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Out of My Mind: Steady and sure

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By EMN Updated: Nov 16, 2014 11:12 pm
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Meghnad Desai

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] strange parallel is taking place between Pakistan and India. Imran Khan tried last August to mount a coup by amassing thousands of his supporters to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He made threats and announced deadlines. Sharif established his legitimacy with a vote in the National Assembly. Since then, Imran has given one deadline after another and has been ignored by Sharif. Imran is too proud to admit defeat and Sharif is too shrewd to rub his face in the dirt. The anti-climax of this fight will be worth watching.
This drama is being repeated in Maharashtra with Uddhav Thackeray’s insistence that the BJP negotiate with Shiv Sena and concede its demands. Narendra Modi has conveyed in the best way possible that the Sena should know that beggars can’t be choosers. But rather than say it, he has gone on with the much more important task of completing his Cabinet. The Maharashtra government has been formed with the full panoply of MLAs rushing to the well, assaulting the Governor and complaining about the murder of democracy. Normal business as it were.The special style of Modi is becoming clear. He formed an interim Cabinet at first. He waited till the Maharashtra and Haryana elections and consolidated his hold on the BJP and his reputation as an election winner. From here on, he has no rivals within the party and no opposition group which can seriously dent his lead. He can now settle down to the serious task of leading the nation with the development strategy he wishes to implement.
Modi is a cautious politician. He is bold, but not rash. He wishes to distinguish his rule from that of the UPA, but not in any way which may impose any avoidable costs or risks on the economy. He will not change things for the sake of changing. The pace of reform will be measured. No furniture will be broken while changing the scenery. To the extent that the UPA-I was a success in generating 8.5 per cent growth rate, its example will be followed. Continuity is the theme, not rupture. All those who wanted a Thatcher in power in India will just have to bide their time.
Of course, we need to remember that even Mrs Thatcher became a bold reformer only in her second and third terms. Politics has to come first to secure re-election if Modi’s vision is to be implemented. But having said that, there are near term compulsions which have to be dealt with. The Cabinet is too large and, like all previous Cabinets, shapeless. Why India has left the rationalisation of government departments as a low priority is not hard to understand. The purpose of a Cabinet is not to govern the country, but to generate opportunities for ministers to get lal batti cars and line their pockets (for the sake of the party of course). Thus far, it is business as usual. It is welcome to see Manohar Parrikar in Defence and Suresh Prabhu (the only minister fired by the Sena, his party in those days) in Railways. Arun Jaitley has also been relieved of the heavy burden of two major ministries, though is now saddled with I&B. The departure of Harsh Vardhan shows that any fight against corruption in the Indian Medical Council will be punished. Thus India loses a decent health minister, the first one in a long time. In an ideal world, the ministries would be rationalised. There should be a few super ministries with a small number of Cabinet ministers. The rest can be ministers of state. Many departments are totally unnecessary. But that would leave a lot of disaffected MPs. So, for the sake of political peace, incompetence will have to be remunerated. The major danger the government faces concerns the economy. It is unlikely that in the July Budget targets of deficit can be met. They were a challenge since the new government took the interim budget as an acceptable document. That budget was designed by the civil servants who had made the mess in the first place. The February budget will have to be seriously radical if the government wants to get some hold on the economy. There is not much time.

Source: The Indian Express

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By EMN Updated: Nov 16, 2014 11:12:04 pm