Tuesday, August 27, 2013

“In the name of god”, Yashwant Sinha should tell us what his ideas are!

Yashwant Sinha made a fervent (some would say desperate) plea for the Government to “go, in the name of god”. He “blasted” the government and Chidambaram in particular over the economic crisis facing the country. It was an impassioned plea…..but it makes me ask him “Do you have any ideas of your own to run the government sir?” or are you “opposing because you are the opposition party”?

Because honestly, if Yashwant Sinha was to ask himself what he has enunciated so far in terms of ideas and plans, there is pretty much nothing that he would get. He writes often in the Economic Times, and I have read every piece with interest, but frankly, there is very little of suggestions that I have found. For starters, can he at least please tell us what his party really thinks about the Food Security Bill? He personally thinks the food bill is “ridiculous” (to Barkha Dutt of NDTV), but he also adds that his party doesn’t necessarily agree with him. Well he is right. If his party has any problem with the bill at all, it is that it is totally inadequate! Narendra Modi made this point at his independence day speech that the poor family’s food quota has been reduced from 35 kgs per family to 25 kgs. He also demanded that the prices be lowered even further. Can Yashwant Sinha please help us with reconciling these intra-party differences?

And when he has done that, can he please reconcile his party’s position with the NDA’s? Because last night on TV, it was becoming a little funny. Naresh Gujral of the SAD kept insisting that there is no additional spend the government is incurring through the Food bill! His numbers indicated that the government is already spending Rs 1.25 lac crores on its various schemes, and hence there is absolutely no increase! It’s just a re-packaging exercise! And like Narendra Modi, he also hinted that the government is cheating the poorest of the poor by reducing their quota from 35 kgs to 25! Now who is right? Yashwant Sinha who claimed to NDTV that the Food Bill will, in reality, cost more than Rs 3 lac crores, or Naresh Gujral, his own ally, who claimed that it would cost “the same as now” at Rs 1.25 lac crores? And can he please elaborate how the Chhatisgarh government’s food scheme – which is even more expansive than the center’s – is great while the center’s is “ridiculous”? And finally, can he also explain how the central food bill prevents state governments from continuing to give the 35 kgs instead of 25? After all, the central bill only “guarantees” 25 kgs; it doesn’t say states cannot go beyond? Nor does it state that states cannot continue to offer grains at prices cheaper than the center’s price.

Once Yashwant Sinha clarifies his position on the food bill, can he then please tell us how he would handle the economy. Because as the principal opposition party, it is his party’s responsibility to show us an alternate vision. After all, the BJP seems to really like the US Presidential system right? In that system, Romney and Obama both painted their visions for their people. Can Yashwant Sinha do that please?

Because some of his statements seem inchoate. And shallow. Now knowing that he is a very well informed (and clever) man, I fail to understand how he demands that the government should provide work to the poor in “roads, infrastructure” (NDTV interview) instead of food, but at the same time,  his party always complains about the  MNREGA which does precisely that?

And then again, he blamed the Food  Security bill for “sending the wrong signal to the market”, perhaps in the context of the stock market crash, but can he tell us how so many currencies around the world have crashed at the same time as the rupee has, and how the stock markets crashed worldwide last night, including Dubai’s by 7% and even the sturdy Nasdaq by 2%? Yashwant Sinha’s credibility is on the line here. He doesn’t want to sound like a perpetual cribber. He is much better than that. He has to elaborate on his vision.

Take reforms. It appears that there is a dichotomy between what the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, headed by him, has recommended with respect to FDI in Insurance (keeping it at 26%), and what his NDA government thought when it was in power. Why is he unable to recommend the same 49% now? Why can’t he send the right signal to the market?

The few places the BJP has clarified its position, it sounds like an anti-reform, anti-moderate (and of course anti-secular) party. What we do know is that the party doesn’t like FDI that much any longer. At least not in the retail sector where it is compelled to protect the interests of the small number of baniyas, even at the expense of the larger farmer community. We also know that it believes in a “muscular” foreign policy, even though it is unable to explain why it was so soft towards Pakistan and Musharraf when it was ruling. We now know that it doesn’t want a central act on Lokpal which includes the Lok Ayukta, in spite of its commitment to Anna Hazare in the Lok Sabha, probably because of the embarassment it would cause his party in Gujarat. We also know that it didn’t favor auctions in coal. And lastly, we also know that it supports the Congress in keeping political parties out of the ambit of the RTI, as well as in keeping convicted politicians in Parliament. Now is this what Yashwant Sinha wants us to remember when he asks the government to “go in the name of god”? Nah!

The real truth is that Yashwant Sinha sounded a tad too desperate when he chose those particular words to attack the Congress. He also allowed Chidambaram to remind him that he had made a similar demand in 2009, and the people had returned the Congress to power with even more numbers. We know Yashwant Sinha as a wise man; he must however continue reminding us why we must continue thinking like that…..

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