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E D I T O R I A L

Dr Manmohan Singh can now go in for bold policies
by H.K. Dua

On the surface, this nation of a billion people seems to be forgiving in nature, but often in the past it has chosen to throw into the dustbin the rulers who came to power on the basis of false slogans or tried to use power for themselves and not for the people.

This time the people have seen through the bloated ambitions of many leaders who could have played havoc with the country and frustrated its efforts to take major strides it has been preparing itself for during the last few years.

There has to be some reason for them to be discriminating in exercising their choice by returning the Manmohan Singh government to power when many a time the people have outrightly rejected the incumbents for no other reason than they were not able to live up to their expectations.

Despite the thriving tribe of cynics and pundits parading their ignorance of the people, Dr Manmohan Singh’s government has been in fact voted back to power with greater numbers and an assured mandate for five years.

Most political leaders, particularly of the BJP who think they are always right, are now admitting that they did not understand the mind of the people. Many of them were trying to whip up passions by hiring the services of such rabble-rousers as Varun Gandhi, or by using grisly events of 26/11 for partisan purposes and not for uniting the nation against terrorism, or scoring brownie points instead of winning elections.

The other set of leaders, thanks to their dialectical ability that often stands in their way of feeling the pulse of the people, did not visualise that the Third Front of the ragtag regional parties, or ambitious leaders, would fall apart and won’t even have time for wiping the Left’s tears over the fate it has met. Some of the Left leaders in their inner-party conclaves are now admitting in their confessionals that they were out of touch with the people’s mood. They never understood the basic law that governs political dynamics that vaulting ambitions without taking people into account are bound to hit the ground.

One reason why the people have voted for political stability as well as continuity of Dr Manmohan Singh’s policies is their feeling that the country is safe in his hands and that he ought to be given another five years to finish the unfinished agenda and also to steer the country to achieve new goals. The people believed his and the Congress party’s promises and not those of the makeshift opposition combines.

This kind of trust in a leader and the political party places tremendous responsibility on them. The greater the trust, the greater is the responsibility. Neither the Prime Minister, nor the Congress party can afford to fail them.

Dr Manmohan Singh has already a core team of his senior ministers in place. And despite the shenanigans of M. Karunanidhi – who landed in Delhi with a planeload of quarrelling members of his clan – to grab as many as portfolios as he could. The Prime Minister should be able to complete his team by Tuesday and soon after go on the air to spell out his priorities for his second term in South Block.

The Prime Minister cannot afford to start on a tentative note; and having been assured the support of over 300 MPs in the Lok Sabha, he can surely go in for bolder decisions than he took in the previous term when the DMK could make him reverse Cabinet decisions and the Left applied brakes on some of the key economic reforms.

The new government will need time until July to come out with a regular budget. The Prime Minister can, meanwhile, go in for non-budgetary measures which can give an idea of how he is going to move from 6 per cent growth to 9 per cent growth, meeting at the time the needs of the aam admi. It is, however, easier to list the twin-tasks in party manifestos than to accomplish them at a vast canvas that is India. The dispersal of jobs and the gains of growth to those who have been denied these over decades would require a massive effort.

Too many other tasks would need the attention of the new government. For instance, Dr Manmohan Singh’s agenda for creating a knowledge society, which was assiduously sought to be frustrated by the then HRD Minister, Arjun Singh, can now be put on a fast track without anyone daring to block it.

Providing adequate health care for the vast sections of the people who don’t have access to it would require a high priority. Also, the needs of the girl child, women, senior citizens and other disadvantaged groups that form a big chunk of the population require a caring hand of the State.

What cannot be neglected the challenges to national security such as from the Naxalites whose activities have spread to over 160 districts. Also, there are serious threats to India’s security from across the borders. The situation in India’s neighbourhood, particularly in Pakistan, cannot be ignored by the new government. For those, who do not wish India well, 26/11 was not the last terrorist attack. The nation has to prepare itself in advance were the terrorists to go in for another surprise strike against India – an eventuality that cannot be ruled out.

There are also wider foreign policy and strategic issues which would require the government’s attention in a fast-changing world scene.

Dr Manmohan Singh’s plate will indeed be full in the second term. His hands, however, will be freer this time than earlier. Small groups will no longer be able to exercise political blackmail and frustrate policies and decisions as they used to do in the past. As in the case of the nuclear deal, he can go in for bold policies.

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