Why are we reacting to the Time magazine? Have they said anything now which has not already been written and discussed in the media for close to two years? I must admit that I have not read either Time or Newsweek ever since India Today came on the scene. The Week, Observer and hundreds of magazines in regional languages give us all the news, and foreign publications have a very limited circulation. India is a major player in the global market and we do have an economic crisis. It’s only logical that it will attract attention as does China, Brazil, the UK or Europe.
I have tried to understand the economic problems in the UK and Europe from all angles as their recovery is vital for our growth. I would suggest to all those who are interested in global trends to Google a map of the imperial world. Is it possible that they are not used to competitive situations and no longer hold the technology edge as they held earlier? Is their ageing population adding to their long-term prospects? The UK, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Portugal were all colonial powers and had captive markets for well over a hundred years. All of them fully exploited their colonial might to strengthen their economies and all this ended rather swiftly in the middle of the 20th century.
The reality of life is that the BRIC nations all under foreign domination in one form or the other in a span of 50-60 years are already in a position to march to the super-power status. As I have mentioned many times in the past, no one is happy with the parity we have achieved with the developed nations; we should take things in our stride. Our GDP is dropping from 9 per cent to 6 per cent. Is this a crisis, a situation where we should ring alarm bells and cover our thoughts with a million doubts? We cannot live in denial. Impediments to growth have to be removed and we wish the Prime Minister and finance minister well, as we look at the present and the immediate future.
Elections of every type are important as they reflect the views of the aam aadmi. The urban vote gave the Congress the decisive edge in 2009, and I think this is under intense pressure as all the sections in the middle class and the aam aadmi are affected. In every class, this is different as some have to give up their new comforts, others have to trim their consumption. The aam aadmi suffers most in his aspirations for a better future. The Congress has been humbled in several municipal polls. There is disturbing news from Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP has won 36, and the Congress only 8 of the 49 municipal seats in the urban body elections. I suppose this can be dismissed, like other municipal defeats, as a ‘local’ affair.
The Congress and the BJP have an issue at the ‘top’ and have six months to resolve this, as it can take a year thereafter for things to settle down. The ‘TINA’ factor only exists in TV talkshows. As both the Congress and BJP weaken, the regional parties and regional components within the two national parties will consolidate for the future. I place both the Congress and BJP at 120-130 seats. I think one may gain at the expense of the other and unless either party touches 150 seats, I see great difficulty in their ability to form a stable coalition at the Centre. This will happen as the voter is three steps ahead of the political parties and I would hesitate to make any predictions. I think the Gujarat elections will show the decisive trends for the future.
It would be wise for senior ministers to remain in ‘silence mode’ on certain issues. I am sorry to see both Salman Khurshid and P Chidambaram get into trouble for different reasons; all this is not required in these uncertain times. The real problem is, and this is not confined to the Congress alone, that those who propose that the aam aadmi bite the bullet have never bitten the bullet before. The gulf between those who govern and the governed has grown over the years. Sad, but the public mood is very sullen. Hopefully, the monsoon rains will brighten the mood for everyone.
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Nehru is a former Union minister