If UPA scrapes through, elections could be in March-April

July 20th, 2008 - 7:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) If the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) scrapes through the trust vote in parliament July 22, there is a thinking within influential sections of the Congress party to schedule elections for March-April next year. The five-year term of the present Lok Sabha, the people’s chamber of parliament, ends in May 2009.

Those who have met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the week gone by are unanimous in saying that he not only appears confident of winning the confidence vote, but is already think of life beyond the vote.

Having felt betrayed by the Left - the prime minister has told his interlocutors that he has taken the Left leaders into confidence at every stage - the prime minister is looking at new alliance partners, the Samajwadi Party, in supporting it in pushing some of his important reforms in the insurance, retail and pension sectors that would require legislative changes.

The Left has been dogmatically opposed to these reforms.

On several occasions, Manmohan Singh has pointed out that his government will last its full term and there was no question of advancing elections, wanting to carry all its constituents together.

But in the new political realignment with the Samajwadi Party providing vital support after the Left parties’ withdrawal, advisors close to Singh see a golden opportunity to push ahead with key reforms that have been on the backburner - if the government survives.

While many of the government’s key flagship social sector programmes are already up and running and have had a reasonable degree of success, there have been other economic reforms that the UPA government has been unable to get off the ground.

“It (government) will probably set a deadline after the trust vote to accelerate reforms and then call for elections. In this way the UPA government would have completed its unfinished business,” sources close to the prime minister said.

The prime minister, say the sources, views the present political situation as a “calamity” when the country is facing such tough problems, including inflation that has led to crushing price rise and thrown household budgets haywire.

And he thinks the government has to work at several measures to contain what he has been quoted as saying is an “imported inflation” - brought about by global situations that need concerted handling by nations collectively to contain the runaway oil and commodity prices.

But he also thinks that both the Left as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ditched him - after initially appearing to go along in supporting the government on the vital nuclear deal with the US that is crucial for the long-term energy security of the country.

The prime minister has been telling many of his interlocutors that energy management will become the predominating foreign policy preoccupation for countries the world over and India has no escape but to look at widening its energy options, ensuring access to dual-use technology that is currently denied and ending the nuclear apartheid through the nuclear deal with the United States.

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