The government of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi came to power in 2004. It enjoyed power in 2005. In 2006, they will have to let us know why they are in power. Since the full life of an elected government is five years, it is permitted teenage luxuries in its first months, and youthful excess in its second year. In the third year it enters middle age, and its knees begin to feel the weight of office. Either the government finds the legs to move ahead briskly, or it hobbles like a lame duck. The last two years take much longer to pass than the first two. Those who know old age will confirm this.
The real relevance of 2005 is purely as a dress rehearsal for 2006. This is true not only of the government but also for the Opposition parties, be they principal or marginal. The BJP, for instance, will have to decide within the next twelve months whether it is going to enter the 21st century or remain a prisoner to the sectarian hatreds of the 20th. A child born on December 6, 1992, will be very close to voting age by the summer of 2009, when the next elections are formally due. December 1992 was not the beginning of a new era but the end of the old one; the hangover of such a potent intoxication might have lasted a bit but even that is over (hangovers are not pleasant in any case). The new, and even the old, voter is tired of voting for blood: surely the BJP understood this much from Bihar where it is in power because it followed Nitish Kumar rather than leading the NDA. If the BJP does not change decisively over 2006, it will meet the fate of the Shiv Sena, which is imploding into irrelevance: the last note of a roar is so often a whimper.