Politics is the art of the impossible. Shri Pranab Mukherjee proved yet again why he is amongst India’s canniest politics through the presentation of yet another Teflon budget. In an economy that is clearly demonstrating signs of a slowdown, amongst rising input costs and harried consumers, managing to present a brief on the government budget while neither admitting nor denying constraints requires tremendous chutzpah and Shri Mukherjee has managed this.
This article is not interested in the winners and losers nor the how’s and what’s of this budget. The scope is purely to examine the why and the where from here.
The UPA administration has seen the expansion of government into every aspect of Indian life. However, this has not been combined with a strategic outlook for public policy. Whereas governments expand with lofty ideals, the lack of pragmatic spending soon turns dreams to nightmares and benign surpluses to runaway deficits,. This pretty much sums up the Indian experience in the last decade. The body blows of the Great Depression has only served to accentuate this effect.
The result has been the inevitable loss of purchasing power. Industries are starved of timely inputs and swaddled with endless red tape. Farmers are reduced to begging for a fair remuneration for their produce. The mercantile class remains a favorite whipping boy with policy flip-flops on FDI in retail and GST unsettling any expansion plans, while the householder is unable to balance budgets.
It seems a long time ago that India stood at the path of robust growth coupled with overall welfare for the masses. The NDA government under Shri A.B. Vajpayee has been amongst the most forward thinking administrations in Modern India. The Golden Quadrilateral project remains a piece of visionary thinking that has been unmatched in the last ten years, not withstanding grand promises to make Mumbai like Shanghai.
It seems that even the UPA administration understands this state of affairs, although a strenuous effort is being made to demonstrate control over statecraft. In the aftermath of a string of disastrous state results, the opportunity lay in the hands of Shri Mukherjee to stem the rote. An admission of failure would have been necessary but the situation could still have been salvaged by pruning governmental expenditure and stimulating growth through careful advancement of Indian industry. Such an approach had the effect of little short term benefits but lasting economic welfare, a la Manmohan Singh circa 1991. In not doing so, the Congress has signaled its exhaustion with power. The lack of a powerful leader in its midst, either by design or incompetence has led the Congress to throw in the towel for 2014.
So where does India go from here? This is where the current opposition has to play a constructive role. By commencing political re-alignments in right earnest, regional parties have the best change of climbing onto the development bandwagon to which only the BJP can lay true claim. A robust re-alignment is the need of the hour, so that the Indian public can provide the NDA combine with the mandate necessary to propel India ahead.
The BJP too for its part has many crucial areas to focus on. Organization will be key to the success of the 2014 campaign, and here the Sangh Parivar can provide the necessary strategic vision and “boots on the ground” to ensure that local issues are highlighted properly. The BJP needs to close ranks and project a powerful team who can articulate the concerns of the various voter segments and Indian Industry. Leadership and discipline is the need of the hour and it is up to the BJP to provide this. Social media needs to be engaged immediately to spread the message of progressive thinking amongst Indian youth.
In short, events are already in motion to provide the NDA with the absolute majority last seen 30 years ago in the hands of late Shri Rajiv Gandhi. In military terms, the terrain and weather are favorable, the current regime is tottering and whole sections of the civilian population are rebellious and clamoring for change. The only real answer to the title of this article now lies within the BJP and shall be reflected in their actions from now to 2014.
India watches with bated breath.