Monday, May 19, 2014
Thursday, November 7, 2013
For the first time, the electorate faces a clear ideological choice. The Congress is the architect of liberalisation that unleashed the animal spirits of competition and innovation in the economy. The ensuing economic boom peaked in 2004; in the following decade, the economy grew at an average of 8% a year. This is evident as many sectors, including telecom, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and IT, became globally competitive.
There was always disparity, but never in your face. The pathetic picture of a car worth over a crore, waiting at a red light, besieged by begging children, is a new phenomenon. There have always been beggars, never Bentleys and Jaguars. Over the years, the rich became richer. This was not the outcome that Manmohan Singh, as finance minister, envisioned in 1991.
Modi and his supporters believe he can form a government in 2014. It’s hard to believe, though, that his agenda of gated communities, luxury cars and conspicuous consumption will garner votes from the urban and rural poor, Dalits, tribals and Muslims who form the bulk of the young population. Meanwhile, the Congress has again arrayed itself in support of the excluded. More than his mother, Sonia Gandhi, who nudged the government into adopting a welfare-based legislative agenda, Rahul Gandhi is vocal about the skewed priorities.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The Way Things Are Going…
When the Congress Party came to power nearly three years ago, middle class hearts were gladdened. Having supported the Neanderthal Democratic Alliance led by the BJP, many were dismayed by the 1998 nuclear tests, following which
The Congress continues to believe that Indira Gandhi was their talisman with her garibi hatao and her 20-point program. They see in Sonia Gandhi glimpses of Indira, when really she represents a continuation of her husband Rajiv Gandhi’s vision of ushering
Yet the Congress rank-and-file believes that the socialist nostrum is the way forward. They now talk about “inclusive growth.” There can be no denying that the fruits of
The BJP sees things in black-and-white: they propagate that the Congress is an anti-Hindu party and seek votes by raising the basest communal passions that were tweaked by the Partition. The Congress also takes a similar zero-sum view and pits the rich against the poor, stoking the fires of class conflict. It is unable to shake the Soviet mindset of state control over all aspects of human endeavor.
Both parties tend to ignore the middle class. In the old days, the middle class was small and easily forgotten; today it is a substantial, creative force that chose to oust the communal die hards of the BJP. And this is the very group against which the Congress seems to have taken up cudgels, with its divisive agenda of class and caste differences. It has increased taxes, squeezed credit and supported irrational quotas based on caste.
Neither party has taken into account the aspirations of this fastest growing segment of the population. There is something abroad in the world; it’s called the
In 1996-1997, there were two weak Congress-backed governments under whose dispensation the bureaucracy was able to stall any further reforms. In 1997, when it was clear that the Gujral-Deve Gowda regime had run it course, the bureaucracy unleashed a series of demand management measures including a rise in interest rates that reined in the growing economy. The recession that followed lasted until 2003. In the interim, BJP-led coalitions came to power but proved unequal to task of reigning in the demand managers. It resorted to ad hoc measures such as the poorly designed national highway program. In the event, the BJP-led NDA crashed to defeat in the 2004 election.
For two years, the UPA government focused on setting things right. But the internal contradictions in the Congress and the nihilism of the Left saw its goodwill erode. The Congress is losing elections everywhere but its sycophantic leaders believe that Rahul Gandhi will deliver them from the morass of ignorance and intrigue that is sapping the party. Such complacency will cost them dearly.
from daily news and analysis april 18 2007
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Trouble is the once-resurgent BJP exploited the divide between diversity and nationalism to advocate the chauvinistic concept of “cultural nationalism;” the Left expropriated indigenization to support and promote the corrupt and inept horror of license-permit raj and “unity in diversity” became a banal political slogan that provided air cover for cults and mafia formations based on caste politics.
This is the well-worn path of the Congress Party’s moribund ideology. There is no doubt that these ideas are well past the “sell by” date. And yet the Congress insists on garlanding Rahul with these tired old bromides. His two major forays into public policy have the makeshift look of photographs taken by a pinhole camera. To begin with, he led a delegation to the Prime Minister, asking for an expansion of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme; his latest was to seek a similar broadening of the government’s recently announced loan-waiver scheme for distressed farmers.
Noble in their intent, these initiatives nevertheless have a hare-brained aspect to them. They seem to be ill-conceived with hardly any thought given to the identification of beneficiaries and how to prevent leakages; their implementation plan has the nature of what enthusiasts of American football call a “Hail Mary” pass, in which a player throws the ball in desperation hoping someone will catch it and run it into the end zone to score a touchdown. Rahul’s push seems to be based on the Congress assessment that with populist schemes and a please-all budget, they have seized the political high ground.
As political strategy, the government’s latest moves may pay handsome dividends; in a few swift gambits, the opposition has been pushed against the ropes. Given the competitive populism that passes for politics, the government can rightly feel it has emerged triumphant.
However, the schemes will do with little for their intended beneficiary: the aam aadmi. The Congress line is that given the high growth rate, the government can afford to be generous with the “weaker sections.” Meanwhile, the government’s financial managers have, because their fear of inflation, succeeded in the reversing the growth story. The latest indices of production show a steep decline in manufacturing and a virtual collapse of the capital markets.
Analysts say the overall growth rate could come down to six percent over the year. That will reduce the amount available for populist handouts. Clearly, the schemes are unsustainable, especially if the economy tanks. I wonder if the mandarins of North Block have thought this through. Otherwise, the government’s shrewd populist move will devolve into just another time-worn ploy to buy votes with money.
Unless Rahul can shake off these wilted-flower garlands, he could find it difficult to accomplish what he let slip recently: to revive the Congress by ushering in inner-party democracy। The party has not changed much; it is teeming with sycophants and fixers, and ambitious but clueless politicians, seeking to climb a rung higher. When Sonia Gandhi came upon the scene 10 years ago, the party was tottering, rent asunder by the wiles of petty men like the late Sitaram Kesri and Arjun Singh. She stabilized it, kept the flock together and went on to victory in the 2004 election.
Things have changed now and Sonia’s cautious, “don’t rock the boat” approach has passed the point of diminishing returns. The party rank and file stir themselves only to protect their turf and privileges. As things stand, it appears that for the Congress Party, we are still in the 1960s and 1970s when only state-approved voices were heard; the rest was ambient noise to be shut out by the sound-canceling earphones of ideology. From “garibi hatao” to “inclusive growth,” poverty still remains the dark side of what Nehru called the Indian adventure.
copyright: rajiv desai 2008