India's 66th Independence Day: Will Manmohan Singh Paint A Rosy Picture Amid Glaring Issues?

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Unless India's Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been hiding all the ground-breaking policy decisions for the next year, the 2014 general elections aren't likely to go their way. However, a latest survey indicates that they won't go the other way either, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led main opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) likely to lose seats, raising the hopes for a third political front to come to power.

A survey conducted by the Delhi-based Marketing and Development Research Associates (MDRA) said the trends as of July 2012 showed the UPA losing 120-130 seats from its current count of 266, while NDA was predicted to win only 115-125 seats, 25-35 seats down from its last election tally, according to a Mint report.

As India readies for its 66th Independence Day on Wednesday, it is time for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to address a nation that is clearly disillusioned with its government and the prime  minister, who the Asia edition of the Time Magazine called an "underachiever" on its July cover.

Singh is expected to maintain a positive tone with mentions of the steps taken by the government against rampant corruption and to curb black money and tax evasion. He is also expected to address the country's drought situation with the opposition, the Communist Party of India (CPI), demanding distribution of food stocked by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to the people under the Universal Public Distribution System (UPDS) to ease pressures arising from the drought.

"The focus of this year's address will be on economic challenges facing the country," a senior official from the Prime Minister's Office was quoted saying by the Business Standard magazine.

But reports say that Singh may refrain from referring to the anti-corruption activists, known as Team Anna, as well as other controversial issues like the foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail and food security bills.

In a turnaround from its earlier stance, Team Anna recently floated a proposal to form a political party to contest elections after it failed to elicit a proper response from the government to its demands to set up an anti-graft agency and bring in tougher laws to abate the unbridled corruption in India.

The Indian yoga guru and anti-graft activist Baba Ramdev, who called off his last round of hunger strike on Tuesday, had earlier said, "India could have won gold if there was a competition for corruption in the Olympics." His comment which was received by thunderous applause.

"This is not a matter to applaud," Ramdev said in response during his address Friday.

Notwithstanding the attack unleashed by the activists on the UPA government embroiled in allegations of corruption, Singh is likely to say something along the lines of an abstract spiritual text addressing the issue. "Corruption manifests itself in many forms," he said in the Independence Day address last year. "I believe that there is no single big step which we can take to eradicate corruption."

Though FDI in multi-brand retail has been a dominant issue of debate for policy experts as well as the political parties, the premier is not likely to make any bold statements on the liberalization move.

The public frenzy over FDI in aviation is slowly dying down, with the Dubai-based Emirates saying that the airline will not invest in Indian carriers unless the government was willing to hand over complete control to the foreign investors. Reports say that the government will not discuss the plans to allow foreign investors to acquire up to 51 percent in Indian airliners, at a UPA coordination committee meeting to be convened toward the end of August.

Singh is expected to announce a scheme to ensure at least one cell phone for each household below the poverty line, with 200 minutes of local calls free. The program, which comes with the slogan "Har haath mein phone (a phone in every hand)" is estimated to cost around $1.2 billion, with funding raised partly from the bidder who procures the right to provide the service. However, the finance ministry has strongly objected to the scheme arguing that the government is not in a sound financial position to execute the plan.

The premier is expected to address the ethnic violence in India's northeastern state of Assam, which has left 77 dead and 200,000 displaced so far, brought on by the influx of immigrants who mostly came from the former East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh in 1971. The violence in Mumbai during protests against the Assam riots led to strong reactions in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament, on Monday with the Shiv Sena and BJP members accusing the Maharashtra government of "total failure" in thwarting the situation.

India celebrates its Independence Day just as the London Olympics -- more or less regarded a successful one for the Indians -- has concluded. Although, the rest of the world may scoff at the idea that India considers its six-medal tally, without a single gold, a success, this happens to be the nation's highest total in the Olympics history.

Sports Minister Ajay Maken, speaking to journalist Karan Thapar on the CNN-IBN program "Devil's Advocate" on Sunday, said that India will aim for 25 medals at the 2020 Olympics, adding that it was a reasonable expectation in eight years' time. India's Olympic feat, perhaps not magnificent for a nation of more than one billion people, is expected to find a place in the Independence Day address.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday expressed hope, despite Moody's downgrade of India's growth forecast, on the sidelines of the oath-taking ceremony of Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

"It (Moody's projection) is a cause for concern but one should not draw unwarranted conclusions."

"The fundamentals of the Indian economy are strong... (its) investments and savings are among the highest in the world. I am hopeful, we will do still better than the 6.5 per cent growth performance of last year," Singh said. Of course, being the person held responsible for the nation's shortcomings, Singh will maintain this upbeat tone, no matter what the statistics show.

This is the premier of a government that promoted former Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, under whose tenure India saw the world's worst blackout in recent times, to Home Minister and Leader of the Lok Sabha. So it will be ludicrous on the part of the Indian public to assume that its government would use the Independence Day address to touch upon the crucial issues that India actually needs to resolve. In fact it's safe to say that the speech would be just like Singh's Twitter account, boring, unengaging and full of superficial details.

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