January 18, 2020
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Need A Hard Dose, Doc

Need A Hard Dose, Doc
As the Manmohan Singh government completes half its designated life, its energies and enthusiasms need to be concentrated on winning the 2009 election. The business of government must naturally go on, both the routine and the critical will require careful attention. However, the topmost priority has to be accorded to maximising existing electoral positions with inroads being made into those states where the party is weak. Perhaps a degree of populism might be required, perhaps some necessary and unnecessary concessions might have to be extended (concessions which are likely to upset the pink papers, North Block and the IMF), perhaps some burdens might have to be placed on the Indian middle class which could spoil the ongoing party. Above all, this government has to find the wit and the imagination to craft a communication strategy which messages the marginalised. I'm not talking about spin or lies or deceit, I'm talking about broadcasting the conviction that the UPA cares for those excluded from the party: 800 million citizens.

What the nation is eagerly awaiting to see next year is some creative butchery from the PM. A ruthless, thorough and unsparing cabinet reshuffle, one in which the non-performers are rejected and performers rewarded. We expect to see fresh, dynamic faces in the new council of ministers. If Rahul Gandhi is unable or unwilling, it's his problem. He shouldn't become an obstacle to the induction of Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Let the PM shock and awe us with the audacity of the reshuffle. It's a win-win situation for him. I hope he is not too timid to grasp the opportunity.

No state secrets are being spilled when I reveal that the government does not have an impressive record, a list of achievements it can present. Some vote-catching schemes have been botched either through intent or negligence. What the PM can claim is that he has provided a relatively honest, stable, forward-looking, secular and sober administration which has tried to reach out. That's not saying much, but in these difficult times, policy triumphs which include even one verifiable, visible "achievement" are hard to come by. If it doesn't do anything stupid, the Congress should win around 170 seats. That's the best it can hope for.

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