Former finance minister, Yashwant Sinha’s article, “I need to speak up” published in the Indian Express on September 27, was a time bomb. It exploded many myths propagated by the spin doctors of the BJP government. The sum and substance of his write up is that the economy is on a “downward spiral and is poised for a hard landing”. The former finance minister was blunt in his write up to point out that many in the BJP know it but do not say it out of fear.
Yashwant Sinha presented clear evidences of a decelerating economy like declining GDP that reached 5.7% in the first quarter of the current financial year, shrunken private investment, collapsing industrial production, distress in agriculture, dwindling export, slowdown in service sector, increasing NPAs (Non-performing assets) of public sector banks and collapsing construction industry, a big employer of the work force. He has also mentioned that the present government changed in 2015 the methodology for calculation of the GDP as a result of which the growth rate recorded earlier increased statistically by over 200 basis points on an annual basis. So, according to the old method of calculation, the growth rate of 5.7 per cent is actually 3.7 per cent or less.
Yashwant Sinha has also analyzed the reasons for economic slowdown that has reached a critical stage. According to him the deceleration had started much earlier. Demonetization only added fuel to fire. Demonetization that has “proved to be an unmitigated economic disaster” along with a badly conceived and poorly implemented GST has played havoc with businesses. His conclusion is that an overburdened finance minister, Arun Jaitley with extra responsibilities, failed to anticipate the causes for the economic decline and take counter measures to deal with them. He concluded his write up with a sarcastic statement on the FM. “The prime minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters”.
Yashwant Sinha’s attack on the government naturally got support from the opposition leaders and flakes from the ruling party. It generated a lot of debate among the economists, journalists and the politicians. Taking a dig at the government, P Chidambaram, who has been a bitter critic of demonetization said, "Everything in this country is a surgical strike." Shatrughan Sinha defended Yashwant Sinha. "I'm of the firm opinion that everything that has been written by Mr. Sinha is entirely in the party's and national interest," he tweeted. Jayant Sinha, union minister and son of Yashwant Sinha wrote a rebuttal in the Times of India on September 28, rejecting his father's claims.
One who reads the write up of Yashwant Sinha gets the impression that the failure of the finance minister to understand the issues and prepare a game plan to tackle them is the root cause for the economy being in doldrums today. The analysis and conclusion of Yashwant Sinha seem to be partially true. The economy is in shambles because of the misplaced priorities of the BJP and its central and state governments controlled by the RSS. The very fact that the council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister presented a report card on completion of one in year in office before the RSS leaders in Delhi vindicates that the BJP government is controlled by RSS. The concentration and focus of the government was on the implementation of the agenda of RSS in order to realize its ideology of Hindutva. Accusing Arun Jaitley alone for the economic mess cannot be justified. The economic chaos is the cumulative effect of the policies implemented by the BJP government at the centre and in the states during the last three years. The COW, which symbolizes Hindutva, remained the focal point of BJP in order to polarize the Hindus and win election in the states and to snatch the livelihood of lakhs of Muslims and dalits.
Ever since the BJP came to power at the centre in May 2014 it has adopted a dual policy of presenting the PM as a development wizard, combining in him the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, the vision of Jawaharlal Nehru and the determination of Sardar Vallabhai Patel. The PM always speaks about development and he has launched a series of development schemes. Except Swacch Bharat no other scheme has created a visible impact on the people of India. On the other hand the Sangh Parivar was given a free hand to implement its strategies and plans to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. The mob lynching by the cow vigilantes created terror in the Muslims. The beef ban imposed by the BJP state governments was an incentive and encouragement to the cow vigilantes who were supported by the right wing organizations.
Beef ban and restrictions on the sale of meat and cattle trade imposed by the BJP state governments along with mob lynching by cow vigilantes have resulted in the loss of lakhs of jobs and income to the farmers. According to all India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, the accumulated losses in two months since Yogi Adityanath government’s crackdown on UP meat sellers ran into Rs 4,000 crore. The cattle slaughter bans and the bans on transportation of cattle across states, which are being violently enforced by bands of cow vigilante gau rakshaks, deprive the farmers of any resale value for their cattle. This has accentuated the distress of the farmers.
The BJP had promised to create 10 million jobs a year. "If BJP comes to power, it will provide one crore jobs which the UPA Government could not do despite announcing it before the last Lok Sabha polls," Modi said at an election rally in Agra in November, 2013. According to the data provided by the Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, the jobs produced by eight major sectors of the economy between July 2014 and December 2016 was 6,41,000 whereas the job creation by these sectors between July 2011 and December 2013 was 12.8 lakhs. The BJP has miserably failed to generate jobs for the 1.5 core youth who join the job market every year.
Increasing inequality between the rich and the poor has been another contribution of the BJP government led by Narendra Modi. Between 2014 and 2016, the richest one per cent of Indians increased their share of nation’s wealth from 49 per cent to 58.4 per cent according to Credit Suisse report. The same report shows a more alarming feature that the share of the bottom 70 per cent of Indians together is today just 7 per cent of the nation’s wealth. This figure was double at 14 per cent in 2010. The economic policies pursued by the BJP government are responsible for this worrying phenomenon.
The opposition parties were quick to criticize the government on the economic slowdown; but they failed in their duty to expose to the people the reasons for the mess in the economy, particularly the misplaced priorities of the government because of its obsession with the Hindutva ideology.
The actions of the major opposition party, the Congress, do not inspire any hope that it is capable of challenging the Hindutva ideology of the BJP. Rahul Gandhi, the Vice President of the Congress party offered prayers on September 25 at Dwarkadhish temple before starting his three-day campaign in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat where the Assembly polls are due later this year. It appears that the Congress is using the same strategy of the BJP to win the votes of the majority community. The leadership of the Congress is yet to realize that the party will not able to challenge the BJP by adopting soft Hindutva. One of the major reasons for the electoral rout of the Congress is its temptation to take recourse to soft Hindutva. Unless and until the Congress unambiguously declares its commitment to protect secular democracy it will not be able to regain the confidence of the people and of the other opposition parties to dislodge the BJP from power. The soft Hindutva can never defeat the hard Hindutva of the BJP. It is suicidal for the Congress to follow the path of the BJP.
As long as the opposition parties succumb to the temptation of soft Hindutva, the COW of the BJP will continue to eat up not only the economy, but also the secular democracy and the composite culture of India. The BJP government will continue to inflict more and more surgical strikes on the Indian people.
(Published on 09th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 41)