Saturday, September 15, 2012

Those who oppose reforms are unfit to rule….

The word “reform” is defined as “make changes in something to improve it”. By simple logic, those who oppose reforms don’t want to improve what is wrong. This explains why there is so much euphoria in the media about the reforms initiated by the government over the last few days. The people of the country want reforms; the opposition does not. By deductive logic, the opposition is unfit to govern.

There is politics and then there is politics. Politics is an essential part of democracy. Politics is what gives a platform to different points of view; to representation of different sections of our society. Politics should be based on ideology. So the Left is ideologically opposed to any foreign investment; preferring to reform in a “swadeshi” manner. But when politics crosses the rubicon and juxtaposes itself with “obstructionism”, the problem starts. This is the type of politics the BJP practices. Obstruct this. Obstruct that. Ensure the government goes into a policy freeze. And hopefully, get a shot at power. The BJP’s politics of obstructionism however has its limits. In an age when there is popular disenchantment with the government, it works to a point. But beyond that, people start asking “what is your plan?”. And that is where the BJP struggles.

What is the BJP’s plan? What does it stand for? Ok so we know that it stands for Hindutva; a euphemism for Hindus, notwithstanding whatever elaborate explanations it gives for the term. That is clear. We also know that the BJP got its mojo only after the Babri masjid demolition. Then we’ve seen the Godhra pogrom. So we know exactly how deeply entrenched the Hindu ideology is in the BJP and how far it is willing to go to protect it. Whatever opposition anyone may have to this ideology (and I have a strong one), one cannot fault the BJP for clarity on this ideology. For it, the BJP is willing to stand in “magnificent isolation” from all other parties. Such clarity is what defines a party’s ideology and consequently its image in the minds of people. It develops a loyal following.

But ask the BJP what its economic ideology is and things start to come unstuck. I used to think the BJP was pro-reform. But now I am confused. It appears to me that the BJP is anti-reform. That is if I am generous to the party and grant it that it is not being obstructionist. If the party is indeed anti-reform, then it is clearly unfit to govern. Why do I believe that it is anti-reform? Because it is opposing all reforms. Just like the Left and the rest, the BJP too is suddenly opposed to FDI. It has started raising quaint scenarios in which foreigners come and kill the local retail industry and deprive millions of traders of their livelihood. Such fear mongering is completely unfounded. Some stats should prove that. As per the online edition of Economic Times (June 15th, 2011), between 2006 and 2010, conventional retail grew between 1.5% and 6% per annum. In the same time, modern retail grew faster at 30%, though on a much smaller base. The important point is that conventional retail also grew. Anecdotal evidence tells us that no retailer has shut shop. And we also know that the competition from the Big Bazaars has led the local kirana shop to innovate. He’s had to cut prices, stock better quality products, provide a clean environment inside the shop, install proper billing systems, give credit and home delivery etc etc. Competition has ensured that the fittest thrive. If the unfit drop off, what is wrong? Whose interest will the BJP protect? The unfit trader or the vast consumer class?

By raising the bogey of “4 crore traders” (most of whom will continue to thrive), the BJP wants to give the impression that all of them will become unemployed. Arun Jaitley is quoted in today’s TOI saying “an estimated four crore employees in small retail stores would lose their jobs and would end up working as sales boys and girls in European-owned retail chains stocked with Chinese products.” This Chinese products is another bogey that the BJP loves to create. But Rajan Mittal, VC and MD of Bharti Walmart says that 97% of the items in his shops are sourced from India. Jaitley also adds “there was not a single Wal-Mart store in Manhattan as the Americans were aware of its potential impact on small retail businesses.” This is another lie. The truth is that Walmart is a discount store and it simply cannot afford the high Manhattan rates. Even in India, Walmart will most likely come up on the outskirts of the city; not within. Yet, the BJP continues with its misinformation campaign. Such blinkered vision is what makes the BJP anti-reform. And hence unfit to govern.

The alternative is that the BJP is opportunistic and obstructionist. Being obstructionist comes from its genes. The BJP is a Brahmin party in reality. As Aakar Patel beautifully explains in his blog (, all of BJP’s top leaders including Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley,Vajpayee, MM Joshi, Ananth Kumar are Brahmins (only Advani isn’t and that may have been a factor in why Vajpayee was made PM, not Advani). Its founders – Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, its biggest thinker Golwalkar and the author of Hindutva, Savarkar were all Brahmins. It gets it Brahmin coding from the RSS which has only had Brahmins as its head (sarsanghchalak) since the beginning in 1925 with the exception of one, Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhaiya). All its wings and sister outfits – Bajrang Dal, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, ABVP and Durga Vahini are headed by Brahmins. Aakar Patel then explains the basic characteristics of Hindus. “Brahmin is the intellectual keeper of the Hindutva flame” (explains why BJP is so protective of the Hindu identity), “Brahmin is an intellectual but if intellectual means being open to ideas, he isn’t” (explains why the BJP doesn’t support reforms), “Economics has not been a Brahmin concern” (explains why none of its top leaders are economists) and lastly “Hindutva is not constructive but sullen” (explains the obstructionism). The BJP hasn’t changed one bit. It remains as obstructionist as ever. In fact, another Brahmin leader of the BJP Yashwant Sinha has openly stated “Opposing (obstructing) is our job. We are the opposition”. Arun Jaitley has gone further, making a virtue of obstructing the working of Parliament.

At best, one can say that the BJP can make a good opposition party. But it cannot rule. Because ruling means that it must have the gumption of economics. It must have an interest in reform. It must push “construction” rather than obstruction.

What is true of the BJP is equally true of its ally the Shiv Sena. It too is an identity based party; it too wants others to change; it too has a destructive agenda, not a constructive one. Both the BJP and the Shiv Sena  have been given only one chance by the people to run the government. The BJP for six years at the national level and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra for five years. If there was any evidence required that people want constructive parties, then this is it.

The real truth is that if the BJP continues to oppose reforms, it will be deemed unfit to rule India by the people. Its obstructionism is in its genes. It cannot change itself. It cannot be constructive. And without being constructive, the people of this country will not line up behind it. That perhaps explains why – inspite of the Congress’s precipitous fall in recent times – the BJP fails to get a majority in any opinion poll…..

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