Will the Congress party’s austerity drive work?

September 17, 2009

When India’s ruling Congress party asked ministers and bureaucrats to cut down on needless expenses at a time of recession and deepening drought, many in the country had one question on their lips: will the austerity drive work?Rahul Gandhi tried to set an example by travelling by train as an ordinary passenger. His mother, Sonia, abandoned her private army plane and flew economy class on a commercial flight for a party rally in Mumbai.But there is still a great deal of scepticism among people. Some of the doubting was fuelled after the train Rahul was travelling in was pelted with stones. Experts said Rahul’s train trip was a security risk, which could cramp the austerity drive.But it’s not just the security concerns alone. The austerity drive also drew ridicule following a controversy over two senior government ministers staying in luxury hotel suites priced at $1,000 and $1,500 a night until their official residences were ready.Both ministers said they’d paid for their suites themselves, but stung by criticism amid the government’s austerity drive, they moved to more modest temporary homes.However, it was too late to change the mind of ordinary Indians who over years of Nehruvian socialism had begun to associate Congress politicians as leaders in simple hand-spun cotton, or khadi, clothes who drove around in old-fashioned Ambassador cars.Now, the question many are asking is: will the austerity drive last with election campaigns for Maharashtra and Haryana about to begin?True, with the economy in trouble, the government is making an effort with the finance ministry appealing for fewer overseas trips and smaller entourages as well as a ban on conferences in luxury hotels.But it isn’t easy: one minister protested he was “too tall” to fly economy while another said their positions demand they entertain in style.So, will the government’s austerity drive last? The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) doesn’t think so. A BJP spokesman said it was just an “election gimmick” and they would go back to their usual ways once the state elections were over.Will they?

14 comments

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Austerity is usually required when a government’s fiscal deficit spending is felt to be unsustainable, Does Congress want to indicate they have made India unsustainable?I believe more than adopting Austerity in INDIA Congress need to think on responsiblity. Strom is approaching Congress with name of resposiblity and every one can check it onwww.jimmaydarnagrik.comRegardsVinayak

Posted by Vinayak | Report as abusive

as far as my opinion is concerned ;i firmly believe that austerity drive would work great.if our ministers will start reducing the govt . expenditures then it would be a great help to indian economy.i m very convinced that mr.rahul gandhi travelled to ldh in shatabdi or mrs gandhi travelled in economy class plane but the statement by some minister to use cattles was dissapointing one.they are our leaders and we will follow their path so its great if they are trying to reduce expenditures it will result in great profit.as far security is concerned some solution needs to be found!!!

Posted by shivani | Report as abusive

Long on rhetoric and short on implementation is an Indian trade mark. What I fail to understand is that how do Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who are neither a part of government, travelling by cheaper means cut down government expenditure? So is this a publicity blitz at greater expense to the government really? The tickets may be cheaper but the enhanced security costs and risks nullify everything.This is not austerity, it is a drum beating. WE need austerity in reducing slippages in time frames of works in progress when cost over-runs amount to thousands of crores, we need austerity in ensuring that government funds are actually used for the planned purpose and not simply disappear into a big black hole. We need to cut out the enormous red tape and man hours we waste in dealing with babudom, that costs money. We need to cut out the frivolous security granted to politicians to feed their ego. The last time I counted a VIP motorcade, it was of the deputy Chief Minister of Maharshtra – 23 vehicles zooming down full speed, while hundreds of the aam aadmi wasted precious fuel and man hours, at peak office time on the road waiting for ‘his worship’ to pass.Is this austerity? If it is, I wish it ends soon.Ask the people who travelled on the same flight and trains as the VIPs – for some it was a tamasha to take pictures on their mobiles and for someit was a nightmare of being herded around by the security staff.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

Looking at the positive drive of Austerity, there is good. It teaches humility. Gandhi showed the way. There are definetly setbacks in every drive which is taken. But if we can followup with perseverance and move forward, the people will trust the Austerity Drive. Cong has to prove that this is not a Gimmik. The Former CM of AP has done a Padyatra where he walked to every village and by his simple life actually became the CM of Andhra Pradesh. People believe in simplicity and humility. There are a lot of politicians who already live Simple life. Media have to highlight them and also highlight who donot live a simple life and bring it the notice of the public. It need not be party based. This can be a character point about all politicians whether in power or not. The media can actually do a rake up of it and show of how worse some politicians are and how better the other politicians are.Thanks

Posted by Vyas | Report as abusive

I think this is a good initiative taken by the congress party whereby in the time of drought and economic recession, this is the better plans to implement. We have to wait and see will this austerity drive really works and how the policitians accept this.

