I am beginning to think that the only way out of the confidence crisis that is there is if the BJP decides to support the Congress and the government pushes ahead full-steam ahead with reforms across the board. Before you jump on me, here me out.
Let us understand who are the real enemies of progress and reform of India. They are the Left parties and some of the smaller, regional parties (especially in Bihar and UP) who are more interested in consolidating personal power bases and wealth rather than doing good. Every few years, they go the voters segmented by caste or ideology with promises, win and enrich themselves.
What India needs is the equivalent of a benign dictatorship for a few years. Our national elections have become the equivalent of 25 state elections so it is unlikely that a single party will ever get majority on its own. This will also leave the largest party hostage to the blackmail of the smaller parties – after all, the greed for power comes above everything else.
The only way for India to undertake rapid economic development the way China did is to simulate those conditions in the framework of our democracy. We need a unified government for a few years – hopefully, by then enough infrastructure and social development (and yes, disinvestment) would have been done, that it will not make a difference. We need to eliminate mindless needling in our economy for the foresseable future.
This is where the Congress and BJP need to come together. Together, they have the majority in Parliament without relying on any third party. Since the Congress has emerged as the larger party, it should have the Prime Minister’s post for 3 years, and then the BJP for 2 years [the Congress can decide which 3 of the next 5 years it wants to take]. Key ministries should be divided between the two – yes, there will be some bickering, but the manifestos are reasonably similar on most issues. This is the “dream team” that India needs – the best people from both the parties who can lead India forward without fear.
The ball is in the BJP’s court. As they discuss what path to take, the only choice that seems to be ahead of them is a more stringent nationalistic line. This will undo the good work Vajpayee has done in moderating the party in the past few years. It will also polarise the country even more. That is not the route to take, but left to some, it may well be the road the party goes down on.
What the BJP needs to do is to take a different view and say, “Yes, maybe, all of India is not shining and we understand that now. So, we will work with the Congress to really make it shine in the next 5 years.” That is the future every Indian wants.
What everyone needs to undertsand is that the money we spend on subsidies and wasteful public enterprises goes out of education and healthcare for the ones who need it most. They compete for the same limited resources.
Besides, India needs international capital, and what better signal to them than our two leading parties saying they will do what it takes to globalise and transform India.
We cannot change voting patterns in India – for that we need to educate our people and give them the basics of life so they are not taken in by the next politician who promises them handouts. We have to get out of this vicious cycle. And for that, I believe India needs a historic decision by two parties which have symolised in their own way the good things that have happened in the past 13 years.
If India and Pakistan can work towards peace, why not the BJP and the Congress? What is the greater goal – an India which remains at the bottom of all development indices because a few in power hold the rest to ransom, or an India which is on the fast track of development and a magnet for the best in the world?
India has one of the youngest populations in the world. Are we going to let another generation wither away? Or are we going to become the manufacturing and services capital of the world? India needs 10% growth and 10 million jobs each year for the foreseeable future. The people who need it most at the bottom of the pyramid do not understand the damage they cause themselves when they vote for handouts like free power. The top of the pyramid does not care except for their stock market investments (their children are anyways getting educated abroad and can easily settle down there is the need arises). That leaves the middle – they are the ones who need to be shown the future, because it is they and the entrepreneurs in them who can actually transform the bottom.
At this juncture in time, India needs a government of national unity. It is time for the Congress and the BJP to support each other and make the Shining India a reality in 5 years.