The stage had shrunk. There was no DMK, no TMC and no surprise last minute entry by Samajwadi chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav to uphold the UPA-II’s fourth ‘Report to the People’.
Still, seeking to dispel the atmosphere of despondency, the UPA top duo — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi — put up a brave face at their ninth and last anniversary bash, before the next big polls. While the PM was back to his basic area of concern — the economy — Sonia Gandhi backed the PM and said he had her support as he “withstood unrelenting hostility from the opposition with greatest dignity’’. Singh talked economics and flaunted the overall growth figure of his tenure — the average was 8 per cent, he said — and took an indirect dig at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi (“the glass was almost empty when we started”); while Gandhi complained that the main opposition party, the BJP, was holding up key legislation, like Food Security and Land Acquisition bills, to thwart the government’s functioning.
Singh did say: “This is the last before the next general elections,” adding: “Next year, we will report to people directly, seeking a renewed mandate.” The Urdu couplet he recited later meant he had a big test ahead, but the journey would go on. “The central message is that the UPA government is working to realise your dream of an economically resurgent and socially just India,’’ Singh said.
Unfortunately, not many of the UPA coalition’s partners, barring loyal Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, were there to listen and carry the message of “inclusive growth” back to their states. In fact, the lone representative of BSP chief Mayawati, Satish Chandra Mishra, who arrived after the report card was released, had to be dragged to the dinner table by Minister of State Rajiv Shukla, to fill the empty chair next to left-over ally and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.