Congress party must become more democratic.
If you live in Delhi, perhaps, you might become immune to any new winds of change. May be you would be a government servant or a politician, even a minister or an MP, from outside Delhi from one of the states. Or, otherwise, you might be one of those small-time businessmen.
Yes, the big ones are from outside Delhi, either in Mumbai or from Bangalore. For those from Bangalore, Delhi is really a very distant place. The IT success stories are still very remotely reaching Delhi; the big money from the IT capital has no use in Delhi. Thanks from the IT industry being totally free from government control, much of the online and Internet based businesses operate from outside the reaches of the bureaucracy.
Thus, I found in Delhi that it is the Mumbai based businessmen, the big and small, are all very much in Delhi, and either directly or through their well-oiled middlemen, the so-called lobbyists is all everywhere. In a way, how one NGO calls these men and women are part of the “legalised corruption” ring in getting things done.
Yes, New Delhi government is a big disappointment, if you imagine that it is an open government, your ideal of an open governance and where the rightful people can get the government listen to you.
In Delhi, no one in the scheme of things, the high Constitutional functionaries, the PM or the party President Sonia Gandhi want to receive you.
There are rings and rings around them. The most discouraging thought is that the Prime Minister in Dr.Manmohan Singh has come to symbolise all that is holding up the functioning of the government as an ideal democratic government.
Since he is not elected or is he a politician or a political figure, he had almost reduced the government to one more layer of the functioning bureaucracy. The Prime Minister of India is doing his job as a 9-5 job! This is the most terrible thing that had befallen the Indian governance mechanism.
Where the Prime Minister and what are are his on-going thoughts on a hundred things that are happening everyday? Nowhere!
From what I know of him, as I know him from his Oxford days, he was always a low-profile man and even in his government service he remained low-key and what is not noticed or not commented upon in a serious vein is the fact that as Prime Minister too he hasn’t transformed.
Unfortunately, in this country where the old habits die hard, the Delhi elite, the so-called government servants and the various academic and other media types and the socialites are all so inured of the new awakenings in various fields. IT is a new industry in Delhi. Delhi wallahs might envy the big money accumulated by the IT men but they still imagine that the power and influence are with them, as government servants and media and TV men.
So, the myths about the PM being the originator of the economic reforms in 1991 etc are being circulated endlessly.
This is a myth. Now, in a well-documented book (Arvind Subramanian, India’s turn, understanding the economic transformation., OUP) it is brought out with substantial statistics and analysis (the author is with the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Centre for Global Development in Washington and who had worked with IMF etc) is to show that the great economic reforms is not the handiwork of Singh as such but it was unleashed around 1980, a dozen years before the reforms. Dani Rodrick and Subramanian (IMF Staff Papers and the Economic Political Weekly) (and Raghuram Rajan) had shown how the long-term growth of India started long before. Arvind Virmani is one more author who had explored the long-term growth of India and had come to the same conclusion. In or around 1980 the Central government selectively favoured industrialists and so we may call it as corporatism, rather than as liberalisation. The central government had discriminated against private industry till 1980.
The subject is known widely to professional economists and also for those who are well-known as friends of the Prime Minister as an economist and them as fellow economists. But they have chosen to remain mum. Or, perhaps, just to please the powers that be. This is also a time-honoured Indian subservient mentality. (A recent write-up by my Oxford friend, Prem Shankar Jha, both on the Prime Minister and also on Amartya Sen also seemed to be a sanitised version of their claims to fame)
The point is that the Prime Minister on his part had never once told anybody or anybody bothered to ask him and we all assume he started the economic reforms in 1991.Even that was disputed when Narasimha Rao was once asked about his own role. The then PM retorted: “I was the Prime Minister and he (Dr.Singh) was my Finance Minister”.
The tragedy in this country is that civility and protocol demands that we keep mum on such sensitive issues.
But as a Prime Minister the expert in Dr.Singh would have triggered him to at least explain what economic reforms he has in mind that are finished or others that remain still unfinished. Neither he has done nor do I think it is a great pity, to say the least.
Much more than the economic expertise that is helping the country, it is his political improprieties, the political legitimacy involved in his accepting the high office by getting himself elected the way he did and also continuing in the post all these years and thereby giving rise to so many nagging questions.
He turned the PMO into a cover for so many other improprieties. His government, in a sense, is the most inefficient, corrupt and subjected to all sorts of unacceptable influences and manipulations. The big business gets is work done through highly paid lobbyists and one can’t go into the various scandals that are circulating in Delhi corridors.
The Delhi bureaucracy, with all its pretensions, lives a life of genteel poverty! We in Bangalore pay young men and women, just out of college, what the so-called senior bureaucrats earn in Delhi. Oh, the Delhi bureaucrats, even at the secretary level, live in poor quarters, almost deserted flats!
What is the role of Sonia Gandhi in this pehnomenon? Very central to the downfall of norms of governance. There are no spontaneous and creative ideas and new insights and visions in the running of the government as Dr.Singh has chosen to run it.
If he thinks that this is a substitute for real governance, as a vibrant democracy, then he is totally wrong and history would prove him so.
A Prime Minister must be a political personality, preferably elected by the Parliamentary Board by the party and voted by Parliament and the Prime Minister must be responding to every development and crisis and the people must be enthused by his vision and dynamism. Nothing of the sort is happening.
Under his leadership, the party is losing election after election and we don’t find the PM anywhere in these happenings. He doesn’t care! That is the message.
Should Sonia Gandhi be given such a free hand by the Congress party to run the party and the government that is losing peoples’ trust?
Should the Party President and the PM give in to the blackmail tactics of the Left and the likes of the DMK?
Yes, this is a coalition government but what prevents the party President to ask the DMK to consider giving some ministerial posts to the 36- strong contingent of the MLAs in TN Assembly? Fear? It looks very much like that.
Also, the Congress party has no new ideas to inspire the cadres.
Rahul Gandhi is no substitute for building the party on some semblance of a democratic party, with branches in every district and down below.
What is the need for 35 secretaries, all stationed at the AICC. There is no reshuffle of the Cabinet in any meaningful manner. Only chopping and adding some favourites as ministers!
There is recognisable deadwood in the Cabinet. There are no new talents tapped for many of the posts even as Governors or as Ambassadors. All retired bureaucrats are retained and there is a Malayali mafia surrounding the PM.
These are very disconcerting thoughts and after four years of governance, we don’t have a clue to what would be shape of our polity, (a liberal democracy?) or a state-regulated free market economy? Or, other form of our economy.
Unfortunately for the PM and his team, the latest headache is high inflation and food shortages and the fuel price hike. People would expect the economic expert in the PM to come out with some hope-giving messages. This is also not happening. Other ministers are simply not rising up to the occassion. The Finance Minister doesn’t have much excepts harp on high growth and that too is dented with the high inflation.
So, at the end of the day when the country is expecting a general election, the PM and his team seem to have run out of any new ideas to inspire the people.
Surely, the time has come for a new face to offer himself or herself as the next Prime Minister!