Bridging Passion and Compassion: The UPA’s New Mantra

Even a stark enemy of P. Chidambaram would not say that he is not a realist. Recently he has declared that he will break a common ground between the passions for growth and the compassion for the poor. The assimilation of the two, according to him, is the noble goal of the UPA. And this declaration is going to acquire a central part of the UPA’s electoral agenda before 20104.

In his comment on the Sen-Bhagwati debate, Chidambaram has termed Bhagwati as a fierce preacher of income growth and the noble laureate as a sympathiser with the poor. Bhagwati has already reacted against this criticism but I am not concerned with all these. What need to be underlined is the covert admission of Chidambaram that there is a distance between the urge for income growth and the compassion for the poor. He and his political associates would annihilate that distance and develop a model for inclusive growth. This effort of initiating an economic ideology is going to be highlighted as an anti-thesis of the Gujarat model that Mr. Narendra Modi is so proud of. In Gujarat, conventional economic data and income growth feature on the top in the pan-Indian context but the state is in a deplorable state when it comes to statistics like human development index.

Whatever conflicting political & economic ideologies are at work, it would not be fair to relegate the issue of inclusive development to the sphere of income growth versus poverty alleviation. A proper economic development model of a developing nation cannot leave out either GDP growth or poverty reduction. And there is no last word on how these two will correlate.

Chidambaram’s comment, in this context, emanates out of his electoral concerns. The second UPA regime has suffered blows after blows involving corruption, policy paralysis and economic downturn. Promise of a unique economic ideology can earn some political brownie points for the ruling coalition but, Indian economy, in the long run, will not gain anything.

What saddens me as a student of politics and economics is the way two celebrated academicians are exploited to serve respective political interests. Intellectual atmosphere, like the political arena, will only get polluted with this.