An NAC insider speaks up

If you have read this column more than once, you would know that I have a deep distrust of the NGO sector. This is because the NGOs I have encountered in long decades of covering politics and governance have turned out nearly always to be frauds. Some have hidden their fraudulence well for a while and then when I ask who finances their protests, their administrative infrastructure and their frequent flying to foreign lands, their duplicity is suddenly evident.

The biggest frauds are those who claim to be working to save the environment and alleviate rural poverty but sadly nobody told Sonia Gandhi these things and so she allowed NGOs to make up her kitchen cabinet. And, believe me when I tell you that Sonia's kitchen cabinet has been more powerful than the Prime Minister's cabinet in recent years. It is my considered opinion that the National Advisory Council is the reason why the Indian economy has seen such a sharp downturn since 2009.

Major economic decisions have been taken by NGOs who have no more than a small idea of governance. No prime minister in his right mind would normally allow NGOs to overrun policy making but Dr Manmohan Singh had no choice in the matter. He could not possibly go against the wishes of Sonia Gandhi. When she gave him his job in 2004, she put him automatically in a subservient position and herself in an exalted one. In retrospect, it has to be said that her 'inner voice' gave her some really clever advice because what she ended up 'renouncing' was not power but accountability.

This renunciation of accountability is why economic experts who lament daily the collapse of a booming economy rarely have the courage to blame her directly. There have been many thoughtful pieces of analysis in the Indian newspapers recently on what has gone wrong. They point out that we have spent thousands of crore rupees on huge welfare schemes while other policy decisions vitiated the investment climate. The analysis is accurate but we need to go further and admit that this has happened mostly because of the interference of Sonia's National Advisory Council (NAC) in making economic policies.

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