Has Congress lost the plot on inflation?
“Government Plan To Tackle Prices Is Just Hot Air” screamed the front page of Friday’s Mail Today, as India’s political media lined up to belittle what was billed as a list of anti-inflationary remedies but was robustly rejected as “already failed measures and oft-repeated homilies.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meetings this week with senior cabinet ministers to tackle year-high food inflation dragged on long into the night, keeping editors on tenterhooks and assuring Congress of front page headlines.
This morning, those headlines would have made for painful reading. After rumours of export curbs and future markets tweaks, what emerged to be a paltry list of recommendations was seen by many as nothing but ineffective band-aids for a broken economy requiring surgery.
Barraged by charges of inaction over tackling corruption, Congress appears to be heading towards firefights on two fronts as India runs out of patience with the ruling party’s attempts to curb inflation.
From economic hero to inflation-battered zero, perhaps more than anyone else Prime Minister Manmohan Singh encapsulates the Congress party’s current woes.
Lauded for his economic nous as Finance Minister and again during his first tenure as Prime Minister, the man who was applauded for creating GDP growth rates above 9 percent is now being chastised for failing to control the inflationary pressures that such rapid growth fuels.
With the Finance Minister talking of avoiding panic, the Chairman of Singh’s economic think tank predicting prices will ease, and the government turning to an “inter-ministerial” panel to review inflationary pressure, Congress risks looking like a paralysed party that talks rather than acts.
As state elections loom and the opposition continues to beat Congress with the corruption stick, the self-proclaimed party of the people can ill afford to lose the economic argument too.