National Interest: The Summer Freeze

Finally, there is unanimity at least on one thing in this capital city: that this has become our most dysfunctional real government in three decades. Real, to distinguish it from the obviously temporary arrangements like Chandra Shekhar's, Gowda's and Gujral's, described by late Vithal Gadgil in his immortal phrase, "ten-day wonders". It passes the buck to GoMs and EGoMs, which in turn only make news in single-columns on inside pages for postponing their meetings. The government is too scared to raise petroleum prices, treating the three-figure Nymex and Brent quotes with suspension of disbelief, indecision over coal mining is blighting power generation, and waffling over the Cairn-Vedanta and Reliance-BP deals is being watched with such dismay by foreign investors. Appointments of heads of the most important PSU giants like ONGC and UTI, chairman of our most vital infrastructure organisation, NHAI, even the CVC, are stuck. There is no progress on the ambitiously high-sounding National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), though the president promised it in her address to Parliament.

Our higher defence organisation is a mess, with chiefs speaking out of turn and an unedifying controversy over the army chief's birth certificate which is not being set at rest one way or the other, thereby dividing the brass. Such is the state of paralysis that even members of this cabinet, senior leaders of the "party" and definitely its furious coalition partners all acknowledge it with a shrug of helplessness. We have seen how devastating a government which is non-functional despite a majority can be in West Bengal in the two years under Buddhadeb since May 2009. Now to have a government in that condition at the Centre, and that too for three full years?

It is a frightening prospect. Businessmen are voting with their feet, taking a bulk of their new investments overseas. The markets are usually the first to sense policy paralysis. The markets, languishing in the third position among the world's worst performers in the past 12 months, have brushed aside Egypt to become the second worst. Given the mood of dismay in Dalal Street, Russians should be feeling threatened at the bottom.

... contd.

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