Pramod Kumar and Deepak Kumar Rath
Every election throws up its share of political blockbusters and boxbusters. Winners and losers look at the outcome from their unique angle and style. It is time for both jubilation and introspection?to learn some lessons?to prepare for the next round. After all, elections are a great leveller. Organiser correspondents Pramod Kumar and Deepak Kumar Rath spoke to a very special team of leaders across the socio-political spectrum of our national life. Read on.?Ed.
?The people have rejected NDA economics?
?Murlidhar Rao, general secretary,
Swadeshi Jagaran Manch
How do you react to the Verdict 2004?
This time elections were fought mostly on issues related to economic development and NDA itself laid emphasis on these issues. The election slogans coined by the NDA and other political parties stood testimony to this. Some of these slogans were ?India shinning?, ?feel good factor?, ?Bharat udaya?, etc. During its campaign, the NDA emphasised that it was for development for which it had worked. It urged the people to vote for it on the basis of its performance.
The NDA consciously discarded controversial issues like Uniform Civil Code, Hindutva, Ramjanmabhoomi and others. Apart from economic issues, there were other issues too, i.e. relations with Pakistan and country'sforeign policy. It had sufficient time for campaigning and to reach out to the last man. But if the verdict is analysed, the mandate has gone against the NDA. The people have clearly rejected the economic policies of the government.
The development paradigm advocated by the NDA and the social base of the developmental model followed by it have found limited acceptance. In fact, there was nothing original about the NDA strategy. It has been conceived and followed since 1991 by every regime. That is not a model, as it is not inclusive of all sections. It is exclusive of the sections that are largely accountable for the sustenance of the Indian economy. It only focused to cater to a microscopic minority, which is linked to the global economy. So this is the major observation that we can infer.
However, it does not mean that the NDA did not have any positive issues on its side. But the NDA was seen largely as an agency to facilitate the rich and not to protect and promote the deprived sections and the downtrodden. These people constitute very large numbers. The NDA failed to win power as an instrument of social change and that is reflected in the Verdict 2004.
It seems that all the persons who followed the economic reform policy have lost the elections. What is your comment?
Time and again, since 1991 onwards, whoever has implemented the new economic reforms or the Finance Minister, has failed. P.V. Narasimha Rao, P. Chidambaram, Dr Manmohan Singh and the United Front Government had lost. This time the NDA has lost.
What is the solution?
We have to realise that India is a vast country of more than one billion people and a major section among them is linked to the global economy. So we cannot ignore the aspirations of that part of India which is part of the global economy. This is not a small nation. And we cannot keep this nation as an isolated country. We too have a global interest as a nation, which must also be kept in our mind. But we should also see that in any developmental model, the larger section'sinterest is protected and promoted properly and whatever wealth is created, if not shared properly, then you cannot sustain the growth. So we have to keep the interest of the larger section protected and their interests are in the domestic economy, more employment and equitable development.
Farmers constitute a large chunk of the Indian economy. Agriculture has not been properly looked after.
On the contrary it has been neglected since 1991 onwards and even at the international level we have not done proper homework. And as for the small-scale industry, which provides industrial employment to 80 to 85 per cent people and helps 35 to 40 per cent in exports, we cannot say it is not competitive. The micro and macro-economic management have to be properly balanced. In the past 12 years we have focused on the external front or macro management but have neglected micro management. So there must be reconciliation between the two.These interests must be blended and a win-win formula needs to be evolved to make this country a competitive nation at the international level.
Reforms invariably focus on the foreign investment facility or on the large industrial sector. In the reform package, growth in agriculture sector, small-scale sector, or the artisans? sector the people do not have a say. In the advocated growth of the economy they are not stakeholders.
Despite all loopholes in the policy, why have successive governments and Finance Ministers implemented the same economic policy? Is there any vested interest linked to it?
In the last five-six years, even the disinvestment process has not generated confidence among the people. It has not encouraged the people to believe that disinvestment is in the interest of the nation. However, whatever the NDA government did was done to promote the interest of the nation. Nobody was against selling the hotels but the way hotels were sold, the way the disinvestment strategy was implemented, people began to think that these people (the government) were not thinking in the long-term interests and things were not being done honestly. Particularly in the organised sector, people developed a negative feeling towards it and all began to call this ?squandering of opportunity?.
However, there have been a few positive steps taken by the NDA government, which would be remembered for ever. One is on the international front in the WTO. The way we negotiated under the leadership of Murasoli Maran with the clear support and direction from Atal Behari Vajpayee, it changed the whole scene in the WTO. The Congress mortgaged the country'ssovereignty. But Maran paved a new way in Doha and Arun Jaitley pursued the same line in Cancun. Whichever government comes to power now cannot discard this strategy. It worked well for the country'sfarmers and for the poor countries the world over. Second, many people had said that Pokaran is an emotional issue. But in terms of technological efficiency and self-reliance, leave aside the emotional aspect, it has long-term effects on the technology front. It has allowed our scientists to go far. The country was able to even withstand the pressures and the sanctions. Third, development of self-reliance through introduction of ethanol and bio-diesel was a path-breaking measure. Fourth achievement was that inflation had been brought under control.