Posted by Madhukar | Report as abusive

The austerity drive will not work because it is not supposed to work. Unlike Lal Bahadur Shastri who appealed to citizens to fast once in a week, these leaders are making a mockery of the initiative. There is no financial crisis in the country which was the case when Shastri was prime minister. It is only a game of upmanship.

Some measures are good and others are just flickers!! Pushing ministers from $1000-1500 suits to modest accomodation are good measures but not travelling on train or Economy class. Overdo is a problem of Indian politics – sometimes it does not make sense! Anyway good luck to ‘modesty’ icons.

Posted by Appu | Report as abusive

Dear Writer,Suddenly,all political parties in India had started to read Congress partyS austerity measures for showing to Indian masses.This is a good beginning applications to Indian,modern Rajas.Because of ruling party!s daily exercises on austerity matters,other leading parties are questioning this genuine moves.Indian masses are watching all these political parties on day today activities.If ruling parties and main opposition parties starts some real,genuine austerity measures at their own houses will be welcomed by all.Now, we want action oriented austerity measures than lip service methods.

To Vyas:Austerity needs to be reflected by lifestyle, assets and actions and not dramas. Owning a 500 acre farm house in no way means austerity. Learn austerity from MK Gandhi.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

It is a real shame that many Indians do not see things the right way.1) The austerity drive is nothing but a sham!2) Mr Tharoor is being greatly mis-understood.I do not know if there is any word limit here. But I shall be as breif as possible.Cattle class is usually a joke or a pun which is used by passengers of economy and low cost airplanes. It DEFINITELY IS NOT something which business class travellers use to poke fun at the not so well to do. I personally think the airlines operators should be taking offence at this and not the passengers like us.Secondly, just how much money does the government plan on saving by this Austerity Drive?? When the situation in India is such that if Rs 100 is earmarked for expenditure on infrastructure or anything else for that matter, on Rs 10 get to the actual expenditure. Balance Rs 90 is lost somewhere down the line. If the government can control corruption and wastage of public funds in such a matter, we would be more than happy if the politicians even have private jets to take them places!!Dear PM sir, I certainly did not expect such a sad move from the Congress Party led by you. I could never imagine that a person of your stature would allow this to happen and become a mute spectator to the Great Indian Tamasha!

Posted by Anupam Ekkanath | Report as abusive

This is just a publicity stunt.the savings out of this so called “Austerity drive” will save peanuts..If every Minister,MP,MLA,MCs & politicians stop taking bribes forever,India will save more..

Posted by Suresh | Report as abusive

So, the Congress has suddenly woken up to the need to be austere. Cost over-runs on projects are running to astronomical sums. What about the money stashed in Swiss bank accounts? Nothing has been done about that. Whirlwind visits of the Congress VIPs run to crores. Just look at the publicity stunts of our netas. Sonia flaunted and much-publicised her travel by economy class in a plane. But she would have been the only one travelling in the flight. So, though she seems to be travelling in economy class, the expenses will run to business class level. And her son, Rahul Gandhi, the great intellectual who spoke against interlinking of rivers, made a show of simplicity by travelling in Shatabdi. Does travelling in a Shatabdi amount to austerity? If he was so keen on austerity, he should have travelled in sleeeper class. By travelling with the commoners, Congress VIPs are only putting people’s lives at peril, while all along the bigwigs enjoy security cover. Will the Congress party at least now stop this rigmarole?

Posted by Romandas | Report as abusive

It’s all just hogwash …. if they really want to cut costs they should reduce number of ministers.

Posted by Nitya | Report as abusive

Ganesh Naik duo clean sweep in Navi MumbaiIT WAS a clean sweep for the Nationalist Congress Party in Navi Mumbai with the father-son duo of Ganesh Naik and Sandeep Naik emerging victorious in Belapur and Airoli, the two Assembly constituencies in the satellite city.While it was a smooth ride for three-term MLA and state excise, labour and environment minister Ganesh Naik against BJP’s Suresh Haware, son Sandeep Naik faced nervous moments as Shiv Sena’s Vijay Chougule steadily garnered more votes in the initial phase of the counting. Despite having lost to Sandeep’s brother Sanjeev Naik in the Thane constituency in the recent Lok Sabha elections by over 40,000 votes, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance had again fielded Airoli corporator Chougule to challenge the Naik supremacy. http://www.ganeshnaik.com/http://navimum bai-ganeshjinaik.blogspot.com/ http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ganesh _Naik