POLLS taken at the end of the current government's first year in office suggested that the government remained popular with the voting public at large.
The polls indicated that the people were patient and realistic in their outlook and expectations and were giving the government time to resolve the outstanding issues.
One wonders what a similar poll conducted at the mid-way point of its second year in office would reflect.
Since the start of the year, the government has been more or less constantly on the back-foot and the last six months have seen a marked deterioration in the quality of life index, even as economic indicators remained steady.
The on-going power and water crises are worse than any in living memory and, more crucially, are visible manifestations of the government's apparent inability to resolve the country's (admittedly pre-existing) problems.
Similarly, the government has yet to get a handle on the planning and infra-structure challenges that rapid urbanisation and centralisation have occasioned and that threaten to choke the life out of our cities, especially the capital.
It is still too early to sense the benefits from the government's outreach to India, but the irritants remain, causing potential grief for the government. India has not stopped shooting Bangladeshis on the border, nor does there appear to be much headway on issues such as river sharing and putting Bangladeshi minds at ease with respect to controversial damming plans.
Finally, the government has seemingly shot itself in the foot with its temporary ban on Facebook and cancellation of the declaration of a newspaper that had been outspoken in its opposition. The reasons behind the bans are not under discussion here. The simple truth is that all such bans, always and everywhere, do more harm than good.
The only real saving grace for the government is the bankruptcy of the opposition, which has been unable to seize on this opportunity to channel people's discontent. The opposition call for hartal at the end of this month is another gift to the government, but the government cannot count on opposition's incoherence to bail it out forever.
The government is laying a lot of emphasis on the long-term. It hopes to resolve the crises that the country faces before the end of its term in office, thus positioning itself well for the next election cycle.
This is all well and good, but the government must also be alive to the need to act swiftly and decisively so that there are visible and tangible signs of its successes. Letting discontent fester is always a danger.
If it is left to fester too long, attitudes harden, impressions are formed, and conventional wisdom becomes entrenched. Then, it doesn't matter how much headway the government makes, the battle for hearts and minds, which is what counts in a democracy, is already lost.