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Sunday, June 26, 2011

PM must stand by India and not NAC

By Swapan Dasgupta

If Delhi's political grapevine is any indication, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did something quite unusual last Sunday: he apparently threw a minor tantrum. The reason was understandable and anyone in his position would have done the same. The PM apparently expressed his profound displeasure at Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh's sound bite-a-day politics that culminated in the assertion that it "it is time that Rahul (Gandhi) becomes the Prime Minister." According to those who claim to know his mind, Singh was agitated that this statement, read with Diggy Raja's earlier sniper attacks on the Government and its senior ministers, implied that PM didn't enjoy the full backing of his party and was running a lame duck administration. In short, he was awaiting the day the Congress' other General Secretary deigned to get real.

True, Digvijay was subsequently made to clarify that what he really meant was that Rahul was first in the queue to succeed the good Doctor but that (perhaps tragically), there was no vacancy. What Diggy's clarification, Sonia Gandhi's subsequent meeting with the PM to discuss the impending ministerial reshuffle, the Congress Working Committee meeting's disapproval of the growing incoherence in the party and the Cabinet's approval of price hikes for diesel, kerosene and cooking gas together meant was that the PM had clawed back some lost political ground.

Manmohan Singh doesn't still convey the impression of a man who is totally in charge. But he seems a little more in charge than he was a week ago. Although being discharged from ICU doesn't imply that Singh is now King, it does indicate that at 41, Rahul has other, more interesting, things on his mind.

If the PM is to avoid a repetition of this summer's turbulence in the next quarter, he has to take advantage of the small window of opportunity available to him. It is too much to expect that the controversies over how best to fight corruption will be resolved in a satisfactory way with yet another Anna Hazare fast. The issue has degenerated into an ego battle between Team Anna and Team Congress and the stalemate is likely to persist until both sides come to the realisation that neither of them can presume to speak for the nation.

However, delinked from the Lokpal battle are other growing concerns that have left the political class unmoved. The economic indicators tell two stories: first, the tale of an India that is underperforming and, second, the tragedy of attaching importance to decision-makers who know the delights of profligate spending but haven't acquired the capacity to generate income. For nearly a decade, India had to convince both itself and the rest of the world that it had the political will, the human capital and the vision to aspire for a better quality of life than what Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi bequeathed to the country. Once the country had demonstrated it could move well beyond the self-deprecating 'Hindu rate of growth', the saboteurs have returned with a vengeance.

To be fair, the PM's instincts on the way forward for an economically vibrant India are broadly correct. Unfortunately, Manmohan Singh is merely the PM, a post whose importance has been drastically devalued in the past seven years. Real decision-making vests with the UPA chairperson and her nominated kitchen Cabinet, the National Advisory Committee. The NAC has played a seminal role in blunting India's entrepreneur-led growth and shifting the focus to welfare spending. There is nothing strikingly original about this shift: it is the hoary European-style socialism, packaged in an Indian garb and couched in the misleading slogan 'inclusive growth'.

The grim reality that should be evident to the PM is that there is a high national cost to be paid to an economic regime centred on entitlements, give-aways and sops: they divert resources from asset-creating investments and sustainable growth. If the PM and the wise among his Cabinet colleagues actually approve the Rs 80,000 crore show of the Lady Bountiful act involved in the proposed Food Security legislation, India could well be entering a fiscal crisis that can only be countered by punitive taxation and rising indebtedness. Along with the MNREGA that has directly contributed to food inflation, a Food Security Act will ensure that there is little money left in the kitty for investments in infrastructure, health and education. India will be compromising its tomorrow for Sonia Gandhi's political today.

The PM doesn't have the political wherewithal to stop the Sonia-NAC assault on India. But he has been a good economic bureaucrat who knows all the babu tricks of survival and subterfuge. He can use the limited respite he has earned—thanks to Rahul's preoccupation with his personal wellness—to pursue an agenda set by those who see beauty in poverty. Alternatively, he can quietly subvert a disastrous agenda through old fashioned bureaucratic subterfuge and await India's impending impatience with flawed dynastic rule.

The PM is said to be concerned about his legacy. He now has a choice of bequeathing to his successor an India that remained untrue to its potential. Or, he could still be remembered as the man who, when confronted with a choice between subverting India and defending it, chose wisely. The PM should just a deep breath, grab the opportunity and do the right thing. He, not the lady, has the upper hand this quarter.

Sunday Pioneer, June 26, 2011

15 comments:

abhijit said...

