National

Of reforms and politics

A. M. Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on September 23, 2012

TDP president Chandrababu Naidu, CPI(M) General Secretary, Prakash Karat, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Sitaram Yechury at a recent rally against the diesel price hike and FDI in retail. -- V. Sudershan   -  The Hindu

When it comes to reforms, there seems to be a competition among political leaders to be seen in the Opposition, as it is still seen as a vote-catcher.

After withdrawing support to the United Progressive Alliance Government, the Trinamool Congress will do what it is best known for. It will carry out a series of protests against the Centre’s reform measures, including foreign direct investment in retail.

To begin with, on September 25, the party will hold a rally in New Delhi to “teach the Congress a lesson”. The party has pledged to function as a “creative” Opposition.

Mamata Banerjee, the party’s leader and West Bengal Chief Minister, is hopeful of consolidating her own base by opposing reforms.

“We will expose the Left parties further by telling the people that they were taking two stands on the issue of FDI. It is anti-people and we have decided to oppose the UPA’s policies,” Trinamool leader, Saugata Roy, told Business Line.

Mulayam’s strategy

What is interesting is that when it comes to economic reforms, there seems to be a competition among political leaders to be seen in the Opposition. An anti-reform stand is still perceived to be a vote-catcher.

Take for instance, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Left parties want him to lead the agitation against the UPA’s reforms. Yadav also understands that protests against FDI in retail can be politically beneficial. By stridently opposing reservations in promotions for SCs and STs he seeking support of the upper castes.

And by opposing FDI in retail, he is eyeing the votes of the traders.

Recently, he brought his old friend Naresh Agarwal back to the party fold. Agarwal, a Rajya Sabha MP, is now a General Secretary and is one of the key organisers of the State-wide anti-FDI retail protests. SP insiders say that the party’s support to the UPA will continue till 2014, along with “violent” protests against foreign companies like Walmart.

UPA game-plan

The UPA, interestingly, is implementing the reforms despite criticism from its allies and supporters. The Congress is not ready to discuss the issue in Parliament and build a consensus, as promised by former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Parliament.

The Government, especially the Prime Minister’s Office, seems to be stung by criticism of ‘policy paralysis’.

The party also feels the focus on reforms could divert the people’s attention from the allegations of corruption.

It is evident from the protests that the Congress will be isolated in Parliament if the decisions are put to vote.

The Congress needs to make a fresh move now as elections to many State Assemblies are round the corner. It needs schemes like MGNREGA or Right to Information Act as poll planks. The party’s General Secretary in charge of flagship schemes V. Muttemwar is eyeing a Cabinet berth. And insiders are pinning hopes on the Food Security Bill.

But getting the Food Security Bill passed in Parliament will not be easy. An executive order is expected soon.

And, everyone knows that Congress needs no training when it comes to garnering votes on the floor.

> jigeesh.am@thehindu.co.in

Published on September 23, 2012
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