At a seminar hosted by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in New Delhi last week, minister of state for commerce and industry and power Jairam Ramesh said in his inimitable style that any democracy, including India, should be measured by “the three Rs” — representation, responsiveness and responsibility. And, carrying on in a candid vein, he said that while India did well in representation, it would be ranked fair for responsiveness and weak when it came to responsibility.
Illustration: Malay Karmakar / Mint
Responsibility — or the lack of it — is a huge problem right now. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with its Left allies on whether the Indo-US nuclear deal should be formalized. Nearly a week after hostilities were renewed, there is no solution in sight.
This confrontation comes even as the economy runs into a spot of trouble. The spurt in inflation is the biggest worry right now. It has crossed into double digits for the first time in 13 years; there is every reason to believe that the final data for the week ended 7 June will show that inflation was even higher than what was provisionally reported. The government needs to move fast. It even has an incentive to do so. High inflation is an old and trusted vote buster in India.
The government finds itself facing a tough choice. Should it take its eyes off the immediate problem of rising inflation to focus on a deal that will give immense long-term benefits to India, especially in terms of energy security?
Political parties, as Ramesh stated, have a responsibility to the nation. Our own view is that the government should stick to its guns. In case the Left walks out, let it explain to the people why it did so.
These are not easy decisions. But what we now have is a policy paralysis that has set in just when firm action is needed to fight inflation.
This policy paralysis is hurting. And, as election season sets in, when five states, including key ones such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, go to the polls, unpopular policy imperatives will be even more difficult to contemplate.
It is time for the UPA to get back to the basics. Similarly, the Opposition, particularly the Left, should desist from opportunism. Let the coming monsoon session of Parliament be the moment to test this new resolve.
Should the government keep the nuclear deal in cold storage and focus on inflation? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org