Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is it appraisal time for Congress?

It seems like its appraisal time for the Congress government which is going full throttle with key reforms. Last month the government increased FDI in multi brand retail to 51%, relaxed norms for investment in aviation sector, hiked diesel prices by INR 5 per litre and put a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders to six cylinders per household. More recently, the cabinet approved a set of five point reforms which include FDI in insurance and pension. This sudden volte face of the government from a welfarist to a reformist agenda caused many a skeptics to raise their brows. Afterall, despite being at the receiving end of withering criticism by both the domestic and international media over the last few months, the government and especially the prime minister had maintained a laughably ignorant attitude towards the ailments plaguing the Indian economy. The question that begs answering is, "Why this sudden change in attitude?" Is there a hidden agenda? Well, for sure. There always is.
In large organisations the Human Resources department is always beating down on the employees the importance of aligning individual goals with organizational goals. This creates the proverbial win-win situation where the employee gets his fat bonus cheque at the end of the year and the organisation reaps profits. This analogy can easily be used to explain the astonishing vigor with which the current government has donned the mantle of reforms. They seem to have thrown caution to the wind and have audaciously passed key policy measures in the face of known opposition. It is highly likely that this sudden awakening is in pursuit of the “fat bonus cheque”.
However, as is often the case, the employee is working towards achieving his individual goal and any benefit to the organization is only incidental. At a time when the congress government has been belting out chart topping scandals, a common refrain doing the rounds is that while all political parties, NDA included, are corrupt, atleast during the time of NDA, the populous benefited from their pro-reform and pro-growth agenda. The people of this country have been driven to such a state of despair that they are willing to accept corruption as long as even a part of their requirements and interests are addressed. And that is exactly what the government is capitalizing upon. At a recent interview, the Prime Minister was responding to questions on demands for rollback of decisions on FDI in multi-brand retail, diesel price hike and cap on subsidised LPG cylinders by the opposition. When asked to respond to reservations expressed by allies that the recent decisions could hurt their electoral prospects, Singh said, “We are far away from elections.” I think the prime minister was just trying to exhibit a false sense of complacency with regard to elections. Most steps taken by political parties, both ruling and opposition are cautiously cultivated with an eye on the prize. With the intent of winning the elections. That is the ultimate bonus and the congress party is taking measured steps, by way of these sudden reforms, with an eye on the prize.
However, if in the process of this personal goal fulfilling agenda, the country and its people become accidental beneficiaries, then it becomes a win-win situation. I think that is the best we can hope for.

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