AnAtal Bihari Vajpayee admirer recently asked, "Now that BJP has lost Delhi, will they focus on India's economic development?"
Vajpayee had advocated Gandhian Socialism and cherished an intra-BJP democracy. “Anekantavada,” or non-absolutism, and intellectual ahimsa exuded from his poetry as well as in matters economic. Simply put, Vajpayee encouraged a plethora of views and admonishing dissenting intellectuals was not his style – something that is absent today.
Since 2014, Narendra Modi’s cabinet has favored over-centralization. Qualified, trained civil officers are essentially inessential, which allows unchallenged incompetence and ineffective economic policy making. Budgets are presented with policy gaffes that get retracted later or are soon followed by an over-reaction that is equally worse. Add to that significant policy omissions that fail to address the direst problems facing the country such as the highest unemployment in 45 years. Lastly, over-centralization helped Modi’s inner circle to easily manipulate, throw out or hide economic data that pointed to government missteps as evident by their constant denial early last year until it was too glaring and too late.
The current government has also upped fear, uncertainty and doubt by maiming all forms of dissent, thereby creating an anxious environment of business and economic reluctance sitting on top of a huge demand deficit. RBI governors, some of the brightest in the world, who sought to remedy or mitigate problems before they surfaced, were not allowed the independence to do so, and consequently, Urjit Patel, Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Subramanyam thought it best to leave. RBI is a less independent body today and among the advisors to the prime minister are the Swadesh Jagran Manch, a RSS economic policy group.
L’etat c’est Modi or has penetrated the national psyche. Ultimately, that will be the biggest impediment to economic development. Agree with Modi first, development is a distant second – with or without focus!
Redondo Beach, Calif.