Tuesday, February 22, 2011

UPA2 on the backfoot in 2011 after the upbeat moment in 2010

New Delhi: President Pratibha Devisingh Patil's address to the joint session of parliament on Monday compared to the one she gave on February 22 last year reveals in some of the passages the change in mood of the UPA2 government in the span of a year. While the 2010 address had a note of confidence in the wake of the 2009 Lok Sabha election victory, this time round it was defensive in the wake of the many scams that exploded in the face of the government in the last few months.

In 2010, she said, “My government was voted to office with a clear cut mandate to protect and deepen the values of pluralism and secularism, and to ensure rapid growth with justice and fairness for all. Since assuming office in May 2009, my government has worked single-mindedly to build on the achievements of its earlier term to deliver the promise of faster and more inclusive growth.”

On Monday she was forced to be modest in her assertion: “Our citizens deserve good governance; it is their entitlement and our obligation. My government stands committed to improving the quality of governance and enhancing transparency, probity and integrity in public life.”

The president's address has reflected Congress president Sonia Gandhi's suggestion made at the party forum that dsicretionary powers of ministers should be removed because they seem to be at the root of corruption. Patil said a group of ministers will consider “review and abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by Ministers.”

And there is a similar difference in tone at the end of the speech delievered on Monday and that of last year. On Monday, she said, “Our founding fathers gave us institutions, conventions and practices that have stood us in good stead.”

Last year she was upbeat: “Our country stands at a historic turning point. Never before were we so close as we are today to realizing our national aspirations as envisioned by our founding fathers and spelt out by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in this very hall on the midnight of 14th August 1947: "The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means ending poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity."

UPA2 has slipped from the victory podium of 2010 into the slush of scams of 2011 and it can be seen in the two presidential speeches.

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