Has the successful isolation and upstaging of Mamata Banerjee in the Presidential poll emboldened the Congress and will it develop more of a spine when it comes to policy making? Digvijay Singh, was expectedly the first off the blocks, saying,”We will definitely bring foreign direct investment in retail. We will implement this in the next few days. We don’t need to bring a bill in parliament for this because FDI in retail is a right that centre is giving to states.”
He also said that people can expect a lot of policy action as part of the lead up to the 2014 general elections in the country. Chief Ministers of states in which Congress is in power also seem to have found a voice with many of them coming out in support of FDI in the retail sector.
Prithviraj Chavan of Maharashtra is known for his diplomatic abilities also launched a veiled attack at Mamata and the BJP-ruled states saying that one state should not be allowed to hold all other states to ransom. “Once such states see the benefits accruing to other states from FDI in this sector, they will come around. But one state should not be allowed to veto it. If some state has some ideological objection to it, they can say ‘don’t set up shop in my state’. But you cannot deny the benefit to others,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
The Congress, even when most critical of its Bengali ally, has constantly maintained that it does not want her out of the Central alliance. Mamata has maintained the same maintaining that she would not leave. But does this really go beyond the temporary bluster that the Congress seems to have acquired after pushing through a candidate for the post of President?
Unfortunately only one man can answer and he’s the man who has stayed silent for most of the UPA-II’s tenure. With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh likely to take over the post vacated by Pranab Mukherjee, he may have the astute skills that the post demands of him but where he does lack is the political diplomacy his predecessor had. He isn’t aided by the fact that he has a cabinet that is more belligerent and made up of seperate camps that are as much as war with each other than with its political opponents.
Some have compared the Prime Minister’s current cabinet to one last seen when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister. An editorial in the Business Standard, argues that the Prime Minister is a lone reformer stuck in a cabinet that closely resembles the one that Indira Gandhi presided over. Like many other things this isn’t a criticism he hasn’t heard before, and Singh has defended his cabinet in the past saying, “And in [Indira] Gandhi’s Cabinet for example, when Morarji [Desai] was the Deputy PM, journalists could go from one Cabinet Minister to another Cabinet Minister and hear different kinds of stories. That I can say is not happening.”
However, mere confidence in the cabinet and one political victory aren’t enough. The likely victory in the Presidential polls will at best be motivation for the Congress’ leaders to pat themselves on the back and believe that they have their man in Rashtrapati Bhavan for 2014.
Unfortunately it does little for the country’s economy and policy making since it doesn’t mean the UPA won’t bend for its allies in the future. Mamata, once she’s done licking her wounds, will not be any more pliable on legislation she sees being anti-aam aadmi and unless the Congress figure a way of countering that we can expect status quo to persist.