India needs to strike a middle ground between attaining growth and alleviating poverty. Jobless growth does do nothing to alleviate poverty. Our workforce is not equipped and qualified for modern technology driven enterprises. Even if we grow but majority of our population are left behind, eventually majority will pull us back. India needs to create system that removes artificially created hurdles that keep our people out of oppurtunities. Once people are unshackled, they know what to do and take care of themselves.

Vikram K Malkani said...

Very well advised, Mr Dasgupta. However, we know who the PM's employer is and he won't take a step without her agreement.

Vijay Inamdar said...

What mr.swapan is expecting from MMS is not at all possible.

Anirban said...

Sorry, Swapan, you estimate Mr. Singh's capabilities too highly.

Lalitha said...

Well, every man has to do what he needs to do and not what he is forced to do. The PM does need to be worried about what his legacy will read like. I hope the elected policy makers are reading what those with an open mind are saying. There was jubiliation in 2009 that the UPA was elected with a larger share for Congress & somewhat less dependence on alliance partners. In this context the UPA performance is indeed much below what was anticipated. Sonia and Manmohan have to prove that power does not always corrupt. High order?

gautam said...

It is a well acknowledged fact that manmohan singh is prime minister only due to the mercy of sonia gandhi.Thus the only job expected of him to serve the political interests of the congress party first family.Sonia wont care damn if the country goes to dogs.Jawarhal Nehru,indira gandhi,rajiv gandhi might have been selfish and corrupt but they atleast cared for the country of their birth.sonia gandhi case is different.As annie beasant rightly said "I might become a great hindu but will never become good indian however hard i try".She is bound to feel a level of detachment from india.But the amazing growth story of india wont cease to continue due to the activities of useless entities like NAC.The private sector in india is too vibrant enough to sustain itself irrespective of the drift and apapthy in governance

Anonymous said...

still u expect spineless pm wil comment,without buddhu raul,manio permission,plz try 2 understand nac is elected body??and civil society doesnt existin political science.

Jitendra Desai said...

As a brave follower of Gurus,he should actually ask NAC to get lost.Going is good for him.It can get only better.He can embark on all those reforms that he had dreamt of but could not implement due to these guys.
He has nothing to loose but his PM ship, which is lost in any case.He could gain place under the sun for himself and his hapless nation.

balaji said...

Every single citizen of this country knows who is the real power behind the Govt and it is not the Prime Minister. The post of Prime Minister has become a joke in this administration with no apparent credibility and competence attached to it.I wonder if the post of prime ministership will ever regain its true power or credibility.It has been reduced to the role of a Governor appointed by the ruling party. I dont know what harm does Ms Sonia Gandhi would have caused to India in the post of Prime Minister but she has does more harm by refusing to take the mantle.She has almost successfully destroyed the very institution which we as Indians were proud of from independence till date..... the INSTITUTION OF DEMOCRACY. Our anti corruption protests are reminiscent of the Arab Spring except that ours is a modern democracy and the Arabs have a 7th century constitution. How did we come to this..............

Anonymous said...

Swapan too much to expect from a man who sold his soul to the devil when he became PM. One can expect his mental level when he claimed some community had first right to nation's resources, even after fleeing from Pakistan in 1947 lest he be slaughtered.

LIBERTY said...

In India, we are electing a party or a group of parties into power,and not an individual. In such a situation, the views of the party represented by its leader has to be adhered to than the views of the individual who heads the government.The head of the government is a mere tool to implement party's policy which has the approval of the people expressed during the elections. The term "Remote controlled government" exposes the ignorance of Indian system of democracy.

balaji said...

@LIBERTY i cant believe your ignorance of the Indian constitution or our democracy. Every Prime Minister has to take an oath and also be privy to information which he has to hold onto himself. No other members of the Congress party who has not taken the oath is enabled to get that information. How can any individual who is not legally entitled to the classified information of the PrimeMinister be in a position to take a decision on behalf of the Prime Minister. Party based democracy does not mean that elected individuals act as proxies. There is a sanctity to the position of the Prime Ministership where he or she is privy to all the intelligence and the economic reports not to mention the foreign policy reports on a variety of issues.Any individual who is completely in oblivion of such reports simply is not entitled to make any decision.AND may i proceed to say that it is illegal for such individual to even try to get the information which should be only under the purview of the Prime Minister

Unknown said...

well..we have a PM who says the CAG has the benefit of hindsight whereas ministers operate under dynamic business conditions...

we can extend the same logic to the corporate sector wherver an auditor detects abnormally high purchase prices and ridiculously low sale prices leading to loss to shareholders....well, business exigencies, my dear auditor..


it is unfortunate that we have a manager and not a leader as the prime minister

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Bhanu Prasad said...

The NAC has THE worst Leftie jihadis and talibans. The list of it's members is who and who of the worst liberal extremists.