Who damaged the India story?

There have been numerous debates about the
factors responsible for the ruin of the India story, especially the economy over the past 2-3 years. The problems which India faces can be ascribed to a number of factors.
The first off course is that corruption scams of gargantuan proportions have not only dented the image of the UPA regime, but also the country. The large number of corruption cases, and no serious enquiries into them, have given the impression that the government is brazen, and not particularly serious about fighting graft, and that it is a perfectly acceptable practice.
The second point is that there is no clarity within the government on numerous policy issues. So while Manmohan Singh may be in favour of economic reforms, he has not been able to assert himself, since the UPA Chairman and power behind the throne, Sonia Gandhi has openly supported populist policies such as NREGA and now the Food Security Bill which may be vote catchers, but have damaged India’s economy. But beyond these two points, there are a number of other issues which are responsible for the current problems which India faces. While it is true, that the government has only it self to blame for corruption, it is not the government alone which can be blamed for a lack of clarity, or the inability of developing consensus.

This lack of clarity has been sorely missing not only in the principle – but terribly unprincipled – opposition party the BJP. One of the clear reasons for this is the lack of leadership in the party, which has still to come to terms with the rise of Narendra Modi. So while the Delhi durbar in the party may pose publically to support his rise, internal frictions within the party persist. So while the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj attacks the government she does at times adopt a conciliatory tone. On the contrary, leaders perceived to be close to Narendra Modi adopt a more aggressive stance. The overall result however is that the BJP behaves like an obstructionist opposition on issues of critical national interest, and at times seems no different from a confused civil society group, rather than a shadow government. The party has perhaps yet to learn its lessons from its opposition to the Indo-US Nuclear deal. Apart from the BJP, even the so called civil society movement first spearheaded by Anna Hazare and now divided, with Kejriwal deciding to join the political fray may have had the right intention, in checking corruption but it failed miserably in achieving anything substantial, due to the rifts between the two, and also the fact that it ended up promoting anarchy and confusion as well as promoting a policy paralysis.

The worst part about the movement was that while it made the right noises on a burning issue – corruption – it offered no viable solutions with regard to the economic sphere. In fact, the agenda of AAP is so out of sync with the realities of the New India, that it makes UPA-2 – which has been extremely populist – look good. So while AAP might talk about not paying electricity bills, there’s no talk of economic growth, industrialisation, job creation and improving power supply . This is in stark contrast to the Tea Party in the US, which might be ultra right, but has  managed to offer a cohesive economic agenda. In addition to the lack of clarity, the third ‘c’ which has been absent in India is consensus on issues of vital interest – especially between the two national parties, BJP and Congress. While the opposition has been crying hoarse about how it has been ignored, it too can not escape the blame for the lack of economic consensus.

While on issues of economic policy, it has not lent support on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in stead it has warned of scrapping the current government’s FDI policy. On foreign policy, it has criticised the current government for being weak against China and Pakistan. While the government may have goofed up on the foreign policy front and the economic front, the opposition has not offered any successful or viable solution. If one were to look at  economic policy, party which claims to be a party with a difference has been on the same page as the left on the issue of FDI. Similarly, on foreign policy while the BJP castigates the government for being weak, it does not really put forth any constructive solutions

While the failure of the UPA government can be attributed to a number of factors, one stands out; the fact that there is clear leadership crisis in both the Congress and the BJP. Both parties have multiple centres of power, and do not have any voice which can build consensus on complicated issues, in the manner which some one like Atal Bihari Vajpayee could.
The author is a New Delhi-based columnist and policy analyst
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