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NEW YEAR OMENS

There is nothing that human beings can do to stop or delay the progress of time. Thus a new year begins. But there are no signs anywhere that the start of 2013 will remove the pall of gloom that enveloped the end of 2012. The protests in New Delhi and the pious remarks of some political readers, including the prime minister and the president of the Congress, after the death of the girl in Singapore, raise the hope that something will be done to speed up the justice system and to make the police more sensitive towards women who are victims of male violence. Such issues are demanding and cannot be solved through governmental interventions alone. The least the present government can do is to make a start in 2013. Events on the streets of Delhi have taken eyes and headlines off economic issues. It is now clear that the growth estimates projected throughout 2012 will have to be revised to a lower figure. The Indian economy, like the global one, exhibits no indicators that it is on an upward turn. Quite the contrary.

The economic prospects should also be seen in the context of the political compulsions that the government will have to face. This year will be marked by the preparations for the general elections next year. This means that the government will be cautious about announcing any policy measures that may be perceived as unpopular. The pressure will be on to please the electorate. This may not augur well for the Indian economy. This year will also inevitably see the jostling for space among political parties and a possible shifting of alliances. There can be little doubt that the United Progressive Alliance government is beleaguered principally because of its non-performance. Equally importantly, as the run up to the 2014 elections begins, it does not have a credible leader. Manmohan Singh is visibly tired and his perceived passivity on crucial matters has not enhanced either his own or his governmentís standing. The young man who is often seen as the white hope of the Congress has failed to make a mark on any sphere of politics. No one, except for his own coterie, in the country knows what he stands for. The principal rival of the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in spite of internal divisions, seems to have already found a leader after Narendra Modiís triumph in Gujarat. Thus 2013 portends to be an interesting if unpredictable year.