Where’s the hope for India post elections?

Tags: Op-ed

Philosophies need to be translated into credible actionable moves

Where’s the hope for India post elections?
BRIEF BUSINESS: BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan in Muzaffarpur on Monday
At this point of time, it’s definitely not business as usual for any government or political formation with a purpose, clear goal, objective and set agenda. So, when finance minister P Chidambaram says its business as usual for his government even after the Lok Sabha elections were announced on Wednesday, it does not mean a thing. Especially after the Manmohan Singh government has frittered away a decade of opportunity to take Indian economy to the next level and put it at par with China, the current shining star.

Christophe Jaffrelot, French political scientist who specialises in Indian affairs, is right when he says that the Congress has lost its way after a convincing win in 2009, due to its complacency and policy paralysis. Jaffrelot, professor of South Asian politics at Paris-based Sciences Po, attributes the poor record of the UPA over the past ten years to the arrogance of the Congress that looked upon itself as a party entitled to rule. Other factors include the compulsion of coalition politics and of underestimating the strike power of the opposition led by right-wing BJP.

Christophe Jaffrelot is not alone. Several other western think tanks feel that the UPA has lost the plot. Western analysts have rightly pointed out that there may not be much to look forward to even after Lok Sabha elections to bring the Indian economy back on a high growth chart.

UPA has not articulated any concrete plans, or floated any new ideas, or prescribed any course correction to fix an economy that has seen serious erosion in the past ten years. Like its low-key campaign that lacked enthusiasm, very little has been said on the way forward on the economic front in case the UPA is elected to power for a third term.

But then, neither has the BJP. The party’s ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, too, has not come up with a comprehensive economic strategy to instill confidence in stakeholders, especially domestic or foreign investors. At the last week’s India Foundation conclave held by Modi acolytes, the Gujarat chief minister outlined his economic philosophy of trusteeship and bridging the trust deficit created by UPA, but this will not suffice, as the philosophy needs to be translated into credible actionable moves.

The third front held together by a motley crowd of regional satraps is yet to reach an agreement on either a common minimum work programme or a prime ministerial candidate. It makes things worse for this left of centre front to even plan long term economic revival strategy.

While the Federal Front and Aam Admi Party have not mooted their economic agendas any way better, the big two — Congress and BJP — have not offered concrete solutions to revive the investment cycle, phase out rampant corruption and rein in prices.

It is in this backdrop that over 814 million voters, which includes a 100 million first timers, will exercise their franchise at about a million polling stations to elect 543 members in the nine-phase Lok Sabha elections known as world’s largest democratic jumboree.

So, the moot question is: will the halcyon days of economic reforms, pro-active development agenda and services delivery ever become a reality post the polls? Not just the economic agenda, foreign affairs and defence are two key areas where the UPA has turned clueless in the past few years.

Ashley J Tellis, who served as special assistant to the US president on the national security council, has rightly pointed to the rupture in relations between India and US in the recent past. In an analysis, Tellis has termed this disruption in links as ‘real and tragic’ especially after Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested.

Way back in 1998, US had gone ahead unilaterally to slap sanctions on India after the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s successful nuclear tests. The differences then were policy centric unlike the aftermath of Khobragade affair that snapped even diplomatic niceties.

Very few think that equilibrium between India and US could be restored easily unless a stable government assumes charge in New Delhi after the elections. Though the US has begun to make some amends and establish some working understanding with Narendra Modi, will that work in case he finally makes it, is a huge question. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his frequent jaunts abroad has not helped India nourish its brand image of an aspiring world power that can provide leadership amongst euro zone, Brics, Latin America and Africa.

Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi’s resignation over the submarine mishaps has amplified the task cut out for the new government on the security front. Most believe that UPA has not only overlooked the overhaul of an aging naval fleet, but also failed to curb corruption in the defence establishment.

The British Serious Frauds office exposé has brought to the fore irregularities and bribery in Rolls Royce engines supply contracts worth Rs 10,000 crore to Indian Air Force during 2007-11. Rolls Royce had supplied engines for fighter British Jaguars, newly acquired Brazilian VVIP Embraer Legacy jets, American C-130 J ‘Super Hercules’, naval and coast guard fast patrol vessels. This large fraud has hogged headlines following the arrest of Italian conglomerate Finmecannica’s CEO for irregularities and payoffs in supply of 12 VVIP helicopters to India by the group’s UK outfit, Agusta Westland.

The billion rupee question is, where’s the hope for India after the elections in case there’s a fractious verdict?



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