2012-The Year That Was

Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal launchedhis party ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ this December. AAP’sdeclared manifesto to provide – for the first time in 65years of independence – a totally graft-free government.Crucially, none of the party’s agenda spells out howreforms, essential to a middle class seeking jobs andgrowth, can be harnessed for the best possible socioeconomicdevelopment.

While Gandhian Anna Hazare captured theimagination of the nation in 2011 by taking on thegovernment over the Jan Lokpal Bill issue bill,Team Anna hogged the limelight in 2012 due to itsbreakup. Anna and his key members, ArvindKejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and otherscame back one last time in August this year toprotest at Jantar Mantar. However, the responseboth by the general public and the government wastepid.Subsequently, Team Anna promised to provide a’political alternative’ to the nation but soon after thisthe veteran social activist announced that his teamwas being disbanded. Whereas Anna was of theopinion that they should remain outside the systemto fight the system, ex-IRS officer Kejriwal felt that tochange the system one had to embark on the politicalcourse. With diametrically opposite views, a split wasinevitable.Finally on November 26, Arvind Kejriwal and his teamformed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the presence ofthousands of supporters. Kejriwal was appointed thenational convener, Pankaj Gupta the national secretaryand Krishna Kanth the national treasurer.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s “last reshuffle” ofhis ministerial team on October 28, before the 2014general elections, carried the first unmistakable stamp ofRahul Gandhi’s ascendancy in the Congress party. Thechanges appeared to mark the beginning of anothergenerational shift in the 127-year-old party. The reshuffleis also an effort to put the party in battle mode for the2014 polls.

At Rs 1.86 lakh crore, the coal mining scam is beingbilled as the ‘mother of all scams’. The scandalconcerning the government’s allocation of the nation’scoal deposits to public sector entities (PSEs) and privatecompanies led to repeated disruptions in Parliament withthe opposition even gunning for Prime MinisterManmohan Singh’s resignation. Meanwhile, the UPA’smanagers have hit out at the CAG and rebutted hischarges.

The ‘Chanakya’ of Indian politics, Pranab Mukherjee,took over as the 13th President of India on July 25, 2012.Mukherjee wasn’t in the race initially to succeed PratibhaPatil at Raisina Hill. However, on June 15 this year his namewas announced as UPA’s Presidential candidate. VicePresident Hamid Ansari was among the other candidatesthe Congress mulled. However, the coming together of thetwo ‘M’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee andtheir decision to name Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,former president APJ Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabhaspeaker Somnath Chhatterjee as their Presidential choicesupset Congress’ plan. Mulayam Singh later broke ranks withMamata Banerjee and decided to go with the UPA candidateamid voices growing in favour of Pranab Mukherjee. TheBSP and several other parties also lent their support toPranabda, including JD(U) and Shiv Sena of the oppositionNational Democratic Alliance. Later, Mamata swallowed hersense of humiliation and decided to back the UPA candidatelater. Later in the year, the Supreme Court dismissed thepetition of PA Sangma, the Presidential candidate of theNDA, who had challenged Pranab’s election as presidentclaiming the former finance minister held an office of profit(chairman of the Indian statistical institute) on the day hefiled the nomination papers for the Presidential Elections.Mukherjee had rejected the allegations.

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While the Congress-led UPA government at the Centrewas bogged down by issues of price rise, inflation andcoalgate, the main Opposition, the BJP had its owntroubles to deal with. The party saw its nationalpresident Nitin Gadkari embroiled in a major scandalwhich has almost rendered his second term as the party’schief untenable. After dubious funding was suspected inGadkari’s Purti Power and Sugar Ltd, the governmentdecided to probe the allegations.Gadkari faced more trouble after its Rajya Sabha MPRam Jethmalani took everyone by surprise by demandinghis resignation over the slew of allegations of corruptionagainst him. This after the maverick lawyer had openlypitched for Narendra Modi as BJP’s prime ministerialcandidate. BJP’s parliamentary board subsequentlysuspended Jethmalani from party’s primary membershipbut not before the damage was done.The BJP found its southern bastion breached afterformer chief minister BS Yeddyurappa launched theKarnataka Janata Party (KJP).

The year 2012 would be remembered as one of the mostdifficult years for the Congress-led UPA government (in fact,the entire tenure of the UPA-2 has been mired incontroversies over corruption scams, policy paralysis etc).After keeping it in cold storage for long, the UPAgovernment re-launched a bid to bring in 51% foreign directinvestment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, amid accusations ofpolicy paralysis in the government. Though the governmentthis time modified the policy and allowed the states to taketheir decision on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail,Mamata Banerjee quit anyway. She has been one of the mostvocal voices against FDI in retail, saying the decision willhurt farmers and small retailers. The decision also led tomajor uproar in Parliament’s Winter Session and had to beput to vote. The UPA triumphed in both the Houses, thanksto direct and indirect support from the BSP and SP.However, the two allies who support the UPA from outsidegot involved in a fierce battle in the Rajya Sabha over theQuota in Promotions Bill. While BSP chief Mayawati forcedthe government to table the Bill in the Upper House, the SPwarned it would not let the House function if the Bill wastabled.During the year, the tussle between the Comptroller andAuditor General (CAG) of India and the UPA governmentcontinued, mainly over the report on the coal blocksallocation. After pegging the 2G scam presumptive loss at amassive Rs 1.76 lakh crore, the coal blocks allocation scam,which came to be popularly known as Coalgate, waspresumed to have caused a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore by theCAG. Since the coal blocks were mainly allotted during theperiod when PM Manmohan Singh held the coal portfolio,he too came under the direct attack of the Opposition. Whilethe government denied any scam and refuted the loss figure,an inter-ministerial panel which reviewed the allocationsdid recommend scrapping of several allotments both toprivate players and PSUs, over various reasons includingfavouritism and delay in execution of projects. PMManmohan Singh also came under attack from theinternational media, after the prestigious TIME magazinedubbed him as an underachiever over the policy paralysisthat was bogging his government. The major pro-economicreforms that the UPA government initiated in the later partof the year were seen as a move to rebut those allegations.In the middle of the year, the northeastern state of Assam,mainly Kokrajhar, witnessed fierce clashes between theethnic Bodos and the immigrant Bengali-speaking Muslims.The clashes started on the issue of land encroachment andled to nearly 100 deaths. Nearly five lakh people weredisplaced in the violence that raged during July-Septemberperiod.While the clashes were quelled following deploymentof the Army and Central paramilitary forces, Novemberalso reported fresh violence and deaths.

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