Vol 3, PW 4 (17 Mar 99) People & Policy

The right-wing BJP-led government in Delhi this week celebrates its first year in power.

Most agree the fact it has survived at all is worthy of praise. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the respected grey-haired prime minister, leads a coalition government of 19 disparate political groups, each pulling in a different direction.

Implementing policy is not made easier by the fact that the government's majority in parliament has narrowed to just one lonely MP. Political pundits are again predicting that the government will fall.

How many time have you heard that before The fact is Vajpayee is determined to last a full five year term. He is helped by a disunited opposition who cant agree on anything and a fear of fresh elections among MPs, many of whom risk losing their seat and with it the substantial perk of parliamentary privilege.

For the next twelve months, India will most likely continue in much the same vein as in the last twelve months: periods of calm punctuated by intense bouts of press speculation on the imminent downfall of the government. Economic reform will inevitably suffer as the government's attention is continually distracted by unacceptable demands from coalition partners (telephone tariffs) or threats from the opposition (Bihar).

In an otherwise mixed first year Vajpayees only real success has been to improve relations with Pakistan. Foreign investors may have to wait longer before similar energy is devoted to making India an easier place to do business.