National Interest: The deformists
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UPA hammers down a holy consensus: poverty is my birthright and I will ensure you have it
Nine years of UPA has had one significant impact on our political economy. Our discourse was always predominantly socialist and welfarist, but under the UPA, it has now become entirely so. There is no voice offering an alternative, except some who might lean even more to the left of the NAC-stricken UPA. The consensus on political economy is now even more total than it has ever been — and even now is — on foreign policy. This is scary. And the Congress is not the only one to blame.
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It started the repudiation of the vanilla growth-is-good idea. As it came to power in the summer of 2004, the Congress did not reject growth and reform out of hand. It merely qualified both terms. So one became inclusive growth, and the other, reform with a human face. These changes were much more than merely editorial or ornamental. They were politically loaded. The implication being that growth, by itself, is iniquitous, and reform is brutal and inhuman. Nobody tried to explain how it was so. Sadly, nobody even questioned this. That is why the BJP is to blame as well. With the decline of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, there was nobody left to speak for his economics. Arun Shourie, who carried out the NDA's most audacious reform as minister for disinvestment, was soon sidelined. The BJP inevitably echoed the Congress party's rhetoric.
For a full nine years, therefore, India's economic reform had no champions in national politics and only a handful within the commentariat. The Congress party's rented intellectuals, led by the NAC, took over the entire discourse and nobody dared to question them, although some fretted behind the scenes. Inevitably, even some usual suspects, who had been celebrated as reformers in the past, took the cue and changed sides. This was a risk-free bandwagon.