President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the nation on the eve of 67th Independence Day vividly indicates that he frets over the prevailing despondency and negative atmosphere in the country. Raising the issues of parliamentary logjam, loopholes in the government institutions and dwindling confidence of people, the President said that our work culture is getting eroded due to the uncontrolled personal prosperity, declining morale, intolerance, monopoly and lowering value towards the constitutional bodies. The President expressed deep concern over Parliament turning into a battle ground. He advised the countrymen to elect a stable government for bringing development and eliminating problems. We can’t disagree with his thought that next general elections will be important for future of the country. Indirectly, the President gave a message to Pakistan not to test the patience of India. Overall, he presented a clear picture of the current situation. His intention is clearly visible from the fact that he made the government and political parties aware of the current situation confronting the country. Clearly, he is not satisfied with the functioning of government. He was also unhappy over shoddy bureaucracy that does not seem earnest in handling the problems. The President can draw the country’s attention towards problems but he has no active role in solving them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation from rampart of the Red Fort was entirely different from that of the President. Expressing satisfaction over the achievements of UPA-I and II, the Prime Minister tried to present as if there is no serious problem in the country. He didn’t even mention the issue of corruption which has marred the government’s image. Strangely, he remained confined to lauding the social schemes which benefited only a handful of people in the country but cost the government exchequer dearly. He didn’t bother to ponder over why are the politicians not ready to come under the ambit of RTI Act, which is believed to be a tool to eliminate corruption in the country? However, Manmohan Singh is not a great orator but still he has avoided giving a stern message to Pakistan. The startling fact is that he gave no assurance to bolster the Indian economy. He outlined no new vision to overcome the crisis.

The way Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation in Kutch soon after the Prime Minister’s speech in New Delhi, reflects that the election bugle has been sounded. Fair enough, the Opposition will criticize the PM’s address but the way Narendra Modi challenged Manmohan Singh for a debate seemed to have started a new tradition in the country. This is likely to aggravate political bitterness between two national parties. Modi mentioned nothing except for highlighting the Congress’ failures and criticism towards the Gandhi family. Undoubtedly, the BJP can boast of development work carried out in the states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh but for a Chief Minister getting success in handling state affairs and running the country are different ball game altogether. Given the present context, running the government at the Centre has become more challenging. The BJP can’t claim that it has justified with its role as a responsible Opposition for the last one decade.

In a democratic country like India, there are colossal problems that cannot be solved without support of the Opposition. Both the ruling dispensation as well as the Opposition is equally responsible for corruption and shoddy bureaucracy coupled with policy paralysis. At a time when economic woes are getting deepened, Indian currency continues to hit new low and confidence of investors is on the wane, PM’s earlier assurance of getting the house in order is disappointing. Generally, no party accepts its faults, however the government shouldn’t shrug off President’s concerns. If Manmohan Singh government wants to solve all the issues by merely making laws, it can’t be deemed to be appropriate step. Undoubtedly, the concept of Food Security Bill is very good but the government will face difficulty in its implementation. One should notice that how MNREGS has declined the efficiency of the people. In fact, the schemes being carried out for wooing voters can’t boost the economy. Such plans become tools for looting public exchequer. They can’t be instrumental in curbing unemployment problem in the country. They not only affect productivity badly but also prove a burden on the government exchequer.

Manmohan Singh’s address gave such indication as if it’s his last address from the Red Fort. The way the Prime Minister highlighted the development work done by his government in the last one decade makes it clear that he no longer wants to counter the problems and has lost the ability to give a new direction to the country. If the Central government views economic growth of its previous tenure as a success, it would be a mistake. Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government also made a huge contribution to it. It was NDA government which had laid a solid platform for infrastructure development upon which UPA expedited the economic growth in its first tenure. With the global economy witnessing a recession in 2008, the Manmohan Singh government failed to overcome the crisis. The Central government’s lethargy is solely responsible for pushing the economy of the country in a mess. It bears no significance when the government terms its social schemes as its achievements and it has done nothing to generate employment for the middle class. In fact, employment opportunities have shrunk. The reason behind it is that the government showed no will power to implement economic reforms. Naturally, the PM’s address failed to dispel the negative atmosphere prevailing in the country.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on August 18, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)