Though, the Congress has been successful in keeping UPA united by bringing Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress on board during presidential election, the media reports about NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s displeasure over number 2 position in the union cabinet has once again raised questions over the unity of the ruling alliance. Due to this displeasure, Pawar and NCP minister Praful Patel did not attend two meetings of the union cabinet. It is believed that Pawar and Patel are ready to go to the extent of resigning from their posts in the cabinet to mount pressure on the government. According to Patel, the reason behind this unhappiness is no way concerned to the number 2 position in the government. Actually there are some important aspects associated with the functioning of the government which are responsible for this. NCP’s annoyance is a new problem for the UPA government’s managers who have already been facing the pressure from other UPA constituents like Trinamool Congress and DMK. It is a fact that realizing the weaknesses of the Congress, almost all the UPA constituents are seen bargaining for the sake of their own interest.

After Pranab Mukherjee’s resignation, the Congress assigned number 2 position to the Defence Minister AK Antony whereas Pawar believes that on account of his long political experience he deserved the position. Whatever be the fact, it is quite clear that the regional parties which are a part of the UPA are applying pressure tactics on the Congress on the basis of their political strength in various states. On account of the bargain game of the regional parties, the current era of coalition politics is not only affecting the political environment in the country but it is also going against our national interest. The way NCP raised questions on the functioning of the government and asked the government to take fast decisions, no doubt puts a question mark on the leadership capabilities of both the Congress Party and the government at the Centre. During the first tenure of UPA government it was decided that the Prime Minister would have a final call on the functioning of the government whereas Sonia Gandhi was assigned the task to keep the UPA united. But in the second term of UPA, the formula seems to have collapsed. Neither the Prime Minister seems to be able to handle the affairs of the government properly nor has Sonia Gandhi been able to maintain the unity of the UPA. When in the last general election the UPA emerged stronger than 2004 general election, it was believed that the Prime Minister will give a new momentum to the economic reforms which were kept on the backburner due to the adamant stand of the left parties. But the discrepancies of the coalition politics and rampant corruption have badly hit the activeness of the Prime Minister. Rest of the misfortune for the Prime Minister has been caused by the growing demand for assigning Rahul Gandhi a decisive role in the government.

The way this demand is getting louder, it is bound to hit the functioning of the Prime Minister. After all how can a Prime Minister work effectively when a general belief has been created that he is to be replaced one day by a Gandhi family member who is seen as the most eligible person for the post. This belief has marginalized Manmohan Singh in the government and helped Pranab Mukherjee’s political stature to flourish. However, the Congress high command has been averse to Pranab Mukherjee becoming the Prime Minister. Pranab Mukherjee too felt that he would be able to get rid of political woes after becoming the President. After Pranab Mukherjee left the government, it seemed that Manmohan Singh would begin to work as per his capabilities for which he is widely known, but after the questions were raised on his capabilities by two foreign magazines one after another, a debate has started- whether he would be able to bail his government out of the crisis or not? Even prior to any new initiative by the Prime Minister to showcase his capabilities on economic and administrative fronts, the demand for a bigger assignment for Rahul Gandhi both in the party and the government has once again forced the Prime Minister to be marginalized.

It is now evident that both the Congress and the UPA ministers have lost faith in the leadership of the Prime Minister and hence have tilted towards Rahul Gandhi. However, not everyone agrees to what has been said about the capabilities of the Prime Minister. Top Industrialist Ratan Tata differs in his opinion and believes that the 1991 economic reform programmes cannot be questioned. He also believes that the Prime Minister has led the country with great honesty and has immense capabilities in bringing the Indian economy back on the track. According to him, the country should back Manmohan Singh at this crucial juncture. To a certain extent he is correct but no Prime Minister can face challenges without political support.

Questions being raised on the functioning of the government are alright but they are pointing fingers on the capabilities of the Prime Minister and holding him responsible for cracks between the UPA allies is not justified. Political interest is certainly the motive behind blackmailing of the government done by the UPA allies the TMC, NCP and DMK but the government is equally responsible for it. Lack of coordination between various ministries is so high that all want to tread their own path. The UPA has no control over those ministries that are under the jurisdiction of its coalition partners. The UPA is clearly heading towards a deeper rift. However, it is important that at this crucial juncture Rahul Gandhi is willing to play a larger role in the party. This move is encouraging for Congress workers but to acquire an important role in the government at this point of time may not spell well for Rahul Gandhi as the UPA is unlikely to come back to power until and unless there is some kind of a political miracle or the opposition proves to be very weak. Till not it was assumed that Rahul Gandhi would not wish to cling to a sinking ship but now he has agreed to play an active role in these circumstances. This will certainly raise some questions on the role of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

This period is highly challenging for the UPA dispensation at the Centre.  It not only has to tackle the pressure of keeping its coalition intact but there is a larger possibility of lack of co-ordination between the Prime Minister’s responsibilities and the leadership capabilities of Gandhi family. If Rahul along with the Congress is gearing up to give momentum to the government then we cannot be assured that he will accept the views of the Prime Minister or give priority to it.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on July 22, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)