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Is UPA-2 moving centre-right?

It has been a month since the UPA stormed back to power at the Centre.And less than three weeks since the new Cabinet has taken charge. It is too early to take stock of the situation ( I mean, Obama is still having his honeymoon !) but I see a few signs that the UPA Government is trying to do things a bit differently this time.And some of the actions show a slight movement towards centre-right, a departure from the Congress's typical centre-left approach to issues of national interest.

Before I proceed further, let me state that I still don't like the Congress Party because of (a) its role in the under development of the country, including some of the Stalinist policies on critical areas of the economy (centralised planning for example), and (b) its blatant violation of the Indian Constitution, especially areas related to individual freedom, institutional independence etc and (c) the stranglehold of one dynasty over the Party and the Indian polity for the past 60 years, and the resultant crony capitalism, criminal-politician-business nexus it has created. In the recent elections, I wanted the BJP to win because that Party looked more likely to implement centre-right (fiscal conservatism, focus on individual freedoms, cultural nationalism aka Hindutva - a recognition of the civilisational ethos of this nation in matters of governance, state craft, religious freedoms and so on). No, the BJP has never shown it self capable of being a true right wing party.But it was not the Congress.And it looked easier to influence the BJP towards a centre-right governance approach than the Congress would ever allow.

The people of India have spoken and they showed that BJP is perceived to be a 'B' team of Congress and nothing more.And when they have the original - Congress- available, why would they vote for a 'Congress Lite' party ?

The BJP is now facing internal dissension and a huge debate (most of it focused on a wrong and politically suicidal interpretation of Hindutva, aided by the illeterate MacCaulay kids in the mainstream English media) is raging.Instead of discussing its core ideology and what it should stand for, the BJP oldies are jockeying for Party positions and using journalists with dubious records as their fighter jets. It may take well over a year for the BJP to come out of this mess, if it ever will. One can only sympathise with the self-less frontline workers of the RSS, the unsung ones who live frugally and work with dedication implementing the social development programs in the remotest parts of the country.They (not the RSS seniors) don't deserve a political wing like the current BJP.

Let us leave the BJP in its mess for the time being.And focus on the signs emanating from the Congress , sorry UPA Govt in its second term, so far.

National security and Diplomacy:
1.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has, for the first time ever, publicly demanded that Pakistan must act on its assurances of not allowing the Pakistani soil for terrorism against India.He did not say this in Mumbai or Delhi or even Washington. He said it at Yekaterinburg, in Russia, in front of global media, with a visibly embarassed Asif Zardari by his side. Good start, Professor !

2.India's diplomatic offensive at the Asian Development Bank conference paid off.US and Japan sided with India on the ADB loan and China's veto was in vain. India even threatened the ADB that if its projects in Arunachal Pradesh are not approved, it will leave the ADB. And you know what, Pakistan voted in India's favour, going against China's wishes. This not only goes to show that economic diplomacy works well, but more importantly, India has, for the first time, walked the talk. Fantastic !

3. The troop buildup in Arunachal Pradesh has been well documented.What has not been written about much is that India has now stationed four nuclear-capable Sukhoi fighter jets in the North-East border with China. And the highways are being built on priority.We can now be confident that a credible deterrence is being put in place in the NE to avoid any Chinese adventures.

Cultural Nationalism:
The visible signs are two fold.

Firstly, this year's Amarnath Yatra, if reports are to be believed, is being organized extremely well compared to the previous years.Pilgrims needs and security are being kept in mind, and the local Muslim traders are happy again because the turnout seems to be in very high numbers.The bad blood of last year's land issue is slowly being put to rest.

Second, and more important, has been the 'polite refusal' of Visas for the US Congress- sponsored Council on Religious Freedom. The USCRF wants to visit Gujarat and Orissa to ascertain whether minorities in India are being oppressed or victimised. A lot of us believe that the US Govt has no business sending a team of Evangelists to go inspect religious freedom in India.We are a proud secular nation, and we have been co-existing peacefully with each other.We really don't need certificates from a partisan US committee on this aspect. There were fears that the UPA Govt (mainly because of Sonia Gandhi's control) would allow such teams in India, and use it to political advantage. The UPA Govt has shown admirable sense (so far) in firmly, but politely asking the USCRF to mind its own business.

There are other, more important areas where we have seen UPA-2 starting off well.Kapil Sibal's plans to liberalise the education sector from the clutches of excessive Govt regulation comes to mind.The 'education vouchers scheme' has been a demand from the liberal right for a long time.The Congress did not have it in its manifesto.And yet, Kapil Sibal is talking about it seriously now.He is also talking about allowing foreign universities to set up branches in India. This is great news.If we learn only one thing from our hoary past and from the current superpower, it should be the focus and value given to higher education. If Stanford, Harvard, and Cambridge are the world's best universities, we should do all we can to have them come here, if they want to. So, again, a very positive first step.

Of course, there have been some regressive proposals such as an act to gag the Websites and blogs, and the cynical manipulation of democratic systems currently underway in West Bengal.We, the liberal right, will be watching this Govt to ensure that individual freedoms are not tampered with, at any cost.Whether it is Binayak Sen or Varun Gandhi, MF Hussain or Taslima Nasreen, the rule of law, and its protection must be available to all.

But, going by the evidence above, it does seem like UPA-2 is veering towards centre-right at this point. And that's cool !


Anindita said…
So far, so good. But it's honeymoon period yet...
Kumar Narasimha said…
Yes..early days.But a discernible focus on proactive foreign policy so far.

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