UPA-II needs course correction: Praful Patel

New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) The UPA-II government needs course correction in the remaining year of its term, says union minister and NCP leader Praful Patel, noting that the Congress has to build alliances to improve its prospects of leading a coalition regime after the next elections.

The United Progressive Alliance government has to make things happen fast, said the heavy industries and public enterprises minister and senior leader of key ally Nationalist Congress Party.

“We need to have a quick and decisive government,” Patel told IANS in an interview here. Patel said the UPA had “fair” chance of getting re-elected.

“The Congress needs to get more allies to be able to have that final punch (for 2014 polls).”

There was an impression about the government not having delivered enough and issues like 2G spectrum allocation were dominating public perception, he said.

“There are definitely issues of perception. The government needs to have a huge course correction in terms of perception,” he said as the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II government completes four years Wednesday.

Patel, 56, said the UPA-II government had been hit by “couple of big issues”.

“Issues of corruption have been important to the nation and rightly so. A couple of things happened one after the other and those have created negativity,” Patel said.

“Most things (in politics) are based on perception. To that extent we have faltered on some issues, but we can certainly come out of that.”

He identified the telecom spectrum and coal block allocation and resignation of two ministers – Ashwani Kumar and P.K. Bansal – as some of the issues highlighted in the media. But he said the government had taken action in each case.

Patel, who has been elected to Lok Sabha four times and Rajya Sabha twice, said there was need to take some decisions such as those relating to boosting infrastructure and giving fresh impetus to economy, that had been held up.

“I am sure when the country does well economically, jobs are created, there is a general sense of well being, people do not necessarily factor negatives which have been highlighted so far,” he said.

Patel said several good decisions had been taken and indications were not so bad for the government.

“Our economy did not falter the way global economy faltered. Rural economy has picked up. Government has enacted good social legislations,” he said, adding that petroleum prices had started coming down and global economy was improving.

Asked whether the allegations against the Congress-led government would impact the NCP’s prospects, he said perception about the government affects allies as well.

The issue of a prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections, he said, was one for the Congress to decide as it was the “principal party of the coalition”.

“India does not have presidential style polls. Personalities may have an impact but there are issues of states… Congress should take a decision on the issue.”

Patel said the Congress and NCP would continue to be allies and fight the next Lok Sabha polls and assembly polls in Maharashtra together.

“We have been allies for 13 years in Maharashtra and and nine years in Delhi… We need to continue the alliance in larger national interest.”

He said the Congress and NCP would retain their seat sharing arrangement in Maharashtra for the Lok Sabha polls.

Asked about key allies like Trinamool Congress and DMK leaving the government, Patel said management of allies was “with the largest party of the coalition”.

He said the Congress needed more allies to be able to form a UPA-III government.

“(It is) important to have allies,” he said, adding that the country would continue to be governed by coalition governments in the foreseeable future.

On NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s prospects to be prime minister, Patel said he had the stature of a national leader.

“However, the NCP is realistic that our numbers do not give us opportunity (to lead the government).”

About Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s possible projection as a prime ministerial candidate, he said it was for the main opposition party to decide. But Modi would come “with a lot of baggage”.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected]

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