* No, it has done dismally

By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

The UPA government has performed as I expected it to: very poorly. It rehashes the Stalinism that condemned India to a low-growth trajectory for 50 years, this time with the added albatross of Marxists who want no growth at all, and who are also great patriots—of China, that is. They aspire to return India to their beloved Nehruvian Rate of Growth of 2-3 percent, which they are most comfortable with.

Economics is supposed to be the UPA’s strong suit, given that Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram are considered experts. But they have not made much of an impact, which shouldn’t be surprising considering their dirigiste history. Their policies help the State, not the people.

For instance, the Index of Industrial Production, which had grown steadily from 4.2 percent in April 2003 to 10.6 percent in October 2004, plunged to 4.9 percent in February 2005, the latest figures I have. This does not bode well: poor industrial growth will handicap GDP growth rate, which will almost certainly fall below 6 percent. Without 7-7.5 percent growth, the economy cannot provide enough jobs. If agriculture is hit by a bad monsoon, hey presto, back to 2-3 percent GDP growth.

The stock markets are not doing well, either. Even it has recovered from the dramatic nosedive when the UPA came to power, the Sensex actually fell 2.4 percent from Jan. 1 to May 15, 2005.

In foreign policy, after a period of realistic alignment with the major powers, Natwar Singh has harked back to the banana-republic-heavy Non-Aligned Movement and other inanities. In energy, Mani Shankar Iyer is eager to build an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline: so that Pakistan can turn the tap on and off at will and hold India hostage.

The UPA wined and dined the dictators of China and Pakistan. The Chinese strongman weasel-worded when asked if he supported India’s bid for the UN Security Council: he merely said India is an important country. Translation: “Yeah, when pigs fly.” The Pakistanis made flowery speeches, but did not yield an inch on Kashmir. All the compromises have come from India.

This litany of failure does not mean the UPA hasn’t achieved anything at all. They excel at religious persecution of Hindus, as in the arrest and humiliation of the Kanchi Acharya, and in continuing takeovers of Hindu religious institutions.

Arjun Singh gets an A+ for re-Stalinizing the school curriculum and for purging people who are not ideologically pure enough. The UPA gets an A for constitutional coups and subversion of democracy, as seen in Jharkhand, Goa, and Bihar. They clearly believe in “one man, one vote, one time”: they agree with Italy’s fascists that democracy is too important to be left to the people.

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Washington, D.C.

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* Yes, the UPA’s performance is excellent

By S. GOPIKRISHNA

The UPA government recently completed its first anniversary, a major milestone in this unpredictable political era. As has been demonstrated through various opinions polls, the UPA inspires respect and confidence among people, if not love and loyalty.

Rewind to mid-2004. The UPA’s winning the 2004 election, said the political pundits, would be like the deluge drowning India at the end of the Kaliyuga. Caught up in the fiction about India’s shining, the urbane sniffed at the UPA’s lack of rapport with them and their aspirations.

The predicted disasters proved to be about as much hot air as the Y2K bug.

In reality, the economy has rebounded and stabilized after the initial beating. As has been pointed out by various think tanks, the slow-down in Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for May 2004 proved to be transient, and the IIP steadily grew during the latter part of 2004. Various key industry groups such as machinery and chemical products have registered percentage growth in the double digits.

During the NDA days, the rural farmer had little to do but distil moonshine while urban communities shone. Through the Common Minimum Program and Food for Work schemes, the UPA has reversed the NDA’s gargantuan error of letting the countryside fend for itself.

Yet, the UPA’s greatest achievements lie not in “India Shining,” but in steps to prevent India’s economy from being drained. Given that the Kashmir insurgency hemorrhages the economy of millions of rupees daily, the UPA’s success in commencing bus services between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir as a prelude to establishing permanent peace resonates more than the NDA’s ill-fated attempts to court Pakistan through the Lahore and Agra summits.

Likewise, the UPA’s successfully opening a dialogue with China through the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and subsequent upgrading of relations is a step in the right direction: pointless antagonism won’t get India anywhere.

And then there are little-noticed but important accomplishments. Despite soaring oil prices, the burgeoning demand for oil from India’s industrial sector has been met, and this is a feather in the cap of Mani Shankar Iyer. Arjun Singh deserves recognition for reversing the NDA’s disastrous educational policies. The impressive achievements of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and their international stature would have been gutted through the bird-brained, bull-in-a-china-shop schemes of Murli Manohar Joshi.

Indeed, the phenomenon of NDA parties fighting each other instead of the UPA testifies to the success of the latter. The UPA government is a rising star with a potentially magnificent trajectory due to its assets—heart and head in the right place and sensitivity towards all.

Toronto-based S. Gopikrishna writes on issues pertinent to India and Indians.

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