That’s the spirit, Mr Prime Minister
(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)
Manmohan Singh’s “if we have to go down, let’s go down fighting” comment is exactly the spirit which needs to be demonstrated by those in power. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures.
It’s time politics rises above the compulsions of populism and displays a measure of political will.
The challenges India faces as a nation on the economic front are too huge to be tackled in a 5-year term. The earlier our leaders get used to this, the better they can concentrate on doing what is best in the long-term interest of the economy, rather than stay on in power and risk being labelled a lame duck.
Politics has been known to make strange bedfellows. Therefore, the only possible way would be for the two largest parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to get together on a “national economic agenda”, keeping their political agendas aside for a decade.
It may be unthinkable indeed but that’s the only way we can possibly make up for the lost decade to monetise India’s demographic dividend. Reconciliatory policy positions will simply not help long-term political interests.
Look at how the reputation and untarnished image of one of our most respected prime ministers has been left in tatters. If he lives by “coalition dharma”, then he is labelled weak and gets blamed for policy paralysis. On the other hand, when he acts, he is said to be anti-people.
I wonder if FDI in multi-brand retail is really the problem or is it that states have been forced to make a choice between economic progress and vote bank populism. This is possibly the best way ahead. Delegate more of the economic liberalisation agenda to the states so that they are held accountable.
The coming days will provide the prime minister the opportunity to demonstrate his political will. Irrespective of the Trinamool Congress, it seems unlikely that Singh will be asked to resign.
I wager that no regional party really wants to face elections; especially those currently in the opposition, simply because it’s too early to reverse their losses in the recent state polls.
Having rightly committed to social welfare schemes, it is now critical that measures are taken to revive the economy in order to fund them. It is also important that we prioritise enabling efficient mechanisms to deliver these welfare schemes, especially in rural areas, so that subsidies directly reach the deserving.
Considering that a mere 15 pct of subsidies reach the needy, we should be able to save the rest.
It is likely that Manmohan Singh will survive to carry on his reform agenda and regain his reputation as an economic reformer. If not, he better go down fighting.