M A I N   N E W S

Day of the Yadavs as UPA-II turns 3
Message to Mamata: Mulayam & Lalu join ruling combine’s party
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, May 22
When the UPA allies lined up for the customary photo-op to mark its third anniversary, the group which held aloft copies of the annual report card listing the government’s achievements included two unexpected faces - Samajdwadi Party leader Mulayum Singh Yadav and Rashtriaya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The political significance of this seemingly routine exercise was not lost on the audience which had gathered on the lawns of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s official residence this evening for the get-together. Coming at a time when the ruling combine’s image has taken a severe beating and it is looking to shore up its numbers for the upcoming Presidential election, it was a clear signal to opponents and allies like Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee that the UPA has more than its share of friends.

Confident with the line-up of supporters, Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke tough in her speech, indicating that the party will adopt a more aggressive stance vis-a-vis its political rivals. Hitting out at opposition parties, she said "Our opponents are targeting us, and many times level baseless allegations against us. We have been patient and diginified in our response.." The sub-text was: our restraint should not be seen as a sign of our weakness. She used the occasion to underline the glue of secularism which binds the UPA.” We are committed to strengthen secular values,” she said.

The two Yadavs are not members of the UPA government but only extend outside support to it. Yet, they were given pride of place on the dias along with other UPA partners and later seated at the high table with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Although Lalu Prasad Yadav has been extended this honour in the past as a member of the UPA-I government, this is the first time that Mulayum Singh Yadav was shown this same courtesy which demonstrates the increasing clout of the Samajwadi Party at the Centre, particularly after it formed the government in Uttar Pradesh..

The growing proximity between the Congress and the SP would prove to be dampener to other non-Congress parties which had hoped that Mulayam Singh Yadav would join them in opposing the UPA presidential candidate. The SP leader clearly showed which side he is on. Trinamool chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, who has been giving the Congress a tough time, would be particularly disappointed as she had hoped to team up with SP in derailing Congress plans in the Presidential poll. Mamata stayed away from today’s function but her MPs were present in full strength.

Congress leaders were visibly pleased over today’s development, especially as Mulayum’s support is critical for the election of its Presidential candidate. “This is a clear message that the Congress has the numbers on its side,” remarked a Congress minister. Others chose to play down, saying Congress did not differentiate between its allies and outside supporters.




No policy paralysis: PM
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, May 22
Firmly rejecting the charge that his government suffered from policy paralysis, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today claimed that the UPA II regime had made considerable achievements during its three years in office while making it clear that "difficult decisions" would have to be taken on both spending and revenue mobilisation in the coming days.

Presenting the UPA government's 'Report to the People' on its completion of three years in office at a dinner he hosted for leaders of the Congress and its allies at his residence, he also stated that his government was committed to combat corruption through both legislative and administrative measures.

"Legislation is before Parliament to establish a Lokpal, ensure time-bound delivery of goods and services and judicial accountability," the

PM said, while noting that there was public frustration and anger on the issue of corruption.

The dinner was attended by top UPA leaders, including Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK leader T R Baaalu, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was represented by a party colleague.

Manmohan Singh asserted that despite an adverse international environment, the economy grew by about 7 per cent in 2011-12, which is amongst the highest in the world. "Sustained high rates of growth during the UPA government's tenure have enabled us to pursue our agenda of inclusive and equitable growth," he said.

Listing other achievements of his government aimed at bringing succour to the 'aam aadmi', the PM said poverty has declined at twice the rate than it did before the UPA government's tenure; there have been notable successes in agriculture; primary school enrolment has become near universal; India has been declared polio-free; and the country added new power generation capacity of 20,000 MW last year, among other things.

On the security front, the PM noted that the internal security scenario had by and large been satisfactory. The peaceful conduct of panchayat elections in Kashmir and the high voter turnout showed that things were changing in the state.

The scourge of Naxalism, however, continued to be a major problem and the Centre needed the cooperation of all the concerned state governments to tackle the menace, he added.

Regarding the foreign policy, the PM and the UPA report card said there were significant developments in India's relations with its neighbours, particularly Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar.

The PM said despite the real achievements, there were uncertainties and a large unfinished agenda before his government. ''Difficult decisions have to be taken on both spending and revenue mobilisation. Both the centre and the states have to be fiscally responsible. We also have to remove implementation of bottlenecks that are preventing large projects from getting off the ground. We have to quicken the pace of implementation of our policies of inclusive growth, particularly in the areas of health and education. We need to improve coordination between the Centre and States on important issues that face the country.''

Manmohan Singh pledged that the UPA government would work with renewed determination and urged all political parties to rise above partisan considerations and strengthen the hands of the ruling coalition so that India could face the uncertain global environment with greater confidence.




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