Security is a word in economic lexicon

Security is a word in economic lexicon

By M.J. Akbar | 17 January, 2015
After a decade of dither, acrimony and decay, Indians want parties to set aside real or simulated hostility, and cooperate on legislation needed to break stagnation.

The seesaw of democratic tussle survives on a few unwritten laws. One cardinal rule demands unity across party lines during any security crisis. Those parties who violate this code pay a price. They lose credibility with the voter.

Voters are beginning to demand a similar premium on economic security. The reason is simple: there is a visible economic crisis accelerated by continuous slippage over the last decade, and a sense of tremendous underachievement by a corrupt and complacent government. People want a reversal, and quickly. After a decade of dither, delay, acrimony and decay, Indians want parties to set aside real or simulated hostility, and cooperate on legislation needed to break stagnation and lift growth on to the steep upward curve of popular expectations.

This is not about politics; this is about the nation. This is about welfare and aspiration. This is about factories and production. This is about the self-respect that comes with jobs. This is about building a future for the young, not about defunct politicians trying desperately to relive their past.

Indians have a keen eye for posturing. They know that Mamata Banerjee's MPs have become vituperative and obstructionist in the Rajya Sabha not because they have any valuable suggestions or amendments on economic policy, but because CBI investigations into the massive Saradha chit fund scam have begun to prove that corruption reached the highest reaches of the party hierarchy. Madan Mitra and Mukul Roy, close confidants of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, have been interrogated, and begun to talk. Mukul Roy has admitted he met Saradha chief executive Sudipta Sen, apparently in the presence of the Bengal Chief Minister. The party has begun to disintegrate under internal pressure. A minister, Manjul Thakur, has resigned because of the stench of corruption within the party. Mamata Banerjee may be angry with the BJP for pursuing the trail, but it is distinctly unwise to take revenge upon the people, which is what sabotage in the Rajya Sabha is tantamount to.

The Congress, bereft of ideas and hapless under the insecure leadership of Rahul Gandhi, has turned negativity into a desperate ploy. Its spokespersons trivialise every debate on the economy; they seem to believe that abuse is an argument. This isn't working. The last general election was won and lost on the economy, and development will control the debate over the next five years. If Congress, which launched reforms two decades ago, now gets cussed about the next stage of reforms, it will sink into oblivion. The slide in its vote share has sharpened after its historic annihilation in the general elections. It has no credible strategy for recovery. The Congress vote will crash into single digits in Delhi, a state it ruled with such aplomb for 15 years. In state after state, it is now in last place among the recognised parties. It will be fourth in Bihar, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh when elections take place. The thinner it gets at the base, the more bloated it gets at the top. In Uttar Pradesh, Congress has, unbelievably, 34 vice presidents, 64 general secretaries, 43 organising secretaries and 84 executive committee members, adding up to 402 office bearers. It probably won't get 400 votes in many constituencies.

No government wants to take the ordinance route when Parliament is functioning. This is an instrument of last resort. But a government headed by Narendra Modi is not going to allow mindless sabotage to succeed. He has been elected to govern, not to whimper.
 

When Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915, he accepted some sage advice from his mentor, Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He kept his mouth shut and eyes open while he travelled across the country to acquaint himself with the people he hoped to lead. A hundred years later, this might be just what Congress needs to do. India has changed, and Congress has not.

The Left has become a discordant whine on the margins; the various Janata parties are unable to get their act together, and are too trapped in sectarian self-interest to adopt a constructive national view. Witness the contrast offered by two regional parties, which remain relevant, led by Naveen Patnaik in Orissa and Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu. They voice apprehension if the situation warrants it, and back economic reform when they believe it is good for the nation. Other factors exist of course, but this is a huge reason why they have retained electoral support.

No government wants to take the ordinance route when Parliament is functioning. This is an instrument of last resort. But a government headed by Narendra Modi is not going to allow mindless sabotage to succeed. He has been elected to govern, not to whimper.

Slowly, over the years, terminology has changed. Security was once a word limited to borders and transgression. We now talk of food security as well. But the full implications of this transition have not yet registered within the political class. The economy represents the internal security of our country. If we cannot

eliminate extreme poverty and improve quality of life all the way up the rising slope of the demographic pyramid, India will not be at peace with herself.

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