Decidedly undecided Congress, adamantly drifting Opposition
By Shankkar Aiyar
12th August 2012 12:34 AM
So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful for impotence. There is an enduring ring to those words. Winston Churchill said this in criticism of Neville Chamberlain’s pusillanimity in facing Germany. The paradox he spoke of could well be true of India’s political class responsible for the spectre of stalled governance suffered by a billion-plus Indians.
On Thursday, international rating agency Moody’s declared that it had lowered GDP forecast for 2012 to 5.5 per cent. It said “the government had badly lost its way” and pegged the forecast for 2013 at 6 per cent. The immediate reaction was from the spokesperson of the Congress who condemned Moody’s. It was as if the rating agency had downgraded the party and pared down its growth rate. On Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thought it fit to react to the forecast. He said it was a “cause for concern” but “we should not draw unwarranted conclusions.”
Of course, he didn’t say which part is “cause for concern” and what indeed would be “unwarranted conclusions”. What is clear though is that the best case scenario for the economy is 6.5 per cent and the worst case scenario is what Moody’s has projected. The economy which has the potential to grow at 8-plus per cent will now grow at around 6 per cent. That is the new inclusive growth rate!
Now that should be definitely a cause for concern. And it could get worse. The Controller of Accounts revealed recently that overall deficit for the first quarter is Rs 1.9 lakh crore or 37 per cent higher than estimated. This means deficit targeted at Rs 5 lakh crore could, hypothetically, touch Rs 8 lakh crore and in any event will cross 6 per cent of GDP. Given the undeclared drought subsidies—fertiliser, food and fuel—will shoot up for sure.
However, one cannot draw unwarranted conclusions from the optics of the crisis in the economy. It is a moot point first whether the Congress-led UPA can do much and if it wants to do anything. The arithmetic of politics is such that it cannot push any initiative that requires legislative muscle or administrative gumption. The slowdown in the economy caused by detained policy and the pile-up of pending decisions in the shunting yard are all the result of typical Congressism.
The BJP is mistakenly delighted at the discomfiture of the Congress. The drift is not a cause for worry but source of comfort, it would seem. The strategy of the UPA is to let the sense of drift prevail. There are no major battles to be won this year and the one in December is a lost cause. Such is the arithmetic of the House that by design and by default, the UPA can complete its term if it doesn’t derail the gravy train. By the end of 2013 mid-term anti-incumbency would be in place in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The hiatus allows the Congress to rejig its electoral calculus. The UPA can boast of a Christian chairperson, a Sikh prime minister, Dalits as Speaker and Leader of the House and a Muslim vice-president. Quotas, the Food Security Bill and sops in the budget will follow.
BJP leader L K Advani was rather gleeful in his blog this week. He revealed an encounter with Congress ministers who said neither the BJP nor Congress would form the next government. Advani also predicts that the Congress tally could touch its lowest and slip to double digits for the first time since 1952. The moot point is whether the BJP is in a position to gain. The party is as much a hostage to its allies as the Congress is. At least the Congress can choose its leader. The BJP, despite the widespread support for Narendra Modi, doesn’t have the guts to stand up to its allies. With the RSS as its backseat driver and allies issuing weekly ultimatums, it is hardly in any position to revel in schadenfreude.
Contrary to the belief expressed by Advani in his blog, the coronation of a non-Congress or non-BJP prime minister is not inevitable. In fact, it is being made possible, even engineered by the blind obduracy of the principal parties who have yielded room to the derivative traders in politics. It has also led to the decimation of the India Story and the paralysis of governance.
The magnitude of the crisis demands the Congress and BJP to shed opportunistic fluidity. The liberalisation in 1991 was compelled by crisis but reforms could be possible only because of an unstated understanding between Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The National Telecom Policy and the opening up of insurance in 1999 during the NDA regime were again instances of cooperation in national interests. The crisis of 2012 calls for a similar cooperation. It is not just good economics but good politics too. After all, whoever wins in 201-whatever will have to deal with the issues of sops subsidies, GST and opening up of FDI.
Yes, in a democracy party interests are paramount. True, the blame for the profligacy must be borne by the Congress but it is also a fact that resolution of seemingly intractable issues requires a larger national political consensus, the subjugation of party interests.
The nation is not another country.
Shankkar Aiyar is a senior journalist who specialises in the politics of economics
- India's bleeding insurgencies: Lessons from Latin America
- Western Ghat report has imperialist mindset: Ecologist
- Lot more to India-China ties than border stand-off: Experts
- Major industrial conglomerates making a beeline for Haryana
- Man kidnapped 23 years ago finds kin thanks to Google Maps
- Bangalore's techies start 'brand tattoos' craze
- Indian circuses struggle to adapt after court bans
- Want hassle-free tatkal ticket? Personally visit special counters
- Rs 8K-crore plan for upgrading ICVs of Army
- Man arrested for attempt to attack TV host Ranjini Haridas
- The toxic truth about ripe mangoes
- Shift me from ‘Anda’ cell, pleads Sanjay Dutt
- Sreesanth, 2 other players 'confess'; more players under scanner
- Indefinite strike leaves city parched; mineral water bottles fly off shop shelves
- Tamil Brahmi script dating to 500 BC found near Erode
- Meghalaya's CMJ University faces probe after awarding suspicious PhDs