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.

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The Lotus is Sinking and the Hand Gets Dirtier

Lying is an established & proven phenomenon in Indian politics. It is a practised trend and part of Indian socio-political history. People of India and media alike, these days, don’t pay too much attention to the ever-widening gap between our politicians’ words and actions. For immediate gains, politicians iterate so many things that they themselves do not believe in and try to implement. Lying by politicians, more often than not, is not dangerous for overall affairs of the nation but at times, it informs us of directions to which the nation in general and the political class in particular are heading for.

A few days back, BJP leader from Utter Pradesh and former home minister of Gujarat Amit Shah, who is a close aide to BJP’s 2014 election’s campaign committee chief Narendra Modi, said that they would surely build Rammandir in near future. One can question what he means by the word they. Setting it aside, we can proceed to the rest of his statement. Mr. Shah said that Hindutva would be the key issue in the electoral agenda of BJP for the 2014 general election and with Hindutva at the forefront, they would surely come off with flying colours. A few days after Mr. Shah issued this statement, BJP president Rajnath Singh, in one of his rallies, said that Rammandir is not at all an electoral or a political issue; it is rather a national issue. And Hindutva is not a political agenda of BJP. Two conflicting statements by two leaders of the leading opposition are reflective of their respective political aspirations.

Sushma Swaraj, another leader of the first order in BJP, took this double standard to the point of self-deception. In the context of the serial blasts in Bodhgaya recently, Mrs. Swaraj said that they would not allow India to be another Bamiyan. (Here again pops up the bizarre question ‘what really does the word they mean?’). I don’t understand whether she is suffering from amnesia which makes her forget that it was BJP that essayed a pivotal role in the destruction of Babri Masjid back in 1992.

So many conflicting aspirations are gaining currency inside BJP that their promise to initiate a well-orchestrated regime seems to be a tall claim. Even as an opposition, BJP’s praxis in the corridors of both houses of parliament doesn’t make Indian people optimistic.

Parallel to that, the way the second regime of UPA is making its progress is not too presentable either. Rahul Gandhi appears to be their leader at the forefront and probable prime ministerial candidate but so far, he has failed Congress and its allies in every responsibility he has been entrusted with. From the assembly election in Utter Pradesh to the formation of Youth Congress & NSUI as organizations of national importance, Rahul Gandhi is nothing but a tragic warrior prince. UPA 2 is struck between policy paralysis and economic downturn; wooing its regional allies over NCTC or position regarding Sri Lanka has been getting difficult with the exit of Pranab Mukherjee from electoral politics. But the biggest threat for UPA and the nation as a whole has been the spectre of corruption. Never before in India, was such a series of scams involving political leaders within such a short period of time exposed.

Picture is not too bright for India. Lack of a decisive leadership in both sides of power, rise of China as supreme power in the Asia-pacific, ever-growing American effort to exert control over the region, cross-border and domestic threats of terrorism, rising level of public anger against the political class, corruption and unhealthy competition for power- there is an endless list of worries for India as a nation.

At this critical time, our political leaders must remember that people forget but history does not.