You should vote for a stable government.
With elections to five states hotting up, and with the general elections due in six months, an assessment of the performance of UPA assumes importance. In the two terms that the UPA has been in power, the first one shone brightly. This, despite the constraints of taking the communists along. The latter posed serious impediments to liberalisation. Still, in line with the global economy, India registered spectacular growth during that phase. The economy boomed, employment expanded and the average population recorded significant increases in income. Prices were reasonably stable, the rupee fairly strong and foreign trade expanded.
The global economic crisis of 2008, and the impending elections in 2009, led to the government throwing caution to winds. The profligacy of Pranabda’s budget for 2009-10, massively stepping up public debt lead to a steep deterioration in the economic parameters. From the high of 9 per cent plus, economic growth rate has fallen to 4.8 per cent. There is raging inflation now, investments have dwindled, trade gap has widened and the rupee is suffering a steep depreciation.
The worst record relates to governance. It is a grievous mistake to have succumbed to the pulls and pressures of the coalition partners- the DMK, the TMC and later the SP and the BSP that support from outside. The CWG, 2G and Coalgate scams have led to widespread public disillusionment.
These relate not just to economic issues. The failure on security, both external and internal, is even more disturbing. Pakistan and China have been brazenly violating border pacts. Kashmir continues to be on the boil. Look at Pakistan’s temerity to dispatch terrorists across the border providing army cover. And the ease with which they kill policemen and the security personnel deep inside Indian territory! The record on internal security is equally grim. A large part of the eastern and central Indian states are in the grip of naxalite violence. Neither the police nor the tahsildars and other officials of the district are permitted to take development to the districts, which are under Naxal control.
The third matter of concern is the inability of the Centre to take the states along. For almost the entire reign of UPA-II, it has been unable to implement the much-needed Direct Tax Code and the Goods and Services Tax. Worse still, the states have transgressed into the domain of the Centre in vital areas such as foreign policy and disinvestment. West Bengal blocked the Teesta water agreement with Bangladesh. Tamil Nadu effectively prevented the disinvestment of a small portion (less than five per cent) of NLC’s shares to non-government investors. And now, it has prevented the Prime Minister from attending CHOGM meet at Colombo. Tamil Nadu has also blocked several Central projects relating to highways development or laying gas pipelines.
A weak Central government has thus lost its capability to deal firmly with the national and internal security and fissiparous tendencies.
IE has been pointing to several areas where the Centre could have performed better. For example, stepping up food production that has been registering low growth that threatens to destroy the comfort of self -sufficiency. Import of several products such as edible oil and pulses, which could have been avoided by focused attention of the type of action taken by Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s through national missions. The poor performance of the infrastructure sector, notably power, with huge shortfalls, the inability to monitor even large projects such as the several steel and coal plants in Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka ... and the ultra mega power projects should have been averted.
The need is for a strong federal government that would be free from the pulls and pressures of the regional parties. This explains the large crowds attending the meetings of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. But, the wave seems to be confined to a few pockets. It’s necessary to vote a party or an alliance of parties with compatible policies with a clear majority.
Will the citizens do this?