power project issue. He said on February 4 that the Centre was probing the flow of funds allegedly received by anti-project activists. As India hurtles towards superpower status, every available stick will be used to beat it down in the global power equations. So while it is necessary for the government to act, especially in view of persisting security threats, the conspiracy theory the Congress is trying to weave has few takers.

Uttar Pradesh is proving difficult to read with every passing day. A hundred different trends apply to each of its 403 Assembly seats. As the poll campaign begins to peak, I see the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) ahead of the Congress, with the BJP a distant fourth. While the BSP and SP can get 270-300 seats between them, 130 and 150 seats respectively, I still see the Congress as a threat with its 70-90 seats. The only thing holding back my upward assessment of the Congress is the fact that it has a weak organisation base in the state. This will make it difficult for the party to fare as well in the upcoming Assembly polls as it did in the last two Lok Sabha elections.
In the Uttar Pradesh elections, every seat matters and every constituency is witnessing a tough electoral battle. Look at the effort being put in by chief minister Mayawati, SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav, while the Congress charge is being led rather forcefully by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. The efforts of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are commendable. The latter is fighting for every vote in Rae Bareli and Amethi (which together account for 10 Assembly seats) and the Congress may well win eight seats here.
The BJP, sadly, is out of the picture in Uttar Pradesh. In normal circumstances, star campaigners like Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj would have made at least four to five election tours to the state, but its leaders have no time to campaign. They are too busy destroying each other. Multiple power centres in RSS-BJP bode ill for the BJP in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh where polls are due towards the end of 2012.

The economic crisis in the West has resulted in many countries taking steps to protect their national interests, ranging from immigration and outsourcing curbs to imposing punitive taxes to protect local industry. The West applies the free-trade principle in a very selective, often discriminatory, manner.
Why should we then, in the name of free trade, allow cheap imports which make us dependent on “others” for production and distribution of energy? Just like it is with terrorism, there are sleeper units within the country that act as “lobbyists” of foreign business interests.
In my view, certain sectors will have to be restricted to Indian companies. Every country protects its interests and we too have to choose our options very carefully. This is where the relevance of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs is felt.

The writer is a former Union minister

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