Economics is not everything, of course!
New Chief Ministers, new mindsets? Yes, there is still a long way to go to ensure fast economic growth and reach critical human development indices. There is still a visible urban bias and a rural neglect.
There now new Chief Ministers, after the new elections and of course are the same old faces as in TN , West Bengal and Assam, new ones in Kerala and yet there is a new temper in the air in the states as well as in New Delhi. Who writes on politics or who interprets the political scene matters a lot in what new insights we get or not. Professional writers, mostly employees of big media families have their own limits in India. So too the old columnists who many times display independence but in the end they end up as looking for old times, old time perspectives.
As for us, we have no axe to grind or bound by any professional obligations! We can look at politics and economy and society and the larger issues in a more and balanced way.
Only in this sense, we see politics as at best good pragmatism. Politics is here with us. We are a democracy, fairly an open democracy and the democratic roots have gone deeper. So, even the West Bengal CM, the redoubtable Buddhadeb Bhattacharje has turned around to a “capitalist” path, he says he is a Communist but practices with Capitalism, fine! Such is the larger changes in the global arena as well as in the Indian development scenario.
So too, Kerala Where too the new CM cant but go along the way the state had gone under his predecessor. Can you oppose FDI(thought it is hard to come) or the IT parks or the Dubai smart city?
In fact, the other states are more worth seeing. In Rajasthan, we find Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje doing a better job by touring, some 623 km long journey to the remote areas and initiative much development work and by reports on the employment guarantee scheme, it seems working well. Rather very well because of the presence of the NAC member Ms Aruna Roy’s own NGO monitoring the works in the state. Though she won the CM’s job under the BJP, her own administration is by all yardsticks seem to be modeled on what Naidu had done in AP. Video conferencing with top officials and half-a-dozen senior secretaries are also ordered to travel with her and decisions taken on the spot on reviews of results on the ground.
Yes, she is compared with her party comrade Narendra Modi of Gujarat in making a good administration possible. She is seeking to establish direct contact with people and she is compared with Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhavat, the much admired mass leader of the state. She has raised her revenue targets by 18 per cent, given relief to the tribals by withdrawing 23,000 cases under the Excise act.
In Gujarat too while Modi is admired for his efficient administration, his handling of the sensitive communal issues had earned him the wrath of the entire country.
In Maharashtra too the development vs. regional imbalances has assumed a new twist with the governor intervening in the allocations to the different regions. As one who had spent a week in Nagpur, not long ago, I know well that Vidarbha, given with the now infamous farmer’s suicides continuing, is a clear case for the need for a separate Vidharba state. The case for creating new and smaller states wherever strategic pressures build up. Telengana is another case. May be we need to go for a separate state for Bastar too where the Naxalistes are creating a terrible situation.
The development priorities are of many kinds. The issue of allowing the different regions to get equitable allocations. This, we can see, is now not attained. Then comes the interlinking the national rivers and also interlinking the interstate rivers. Also solving the existing preset inter state river disputes. Along with these are the basic economic issues of ensuring high economic rate of growth. Here comes the present UPA government’s performance. It is now two years and Dr.Singh’s territory is being invaded by other issues like the OBC quota issue. Now we enter the territory of politics of a different kind. Dr.Singh might be entering a mine field or being pushed into it?
So, the Central government’s almost near-theoretical economic talk won’t do from now onwards.
The PM has to deliver on certain very crucial issues, economics, even the pricing of the petroleum products might destabilise the government! Also living with the more problematic allies and perceived enemies. Revenge politics is taking its ugly head. TN might take the lead, if not other states.
In another instance is the Haryana state where revenge politics of the kind we find down South being played out. The so-called CBI raids don’t seem to cut much ice with the already tired people of Haryana, a state that is also triggering more problems to Delhi because of its geographical proximity and the “no ideology or principle but only muscle politics”.
In UP, yes, Mrs.Sonia Gandhi had won but she is nowhere reviving the party in the largest state. With UP and Bihar, still out bounds for the Congress party, the ruling party is where it is and its future is only a question mark. While economic issues are important they are not everything! In a populist democracy like ours or under the leadership of Mrs.Gandhi and Dr.Singh, they have to carry their allies like DMK and the friendly allies like West Bengal.
So, in the end when we take a relook at the survey of sorts we have made here, it looks we need a more politically legitimate political leadership, the Prime Minister must be able to take political decisions and not seek to run the state as if it is another bureaucratic assignment.
India now after two years of Dr.Singh’s leadership might be in for a new change. We have to be pragmatic and also optimistic. After all, we have to go ahead with life and democracy is here to stay and the people of each state are the judges to decide whom to change and to continue with whom. So, we can’t have the best possible solutions for all states or even for the Centre! That is pragmatism and optimism is all about!