Thursday, June 30, 2011

PM speaks. And promises to defreeze his government.....

It’s the time now for India to capture the world. The world is ready for India and is waiting. At such a crucial time, it would be suicidal if anything.....anything at all including scams and Anna et al.....held India back. I have argued in the past that the PM should lead the government out of the logjam that it seems to find itself in. Fast track reforms will capture the imagination of the people all over again and bring the confidence back in the people. Today’s papers talk of a couple of good stories on decisions having been taken.

The first decision is to that the decision on Cairn’s sale of its Indian operations to Vedanta has been cleared. It had been hanging fire for the last 11 months. I am happy the deal has been cleared. But I am happier that a decision has been taken. It is always better to take decisions.....even if they are rejections of proposals.....than to sit on them. The second story is the likely announcement of allowing FDI in the multi-brand retail space. Again, this has been going on for so many months and years. It’s now commonly held that foreign investment in this sector – at least in the major metros – will help spur growth and employment. If anyone was gaining from holding FDI back, it was not the common neighborhood retailer but the large domestic lobby made up of the Reliances and the Future Groups.

I also thought that the PM meeting the media yesterday was a sign of a determination to move ahead. I have said this earlier – in a democracy, the leader has to speak. It’s the same in the corporate world – the CEO has to speak. In a listed company, even more so. Investors want to know what the company is up to. Not speaking makes one imagine the worst. There is always a fine balance. One doesn’t have to be like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela who apparently was seen for 45 minutes on average every single day on TV. The PM spoke and immediately, I can sense a change in the mood of the media. The best part about the PM is his ability to accept failures. Just think about this in our own personal lives. When we know someone has done something wrong, we get angry. But we get really angry only when that person denies the wrong doing. If the person accepts the mistake and promises to make amends, we are more than ready to condone the mistake.

The PM in particular has a very honest tone. I have had the good fortune to meeting him once a few years back and in that 30 minute interaction, I could sense positivity and humility running through me. It’s because of his credibility that the PM is able to complain about the CAG, Anna and the media. On the CAG, the PM pointed out exactly what I have said so many times in my blogs. That the CAG had no business to comment on government’s policies (By the way, nobody in media said this. I was a lone voice on this subject!). Making policies is the government’s prerogative. The CAG’s claims of the 2G pricing were baseless and politically motivated. I won’t be surprised if the CAG Vinod Rai joins the BJP after retirement. This is entirely possible. Since my forecasts have usually been correct, do watch this space! The CAG made the 2G problem look much bigger than it was. By suggesting a figure of Rs 1.76 lac crores, the CAG provided fodder to a politicized media and a desperate opposition. Can anybody please point out to me how much the CBI (under Supreme Court supervision) has found as wrongdoing in the 2G case? Let me tell you. Just Rs 200 crores that Kalaignar TV got from DB Realty as a quid pro quo for the license given to DB. Even this is just an allegation. It still needs to be proved, though it looks that it must have taken place.

By criticizing the media, the PM brought out another thing that I have ranted about for long. By not naming any group, the PM has made the media introspect....and has helped win crucial support from this important pillar of our democracy. By complaining about Anna, he has shown a kind side and a tough side. He’s willing to talk to anyone, but he’s not willing to compromise on what’s wrong. The statement that civil society cannot expect to get A-Z of their demands was particularly apt. As Anna meets political parties, he’s realizing no one wants the judiciary to be included. Is he now going to say that he is smarter than all of them and that only he is clean and all politicians are corrupt? Anna’s support base is shrinking by the day and if he does go on his hunger strike, I don’t think he will create any impact at all.

The real truth is that the PM is the opening bat of India. By losing his coyness, the PM has helped everyone. Most of all, the poor people who are waiting for more jobs and more growth. They are not interested in the politics that is being played out. They are only interested in taking themselves out of poverty. It’s time for the PM now to step on the gas. Move ahead on reforms. Communicate with the media. The problems are not even 5% as bad as they look. Let’s hope for all our collective good that that happens.....

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