By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN
The results of the 2004 Indian election astonished me. I had expected the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to scrape through. This electoral result has come at an extremely inopportune time, for three reasons: the economy, foreign affairs and national security, and the idea of India.
India has been on the brink of a historic moment; for, the world has finally begun to recognize the nation’s intellectual capabilities. A new global economic cycle is beginning. The United States is now looking up despite its Iraq problems. Meanwhile, an overheated China is likely to go in for a hard landing. India has been looking increasingly attractive with its rapid growth.
All that momentum is lost. Unbridled Nehruvian Stalinism and the License Raj will reappear, along with dynasty sycophancy and groupthink. All the achievements of the last few years will be reversed. Fearing this, investors are fleeing the market. The bloodbath has wiped out billions of dollars, hurting especially the public sector units.
Now a motley crew of opportunists will ruin the economy, plenty of capital will flee, and shortly, there will be another general election. The very antithesis of a stable, purposeful plan for growth.
India needs the following: continued privatization; labor reforms; fiscal discipline via reducing populist subsidies and the deficit; measures to attract foreign direct investment into telecom, power, aviation, ports, roads, insurance, and retail; a major focus on agriculture, treating it as a priority sector. Not one of them is likely to proceed.
The impact on national security and foreign affairs of this new government will be large. Editorials in the Western media focused on blaming the NDA for the nuclear tests and for its nationalism. They also screamed about racism against the white woman. Funny, I don’t recall any brown people being welcomed to lead any white country; that, of course, cannot be because of racism, could it?
The West clearly expects the new government to be susceptible to its pressures. Its primary concern is the nuclear weapons and delivery systems developed indigenously by India despite many obstacles. It is possible that some complicated charade will be worked out whereby India’s nukes are rendered impotent; never mind China and Pakistan proliferating.
And finally the idea of India. Macaulay and fellow-colonialists manufactured an idea that India was but a nation of slaves, condemned forever to be ruled by outsiders. Nehruvians and Marxists perpetuated this. The NDA had attempted to overcome this and help create a positive idea of India based on its civilizational and intellectual strengths. This too will be reversed: back to slavery.
Thus, from many perspectives, very large and unwelcome changes will result.
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Bangalore.
No, there is a consensus on the importance of growth
By S. GOPIKRISHNA
A new government is elected and the stock market takes its biggest plunge in 129 years.
Despite the reassuring presence of Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram in the newly-elected party, there exist “clouds” (read pro-agrarian, ostensibly anti-urban Leftist parties) over India’s economic miracle.
Will all this mean a reversal in economic policy? Will we return India to the glories of “Jai Kremlin” and send the country crumbling? Is the country poised to make a U-turn and zoom back into the ’60s?
Prima-facie, the trepidation seems well-founded. The newly-elected coalition has been explicit about its empowering the forgotten millions shut out of the present economic miracle. Given that governments invariably distinguish themselves from the previous government through reversing existing governmental policy, why should the Congress-led coalition be any different?
The answer is “Yes” till one examines the impact of the economic policy and its origins more closely.
We need to remember that the Congress has a plank far more comprehensible to the ordinary man than economic policy for distinguishing itself from the outgoing government. The party has, (and will continue to) play a crusading “Joan of Arc,” extinguishing the “fires of bigotry and communalism” lit by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The new government will put considerable effort into closing ostensible gaps in treatment of various religious groups than closing gaps in treatments of various economic groups.
And then who would disown their own child?
It was none other Manmohan Singh, in his earlier tenure as finance minister, who introduced the very economic policies that have helped create heaven on earth. While the NDA may have nourished the policy and allowed it to flourish, there is no denying that the seed is an outcome of what was styled “Manmohanomics.” The Congress stands to gain more by taking credit for the reforms than reversing them.
Lastly, there is a fear that the Communist parties will force a rollback of reforms for ideological reasons. The Left Front has long realized that shunning economic growth and industry simply replicates Comrade Mao’s disastrous experiment of a Great Leap Forward (followed by a greater leap backward). Given the Left Front’s assiduous courting of multinationals for setting up shop in Kolkata, one can safely conclude that pragmatism will prevail over ideology.
And thus, all fears of a reversal of economic policy are unfounded, a perfect example of much ado about nothing.
Toronto-based S. Gopikrishna writes on topics of pertinence to India and Indians.