Dark Clouds and the Silver Lining
Ravi Shanker Kapoor
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies, said American comedian Groucho Marx. If there is one country in which such ‘Marxist’ analysis fits perfectly, it is India. It is as if, after 65 years of Independence from the British, the political system is not letting the Indian genius to flower. It is bringing everything down; economy is the obvious example.
Global credit rating agency Moody’s recently lowered India’s growth forecast for 2012 to 5.5 per cent and for 2013 to below 6 per cent. The revised outlook has come against the backdrop of Standard & Poor’s warning of downgrade. Moody’s report, appropriately titled ‘India Outlook: Below Potential,’ said that “instability [was] created by a government that has badly lost its way.” It minced no words in slamming the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as being “the single biggest factor weighing on business confidence and the economic outlook.”
The Left turn that India took under the UPA (because of its earlier alliance with communists and camaraderie with National Advisory Council or NAC members) is responsible for the present economic crisis. Worse, the turn is not restricted to a few policies that can be revised by this or the next government: big state enthusiasts have also made the future bleak by laying down landmines in the domain of economic policy.
The Left turn of 2004 should be understood in proper perspective. It was after long years in wilderness that all forces on the Left were able to make a big comeback, primarily because they found a sympathizer in Congress president Sonia Gandhi. They peddled the narrative that all ills in the country were the result of the opening up of the economy, the freedom enjoyed by business people and the reducing state role in the economy.
The ascendance of Leftist theory and practice has had deplorable consequences for the public exchequer, the economy, and economic policy. Thanks to the communist- and NAC-inspired populism, the fiscal deficit in absolute terms has zoomed from Rs 139,231 crore in 2004-05 to Rs 513,590 crore today (budgetary estimate).
The rainbow coalition of professional radicals, green terrorists, traitorous activists, bleeding hearts, and downright Luddites has not only strained the coffers but also made normal business activity a painful process. Questions about clearances were raised about the Lavasa project after many years of its commencement. Posco’s plant in India, the largest foreign direct investment in India, has also fought countless similar battles.
India’s potential is unquestioned; with a competitive business community, a large section of English-speaking workforce, huge natural resources, an enormous domestic market, and a number of sectors with projections of double digit compounded annual growth rate, the economy is at the cusp of high growth trajectory. Politics is holding that.
While the ruling coalition is the biggest culprit, other political parties cannot plead innocence. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for instance, hasn’t done anything to check the mindless populism indulged in by the UPA government. As in the economic sphere, politicians are also promoting a social agenda that is divisive and retrograde. The scope of caste-based reservations is being expanded shamelessly. While Indian leaders fighting for Independence vehemently opposed caste census in 1941, politicians in our time have ordered one such survey.
This is indeed depressing, for society today is much less caste-conscious than it was in 1947. The modernizing forces have brought the people together. There was a time when strangers were asked, “Kaun jaat ke ho” (which caste you belong to)―something that is not done these days, at least in urban areas and not much in villages. But politicians, in their bid to find shortcuts to power, continue to divide people on the lines of caste, creed, and region. Society is becoming cohesive on its own steam; politics is trying to keep it apart.
It is also trying to keep the creative energies shackled. Not a week passes when some politician or party does not demand a ban on some movie, song, book, etc. Our political masters can’t even tolerate cartoons in school books.
While politicians are capable of suppressing free voices, they are incapable of ensuring national defence or internal security. Former Army chief, General V.K. Singh, wrote in his letter (which was mysteriously leaked) to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to “pass suitable directions to enhance the preparedness of the Army.” According to the Gen Singh, “The state of the major (fighting) arms, i.e. Mechanized Forces, Artillery, Air Defence, Infantry and Special Forces, as well as the Engineers and Signals, is indeed alarming.”
He went on to point out that tanks are “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks.” The infantry faces the “deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities, while top special forces are “woefully short” of “essential weapons.” Further, critical surveillance suffers from “large-scale voids.” Air defence is “97% obsolete.”
Gen. Singh was aghast at the “hollowness” in the system which slows the defence procurement procedures. The government-run ordnance factories produce shoddy products and exhibit a “lack of urgency at all levels.” Against the backdrop of two “inimical neighbors,” Gen. Singh expressed concern that “critical deficiencies” are “impacting the operational capability” of the Army.
This is not what an aspiring superpower looks like.
In short, politicians have done everything to wreck the economy, destroy social unity, undermine the freedom of expression, and hurt national security. They are, however, not the only culprits; they have been assisted by a treacherous class, that of intellectuals, most of them Left-leaning. The role of intellectuals in hurting India in various ways is as much as, if not greater than, that of politicians.
It is a testimony to our political acumen that we have forged an alliance of the idealist and the crook, sort of politician-intellectual complex (PIC). The idealist keeps crying for expanding the role of the state; the politician is the beneficiary.
There are some grounds for optimism, the most important of them being the spread of communication. The social media has emerged a big weapon against the duplicity of ruling politicians and their poodle intellectuals. No longer are people willing to unquestioningly accept their dubious theories and misleading interpretations. But, even after 65 years of Independence, we have to go a long way to emancipate ourselves from the tyranny of the PIC.
The author is a freelance journalist. Views expressed are personal.