I know the role of an opposition party is to oppose, but the Bharatiya Janata Party’s reaction to the diesel price hike and the easing of rules regarding foreign investment in airlines and retail stores is disappointing.
I have always been convinced that the National Democratic Alliance that governed India between 1999 and 2004 was one of the most “reformist” administrations in modern India.
The angst the government is going through over Air India might not have happened had this alliance been returned to power in 2004 for the simple reason that Air India would have then been sold to a private company.
State-owned telco BSNL is threatening to become the next Air India, and that too may not have happened had the BJP-led alliance come back to power in 2004. Among its plans was a merger of this telco with another state-owned telco, MTNL, and the privatization of the larger telco that would have been the result of this merger.
And, as this newspaper has stressed, more jobs were created during the five years of the National Democratic Alliance’s rule (around 58 million) than in the first five years of the United Progressive Alliance’s (around 1 million).
Finally, since economic growth isn’t like two-minute noodles, it stands to reason that some of the growth seen between 2004 and 2009 was the result of actions dating back two, five, 10, even 13 years. Indeed, it appeared in the early 2000s that a mini manufacturing revolution was brewing in India (although, eventually, this wasn’t to be).
To be sure, the ruling United Progressive Alliance deserves condemnation for the way it has run the country since 2004, trying to move to a populist entitlement-led regime without worrying about the economic growth that would have provided money for all its social-minded schemes. And to be sure, it deserves condemnation for the many scams and scandals that have happened during its reign, although as I have previously argued, these may have well happened under anyone’s watch.
Being a political party involves indulging in a lot of grand-standing, so, BJP is entirely within its rights to milk the occasion for political dividends. Still, I’d like to know what the party thinks needs doing at this point in time (since we don’t have the benefit of time travel, going back to 2009 or 2004 won’t help, so the question I’d like the party to answer is simply this: what would you do if you inherited an economy such as this?).
I’ve read one piece by Arun Jaitley arguing against foreign investment in retail stores but the fundamental premise of that piece – that domestic retailers source domestically – is flawed. Even in temporary pavement stalls and local kirana stores across India, the toys, torches, umbrellas, locks, and a hundred other products available are all sourced from China. The rest of the world, including India lost the low-cost, low-end manufacturing game to China long ago. Even the pichkaris on sale during Holi are made in China.
And so, even as the party takes to the streets in protest against the diesel price hike and foreign investment in retail stores, it should, in the interests of democracy and in keeping with the role of a principal (and principled) opposition party, share its plans for the economy – this economy.