The United Progressive Alliance or the UPA as it is more commonly known is a coalition of political parties that is led by the Indian National Congress. The UPA was formed after the general elections of 2004 and it was the Congress’ reply to the then in-power NDA or National Democratic Alliance, which was led by the major political rival of the Congress — the Bharatiya Janata Party or the BJP. The UPA coalition won back to back general elections and thus it will have been in power for almost a decade, when it faces general elections again. Considering that the UPA is nearing the end of 2 whole terms of uninterrupted power and has had clear majority for most of this period, one can closely scrutinise the achievements and failures of this government, and can predict whether the coalition stands a chance of returning to power for an unprecedented third term.
One of the major achievements of the UPA was the India-USA nuclear deal that was inked during the first term of the UPA. That was a major stepping stone for India, as it tries to keep pace with its fast growing population and the simultaneous exponential growth in the demand for electricity. The UPA faced a no-confidence motion because of this deal, as the then major partner of the Congress – the Left Front withdrew support due to the inking of a deal with the USA. The coalition pulled through due to support from the Samajhwadi party and thus a new era in India-US relationships began.
The UPA has given the country two charismatic Railway Ministers, namely Mr.Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ms. Mamta Banerjee. The former was well known for his quick wit during the railway budget sessions and although he doubled the amount of freight trains running, which greatly reduces the life of the rails themselves; he took the Indian Railways to unprecedented heights with profits that had never been seen before. The image of the railways was transformed completely during the UPA regime, with punctuality and cleanliness seen throughout India. Thus the growth seen in infra structure sphere, both in the railways and the power sector was phenomenal with new landmarks being achieved. As the population increases, these factors will play a vital role in the overall development of the country and this is one of the major positives for the UPA.
The NREGS or the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was an innovative step taken by the UPA for rural employment, with all villagers being promised 60 days of paid labour with a fixed salary. This scheme was able to deliver on the ground and it can be considered to be one of the few schemes which was relatively free of corruption. Another major step taken by the UPA government was the highly-criticised 60,000 crore farmer loan waiver, announcing that a major part of loans that had been taken by small to medium sized farmers would be waivered off. The move which was an economic stratagem failed to deliver on the ground, with complaints from all corners of the country. The ground reality however was depressing; the rich to medium farmers who didn’t need the waiver were made part of it, whereas the poorest of the farmers, the actual target of the move could not reap any benefits from it. Thus although the UPA consisted of economic geniuses like the PM Dr.Manmohan Singh, Mr.Pranab Mukherjee, Mr. Montek Singh Alluwalia , it failed to fire on all cylinders when it came to the financial condition of the country. Sure, the GDP has seen a steady grown throughout the tenure of the UPA, but there has been a similar growth in the cost of living, most notable of them being the phenomenal rise in petrol and food prices. This rise in the cost of living coupled with the rampant corruption present in the UPA, might prove to be the major deterrent in its fight for a third term.
The Achiles heel for the UPA might just be the various number of scandals and corruption charges that have been filed against it. The Commonwealth Games scandal, the cash-for-votes scandal and the most recent 2G scandal have greatly marred the image of the UPA, and these may be one of the major turn-offs for the voters. Thus these scandals, the recent anti-corruption drive, coupled with a strong prime ministerial candidate like Mr. L.K. Advani or Mr. Narendra Modi could definitely lead to the removal of the UPA from power.