Lawyers follow the briefs prepared for them by those who hire them, and Palaniappan Chidambaram is no exception. When G.K. Moopanar ensured that he was made Union Finance Minister in the 1996-97 Deve Gowda government, the present Home Minister had as his boss an individual steeped in the traditions of India, and wanting its people to succeed. Moopanar encouraged Chidambaram to reduce tax rates, announce an amnesty scheme to ensure that black money deposits got subjected to taxation, and overall run a tax administration that saw the people of India as decent rather than crooks. His 1997 "dream budget" created the conditions that enabled the NDA to carry forward the economic reforms initiated by P.V. Narasimha Rao during 1992-96. Of course, assiduous spin-doctoring by the formidable Montek-Isher (Ahluwalia) duo ensured that practically the entire credit for the reforms went to then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh rather than to Rao. Neither the PM nor his media advisor of the day (a dour bureaucrat, also from Andhra Pradesh) used to frequent the cocktail parties so beloved of both Montek-Isher as well as journos, hence the fact that it was Rao who was personally responsible for prodding a hesitant bureaucracy into implementing reforms has gone unrecorded. However, returning to Chidambaram, once he was made Finance Minister a second time, he once again sought to tailor his policies in ways that would please his political master, The Madam alias Sonia Gandhi.
Chidambaram is the initiator of the present collapse of the Indian economy, although the blame has largely been laid at the door of Pranab Mukherjee. Sharing Sonia's evident distrust of Indians, he introduced the culture of the Gestapo into the British-era working of the Income-Tax Department. The Bengal politician too has to hew close to the Nehruvian philosophy of his political supremo, that sees the people of India as children always needing adult supervision in performing the simplest of tasks. The Nehrus never believed in lowering taxes, only in boosting them. Indeed, Pranab Mukherjee in his previous avatar in the job has the distinction — if such it can be called — of having raised income tax rates to a level above 95% on the marginal rate, thereby creating the boom in black money that has been the delight of the overseas banking system.
Chidambaram is the initiator of the present collapse of the Indian economy, although the blame has largely been laid at the door of Pranab Mukherjee. He has joined hands with Kapil Sibal to create an interlocking web of new regulations that have brought growth rates in India down, down and downer.
Sonia Gandhi wants government to be all-powerful, the way it was in the good old days when the British were here in droves, and not entirely as tourists. Palaniappan Chidambaram has sought to make her dream a reality, by joining hands with other acolytes of Sonia such as Kapil Sibal to create an interlocking web of new regulations that has, in tandem with the follies of the RBI, brought growth rates in India down, down and downer. All the while, Manmohan Singh smiles beatifically and talks not of the crashing economy but of his obsession, Indo-Pak relation. By 2014, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, working under the political direction of his benefactress Sonia Gandhi, would have reduced growth in India to below the 2.5% Nehru rate of growth. Perhaps another economist is needed to christen a growth rate of 1% as the Sonia Rate of Growth.
When Chidambaram was Minister of Finance, he made the Income-Tax Department release advertisements extolling the benefits that their taxes were bringing them. This columnist comes across these "benefits" each day in Gurgaon. Roads that destroy spinal discs and bring peals of happy laughter to automobile workshops.
Power that goes off more often than it comes on, thereby enabling the sweating that is so essential to keeping blood pressure down. A corrupt police that presides over territory where mafia dons rule. Sanitation and water supply that rivals conditions in Rwanda. No social security. All this in exchange for a huge tax load, both direct and indirect, not to count service taxes. Thank you for what, Mr Chidambaram?