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Political masterstroke to revive PM's reformer image: Analysts

Sunday September 16, 2012 12:42:30 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The UPA government's slew of economic decisions, including opening up retail to foreign investment, has revived Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's image as a "courageous reformer" and is a "political masterstroke" that will help the sagging image of the embattled government, political analysts and commentators said.

Political risks involved in going ahead with its commitment on the economic reforms front notwithstanding, the government's move is only reflective of the combative mood of the prime minister, who has asked his ministers to brace for a battle and, if need be, fight to the finish, they feel.

"These are courageous decisions. These initiatives are long overdue. Though the decisions come after a delay, they are the right decisions to boost the sagging economy," Nisar-ul-Haq, Jamia Millia Islamia Political Science Department head, told IANS.

The United Progressive Alliance government Friday permitted 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail and also opened up the aviation and broadcast sectors, moves that have been hailed by Indian industry. A day earlier, the government announced a Rs.5 hike in diesel prices and restricted to six cylinders a year the supply of subsidised cooking gas per household.

"In the days to come, these decisions will only boost this government's image in the eyes of the public and could keep it in good stead when the time comes for the next electoral battle," Haq said, noting that the immediate political fallout of the decisions could be some trouble from allies such as the Trinamool Congress, which has opposed the fuel price hike and FDI in multi-brand retail.

Sandeep Shastri of the Bangalore-based International Academy for Creative Teaching saw no threat to the government due to the decisions.

"The government will not fall, in my opinion. There is no crisis that the government may face," he said.

"The Congress believes that it is time for action, whether that action is right or wrong, and that this could provide it some visibility and revival of fortunes," Shastri told IANS.

"This is even bigger than the (2008) India-US nuclear deal for the UPA government," said political analyst N. Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Centre for Media Studies.

"It is an image makeover for the prime minister, considering the political attacks he faced, both within the country and outside," Rao told IANS.

On the corruption front too, the decisions were a clear attempt to obliterate the allegations the government and the prime minister himself are facing, he said.

"In one master-stroke, the prime minister has made the nation and key market leaders rally behind him and his decisions for the first time in the last six years," Rao said.

Paras Nath Choudhary, a retired political researcher from the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University, disented. He felt the decisions were of "a beleaguered" government that is "politically not sustainable" and each of its decisions now are "viewed with suspicion" by a majority of the people.

Choudhary told IANS that the economic decisions were only "to divert attention" of the nation away from the charges of corruption that the government and prime minister faced, including on the allocations of coal blocks.

"These decisions will not help the government to win credibility or merit. The situation is still very bad and this government is certainly on its way out and is approaching final departure," he added.

His views were echoed by another political analyst and veteran journalist Qamar Agha, according to whom the economic decisions were a result of corporate lobbying.

"The timing is important and this seems like a desperate move after realising that the situation is going out of control for the UPA and the government is on the verge of collapse," Agha told IANS.

Another senior political analyst, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, too felt that the government was "truly in its last leg" and was "trying to recover ground" by "hurrying up" decisions.

"Earlier, the government's mantra was to survive somehow and was risk-averse.Being neck-deep in corruption charges, these are attempts to gain some breather and respite," Rao told IANS.







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