Sums of Politics
by Sandhya Jain on 27 Oct 2009 17 Comments

At the risk of sounding churlish, one must say that with only single-largest party status in Haryana and just half-way mark for the Maharashtra coalition, the Congress is no runaway success in the recent Assembly elections. This ground reality could thus inhibit the winner-takes-all syndrome in governance. Of course, BJP is a clear loser, with a demonstrated inability to get its act together.

Maharashtra leader Gopinath Munde, frustrated at his family failure in the polls, pleaded for a younger leadership at Central level. To scuttle this line of thinking, Mr. LK Advani promptly secured the long-pending resignation of Rajasthan Leader of the Opposition, Vasundhara Raje! As he did not tell her to maintain decorum by offering her resignation letter to party president Rajnath Singh, it is likely that BJP factionalism will sink to a new low in coming weeks. With West Bengal unit chief also resigning, more state level changes seem likely.

This article is not about elections, but seeks to reflect how at both national and local levels, the BJP not only lacks the ability to set an agenda, but also the modesty to try to understand and ameliorate the problems of the common man, much less the larger national interest.

Last week, the Income Tax Department put out a story in a major newspaper that income tax refunds would hitherto be paid directly into the bank accounts of taxpayers, to avoid interface between assessees and officials. Actually, the direct refunds began some years ago after the IT Department had to deal with large-scale bouncing of its own cheques! Instead of posting the refund cheques to taxpayers, low level employees would visit homes near the expiry dates and demand a cut before handing over the cheques. Later, RBI would dishonour the cheques for expired validity! These would pile up in the Department, generating extra work and in-house scandal!

This year, the Department used accountants to ask taxpayers for 10 percent of the refund amount for quick release of the same. In August, refunds were posted only to the accounts of those who paid up; official letters were received in September-early October; those who did not pay did not receive! This is a huge scandal, and the deluge of complaints must have forced the department to promise justice to all. Yet the BJP failed to take note of such a disgraceful development right in the national capital.

BJP was similarly unperturbed at the phenomenal price rise after the 2009 elections, much before drought struck the country. Barring token noises, the army of economic thinkers in the party remained silent spectators to every atrocity, from the manipulated rise in the stock market without genuine recovery in the real economy, to the growing menace of crony capitalism, and the spreading tentacles of private corporates in the economy and polity, to the detriment of the citizen.

Way back in the centuries BC, Kautilya advocated state ownership of natural resources, and a state-moderated paradigm within which trade and private capital would operate. This was the practice in all Hindu kingdoms in ancient India, and to my mind remains a satisfactory model for our times. Today, as two spoilt siblings make a public nuisance of themselves regarding the pricing of a national resource, BJP does not see fit to demand a serious national rethink on the nature and extent of private participation in the exploitation of natural resources.

There are growing whispers that exploration studies by agencies like ONGC are hushed up and some years later, private participation is invited in ‘promising sectors’ which naturally yield a ‘find.’ If true, then as a corrective measure, all reports of exploration studies should be made available on the internet. There must be greater transparency about private participation – what expertise do the private parties bring which government lacks; how much real capital is injected by private corporates and how much is government loan; how much loan is paid back and how much gets written off quietly; what percentage of profit and how much management control is given to the private party vis-à-vis its real investment. 

The private sector is established in the consumer sector, but Delhi has suffered disasters in infrastructure development. A freak storm blew off the roof of the new international airport – something unheard of anywhere in the world – but political parties behaved like zombies, and the shoddy private firm remains in saddle! The city’s pride, Delhi Metro, was compromised by being forced to appoint a shoddy but powerful private contractor to build the piers which collapsed; the road in front of a Metro stretch developed a seven-foot hole in which a motorcyclist nearly died; hundreds of crores of foreign funds for cleaning the Yamuna disappeared in a black hole – but BJP took it in its stride. And when it became internationally obvious that the Commonwealth Games are in jeopardy because of slow and shoddy work, BJP rushed to defend the Delhi Government!

Three successive Delhi elections were lost because of a cussed refusal to take up issues like electricity privatisation, which is literally ripping off consumers. The Delhi Government mocked citizens by sacking the CEO, pleading and then denying a software glitch. It got away because no one asked why there is no improvement of service after over 10 years of privatisation, why no new transformers were installed, why there is no reduction of loss and theft, why electronic meters were changed twice, and why inflated bills followed each change of meters. If inefficiency and losses justified reckless privatisation of the public sector (including profit-making concerns), surely reverse nationalisation is called for as BSES fails abysmally? Far from leading the charge, BJP is silent even about a possible privatisation of the city’s water supply.

Delhi’s street cleaners narrate tales of outsourcing of civic services (sanitation, transport) to private firms owned by sitting MPs! This calls for public disclosure and a national policy regarding the desirability of firms owned by MPs or MLAs taking government contracts.

Hindu varna dharma barred concentration of political and economic power in the same classes; this is being violated to the detriment of citizen and state. BJP’s real problem is a secret resistance to Hindutva. It must purge itself of non-performing leaders across generations and uphold the Hindu ethos in the best interests of the people.

The writer is Editor, 

User Comments Post a Comment
Comments are free. However, comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate material will be removed from the site. Readers may report abuse at
Post a Comment

Back to Top