United against reform

On FDI in retail, BJP and CPM positions range from inconsistent to obstructionist

The responses of the major political formations to economic reform seem to be situational. They champion investments and market-friendly measures when they are in office. When in the opposition, they take to the streets to oppose it. Shaken and stirred by the big bang of Manmohanomics 2.0, the Left and the Right plan to launch protests on the very same day. It may be recalled that the push for FDI, now a major component of the reforms agenda, was kicked off by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Though it is in denial mode now, the BJP had actively considered FDI in retail, and NDA minister Murasoli Maran had proposed 100 per cent FDI. The Left has consistently opposed FDI in retail but it had pulled out all the stops in moribund West Bengal to attract foreign investment. Before he became the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee was commissioned to reach out to investors overseas. And former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya travelled across Southeast Asia in search of investment.

Now, the Left and the Right are loudly opposing reform in order to posture to their core constituencies the working class, the peasantry and the trading community. But while they are at it, instead of being merely obstructionist, could they also propose alternatives? The process of reform is famously irreversible. It must move forward by some means. If the opposition parties have arguably arrived at a better idea than the prime minister on how the ship should be steered, they should put it on the table, and preferably in Parliament, which the BJP in particular paralysed not so long ago. The fact is that parties of all hues have been in office at the Centre and in the states, and yet farm to fork logistics in India remain primitive. Procurement and public distribution policies are still maladjusted, resulting in the criminal wastage of food stock.

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