P Chidambaram and The Hindu share a common trait: BJP baiting. So, the content of the lecture was on predictable lines.
PC, the lawyer, has been accustomed to present a one-sided view of his brief. Expectedly, he continued with the biased Congress tirade on BJP and Narendra Modi.
PC claimed that his UPA II government handed a strong economy in 2014. But the profligacy of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s budgets during 2009-11 resulted in a steep decline in economic growth from which India is yet to recover. As finance minister PC was unable to reach a consensus with the states on the Goods and Services tax; let the country suffer high inflation and delayed adherence to FRBM targets. Growth plummeted while investments and exports fell.
Frequent laments on Rs 800,000 of stuck projects
Successive scams drove large business houses to shun India but invest handsome amounts abroad. PC himself used to cry over Rs 800,000 crore getting trapped in a large number of projects with public sector banks directed to reckless lending that resulted in humongous NPAS. The morale was pretty low with the scams of Commonwealth Games, 2G and coal allocations surfacing in succession.
The lawyer often expressed concern over the vast gulf between outlays and outcomes and the need for ensuring adequate delivery. He could not do much himself.
PC conveniently points to the failure of the civil service to deliver on the politicians’ promises and recommends retiring non-performing bureaucrats at the age of 40! And no accountability for non-performing ministers!
Additions to power capacity were much lower than the targets set during 1992 to 2007. In the 12th plan ending 31 March 2017, the achievement is nearly 115 per cent of the target. Minister Piyush Goyal, by activating idle capacity and in quickly completing projects, has helped create adequate power capacity. Power cuts have become a thing of the past, and all the villages will have power supply in five years. This deserves commendation.
Under UPA rule the Centre could not implement or pass some of the Bills for long like Land Acquisition, Food Security, Aadhaar, etc., as the Opposition resisted these and paralysed proceedings. The UPA with its hostile stance could not build the needed consensus.
No thanks for NDA I bequeathing a healthy economy
Chidambaram had the advantage of a strong economy given by the NDA in 2004. India was shining. IT was booming, the telecom sector was expanding spectacularly, disinvestment was making progress, the insurance industry opened its arms to private players, and most, importantly, the national highway programme had kicked off. Of course, PC had no thanks for these.
The UPA I conceived of ultra mega power projects. It cleared nine projects given out on global tender, selecting these on lowest costs, believed the absurd low tariff of around Rs 1.60 per kwh committed for 20 years. When coal prices shot up, the economic viability of these suffered grievously, and except the Tatas, others resiled on their promise. Thus ten years after announcing the project only one was commissioned.
A lawyer, not a judge
True to his profession as a lawyer, it was a one-sided presentation. Remember most lawyers cannot have a word of appreciation for the contesting lawyer’s presentations. They rarely act as judges because that would require them to look at both sides of any issue.
One could expect The Hindu to present other secularists like Gopalkrishna Gandhi to continue where PC left. And there is so much grist for the anti-BJP mill: the dramatic victory of the party in the cow belt
followed by the positioning of RSS ideologues like Yogi Adityanath and T S Rawat as chief ministers. Do we remember such strong, righteous protest by The Hindu or its columnists/speakers when a Mulayam Singh Yadav, a Mayawati or a Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi took charge as chief ministers for their known caste predilections or raised their voice against the autocratic and communal, inaccessible and corrupt leaders of Tamil Nadu?