So much to do, and so little time for UPA

Chidambaram as finance minister makes political sense. The Prime Minister will also be involved and I see the financial sector being reinforced.

Published: 05th August 2012 12:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th August 2012 12:36 AM   |  A+A-

Delhi gets monsoon showers for two days, and we take a power grid collapse twice in two days in our stride. While it was good to see the government react with speed in this emergency situation, what can one say of governance? The Prime Minister can ask the power minister to explain the unexplainable but all this and more will happen when credibility and authority is lacking in the political system. A huge problem has been generated in the energy sector; it is playing out now and will happen again unless everyone simply takes charge in his or her own domain of authority. This is necessary for political survival. Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh have drawn more power than permissible. Are we to assume that mature adults in governance are not aware of the situation? The states have denied the allegations but what of the aam aadmi who has suffered? Is the blame game going to provide any relief? Millions of words will be written as people suffer in a hundred different forms, public anger reaching a peak as tolerance levels are fully stretched.

Some things are difficult to understand. One does not like to be critical and adopt a negative attitude. The fact of the matter is that generation levels achieved in the 1980-90 decade were not achieved either in 1990-2000 or in 2000-2010. This was a period when economic reforms had just started and we recorded huge growth in GDP. The energy crisis has been growing over a period of time and has got magnified as energy infrastructure has not kept pace with development and increased demand. Sushilkumar Shinde as power minister could not produce a miracle; the new minister, Veerappa Moily, a former chief minister, has vast experience. But do we have the infrastructure support which is necessary to sustain 8-9 per cent economic growth? I am aware that the Prime Minister’s Office is looking into the issue but I have some experience in this field: several ministries have to plan and coordinate action to produce an acceptable result. This has not happened in the last few years and it can’t within one.   

Finance Minister P Chidambaram returns to his old portfolio and this makes political sense, and he had done well as home minister. We have crucial financial issues at hand and he is possibly the only one with the experience and seniority to tackle this situation. The Prime Minister will also be involved and I see the financial sector being reinforced. This is the right decision in the current situation. The global economic crisis is far from over. It can intensify in the immediate future and we need the best talent in the finance ministry. Media inferences that little happened in the finance ministry for the last two years and things may be different now are unnecessary and have been spurred by many with their own agenda in the government. This is very sad.

This mini reshuffle is cosmetic surgery to tide the government over the Monsoon Session but one can only hope that major mid-term surgery will follow in September. Careful attention has to be paid to ensure good governance; there is less than a year left as in the last six months events overtake decisions. The important thing is to ensure that the CCPA, CCEA and CCS are in place, and that no senior minister is burdened with an additional portfolio as there is much to be done by those at senior levels on issues being discussed in the CCPA. I cannot understand the logic in having Industry under Anand Sharma, Heavy Industry under Praful Patel and Medium and Micro Industry under Vilasrao Deshmukh. Should not all three be under a single minister? Kapil Sibal has HRD and Telecom, Sharma has Commerce, Industry and Textiles, and there are 10 other Cabinet ministers with two portfolios. I do hope corrective action will follow in the immediate future.

There can never be a vacancy at the top, and the system is not designed to accommodate multiple power centres. From experience I have little doubt that the buck starts and ends with the CCPA in the government. This is applicable to all governments, be they from a single-party majority or a coalition. This did not work in UPA II and coalition pressures by the DMK on telecom matters wrecked the decision-making process. 2013 or 2014 is not going to be like 2009 when the Congress party was the favourite to win.

Nehru is a former Union minister


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