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Scams, price rise tarnish UPA-II image

Sunday May 22, 2011 07:38:02 PM, George Joseph, IANS

New Delhi: The Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA) completed two years in power Sunday amid slew of corruption scandals and public disenchantment over rising prices.

As the government balances the effects of arrests of union minister A. Raja and two high-profile MPs - Suresh Kalmadi and Kanimozhi - the 'aam aadmi' (common man) has been hit by the unprecedented rise in prices of essential goods from vegetables to petrol.

"UPA-II will be remembered for its corruption scandals. It is an unending saga of corruption, from 2G spectrum to Commonwealth Games (CWG), to Adarsh housing society case to (ISRO) spectrum-band scandals," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told IANS.

"Even the central vigilance commissioner (P.J. Thomas) had to resign as he was appointed thoughtlessly, ignoring the objections the our leader Sushma Swaraj raised," Sitharaman added.

However, Congress leader Mohan Prakash differed.

"The UPA-II has become a victim of aggressive, adverse publicity," he said. "As (Congress president) Soniaji (Gandhi) has said, the government has taken action whenever complaints were raised."

He said Sonia Gandhi pointed out "several times that action will be taken against party and government functionaries, in whatever position they are. Compare this with the inaction of the BJP in Karanataka," he told IANS.

Forward Bloc national secretary G. Devarajan said ordinary people are reeling under the spiralling rise in prices, be it foodgrain, vegetables or petrol.

"The same middle-class whom the UPA has been counting as its supporters will turn to be its detractors."

But the UPA-II has done reasonably well in the assembly polls post the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, political analyst K. Sreekumar pointed out.

"That is the major relief. And in the next round of polls - beginning with Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab in 2012, the opposition has more at stake than the Congress," he pointed out.

According to him, the latest assembly polls have not been "too bad for the UPA", thanks to the allies, it could become the junior ally in West Bengal, re-capture Kerala and by its own strength, the Congress could retain Assam.

For the defeat in Tamil Nadu, the Congress can blame the 2G spectrum scandal under the DMK's Raja, he said.

But what should worry the Congress is its huge defeats to the YSR Congress, led by Jagan Mohan Reddy - the son of the late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekahara Reddy - in Andhra Pradesh, Sreekumar said.

With the largest number of Congress MPs both in the UPA-I and the UPA-II, Andhra Pradesh had been very important for the Congress and the central government.

According to political observers, the second year of the UPA-II had been submerged in scandals: the CWG corruption scandal, the 2G spectrum scandal which cost the national exchequer a loss of Rs.1.72 lakh crore according to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the Adarsh housing society scandal in Mumbai and the S-band spectrum scandal in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which comes under the Prime Minister's Office.

Former communications minister Raja and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi were among those arrested in the 2G spectrum case, while Kalmadi is behind the bars in the CWG scam.

"The perception is very important. The issue of corruption could fire the public mind, as reflected in the huge support for social reformer Anna Hazare'as five-day-fast at Jantar Mantar in April, pressing for stringent anti-graft laws," said a political watcher.

"Negative news dominates the public perceptions. As corruption dominated the the second year of UPA-II, Mamohan Singh's work on other fields like diplomacy and internal security were sidelined," Sreekumar said.

"The images of impressive visits by top global leaders like US President Barrack Obama and Chinese premier Wen Jiabo or Manmohan Singh's cricket diplomacy by hosting Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Mohali all fade away before Raja, Kanimozhi and Kalmadi taken to the Tihar jail," he added.

(George Joseph can be contacted at george.j@ians)




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