New Delhi: Battling serious perceptions of policy paralysis, the UPA government completes three years in office in its second term on Monday amidst uncertainty over passage of key economic legislations and decisions like Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail and faces tough challenges in the run up to the general elections in 2014.
Hopping from crisis to crisis, particularly in the last more than a year, the government presents a picture completely different from its first term, hemmed in as it was by the Left parties then on key issues, but still went ahead with its decisions.
Adding to its discomfiture is the current rate of inflation, which crossed the double digit figure in April, and the overall economic situation marked by downturn in manufacturing and worrying tax collections.
Economist-turned-politician Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who even risked his government in the first term on the Indo-US nuclear deal, appears to have been buffeted by scams, especially the 2G scandal, a spillover of the actions of a minister in the first tenure which have come to haunt the government in the second term.
Scams relating to Commonwealth Games and Adarsh Housing Society have only added to dent its image further.
Crucial allies like Trinamool Congress, which appears to have more in common with those outside the government, have put paid to implementing decisions like FDI in retail or the setting up of an anti-terror hub National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
The coming Presidential election in July is one more challenge to the UPA, which is yet to decide on its candidate, though two regional parties - BJD and AIADMK - have taken the initiative of propping up former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma.
Interestingly, his own party NCP, which is part of the UPA, has distanced itself from his moves.
As things stand today, the Congress-led UPA has an edge in the Presidential election in an electoral college with a vote value of nearly 11 lakh.
And widely-speculated candidates like UPA's chief troubleshooter Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari can make it easy for the ruling alliance to garner support from outside supporters like SP, BSP and RJD, notwithstanding BJP's opposition to their candidature.
Even the Lokpal legislation, brought under pressure from civil society agitation, faces uncertainty with some of the allies like Trinamool Congress, headed by Mamata Banerjee, strongly opposed to its provisions like creation of Lokayuktas in states through a central legislation.
With just two days to go for the current budget session of Parliament to end, there is no guarantee the legislation will come up for voting in Rajya Sabha.
"Coalition compulsions" are an excuse often given by Government managers to cite difficulties in taking decisions.
Mamata Banerjee's party, the second biggest constituent of the UPA after Congress, virtually left no issue to take potshots at the government.
DMK had joined Trinamool Congress to force the government keep in abeyance the ambitious FDI in retail proposal while Sharad Pawar, heading another UPA constituent, had made it public that he was not amused by the Prime Minister's talk of coalition compulsions, which they found as a euphemism to blame the allies.
However, Salman Khurshid, Law Minister and an important member of the Group of Ministers, formed to project a better image of the government, dismissed all criticism about the Prime Minister and perceptions of UPA's policy paralysis.
"I don't think we could have had a better person in these times when we have been under stress... that we have a lot of questions raised about how India should be governed and how it is being governed," he said.
"Manmohan Singh is the best person we could have had," he said, adding he alone could not be held responsible for problems with allies like Trinamool Congress.
Mr Khurshid said Ms Banerjee is an important ally but insisted she does not have a 'veto' on UPA decisions.
The UPA is organising a celebratory dinner for its leaders on Tuesday to mark the third anniversary and will be coming out with a report card highlighting the steps taken in various sectors during the last one year to dispel impressions of a policy paralysis, which came to the fore with Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu's statement in New York recently that no major reforms may be possible before 2014.
He corrected himself later to say that some reforms measures like Pension and Insurance Bills could be passed in the months to come by, which Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also hopes can be done.
In its report, the government is expected to detail various initiatives, particularly to tackle corruption and efforts to sustain economic growth despite the global scenario.
Among the achievements, the government is likely to highlight the successes on internal security front, foreign relations and passage of bills intended to combat corruption and improvement in service delivery mechanisms.
Opposition parties do not find any bright patch in the government's performance in the last three years. Even some of the allies have reservations.
BJP Leader and Spokesperson, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, says the UPA has proved to be a topsy-turvy alliance in the last three years.
"It is a non-performing government and replete with corruption. It has demolished the faith of the people in the government which has functioned with lack of leadership and commitment," he said.
BJP's ally JDU shares this view. Its Spokesperson, Shivanand Tiwari, says UPA record will be a complete negative report card.
"The economic scenario is gloomy with job creation in the last 5 years very poor at just 0.1 per cent annually. There has been no governance in these three years," he said.
"The government has failed in all fronts - be it fiscal deficit or revenue collection. It has broken all records in corruption," says Mr Tiwari.
Mohan Singh of Samajwadi Party, which provides outside support to the government, is equally critical. He said, "I have never seen a stranger government than this - a government which cannot protect its Railway Minister who is carrying out the Cabinets dictate to raise the rail fares... It has as many agendas as it has got ministers."
Lok Sabha member Bhartruhari Mahtab, whose party, the BJD, is trying to ring in 'federal front' of regional parties, puts it differently. He said, "Do you see smile on anybody's face? Leave aside the common man; even the faces of ministers are crestfallen."
Left parties too are concerned over the state of affairs of UPA-II.
CPI's D Raja says that the woes of the government are due to its abandoning the path of the Common Minimum Programme, which alone can be "anchor" to put the allies together.
For want of it, the allies are pulling in different direction and UPA-II has become "openly a pro-corporate government," Mr Raja said. He said the government has just managed to survive for three years.
"There is no Common Minimum Programme in the government and allies are pulling in different directions," Mr Raja said, adding that the austerity measures announced by the government are nothing but an admission of bad economy.
The ruling party, however, is putting up a brave face and using Robert Frost to convey that "we have miles to go before we sleep."
Congress Spokesperson Manish Tiwari says, "Naysayers and doomsday sayers can always pick holes in anyone's track record."