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Economic Slowdown, The BJP In A Denial Mood

Economic Slowdown, The BJP In A Denial Mood

Often the governments show reluctance to accept their failures. They try to pass the buck to someone else. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has proved to be expert in this blame game. The BJP has been in power for about five and half years. For its every failure, it finds scapegoat in the Congress party, starting from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

With regard to the serious economic slowdown, the facts are before the government and the public. Various national and international agencies and experts have advised the government to take effective steps to deal with the slowdown. The World Bank has said that India's growth rate is projected to fall to 6% this financial year. India's economic growth decelerated for the second consecutive year. In 2018-19, it stood at 6.8%, down from 7.2% in the financial year, 2017-18. On the other hand, Bangladesh and Nepal are estimated to grow faster than India in 2019, according to the World Bank. In Bangladesh, the real GDP growth is estimated at 8.1% in 2019, up from 7.9% in 2018, as per the World Bank’s report.

The BJP government at the Centre refuses to accept the reality. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad presented a strange logic when he claimed that the economy is doing well. At an election campaign in Mumbai, Mr. Prasad argued that the box office performance of three Bollywood movies presented rather different picture of the economy than claimed by most financial experts. “I was also told that on October 2, which is observed as one of the national holidays, three Hindi movies garnered Rs. 120 crore business on that day. Unless the economy is sound in the country how can only three movies could collect so much business in a single day?" the minister was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. Later the minister took back his statement on the face of a volley of criticism by the opposition parties and experts on economy.

Addressing a gathering of the RSS on the occasion of Vijayadashmi in Nagpur, Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Sarsanchalak, said that "too much discussion" about the "so-called" economic slowdown is unwarranted, adding that it would make the people in business and trade believe that the economy is really slowing down and they would become more conservative in their actions. It will eventually slow the growth of our economy further. Bhagwat also criticized the method of measuring economic growth, saying that “parameters like GDP are inadequate, faulty and all the economists are saying so". The RSS leader doesn’t want people to discuss about the economic issues that affect their lives. Is this not a sign of growing fascism?

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on October 17 that India remains among the fastest growing economies of the world and efforts are being made to make it grow faster. She was speaking to a group of Indian reporters in Washington.  She had earlier blamed the UPA government under Dr. Manmohan Singh for the deceleration of economic growth. Dr. Singh responded to Sitharaman, saying that the government should stop blaming the opposition, as it has been in power for more than five years. “This government has now been in office for five years. It should have learnt from our mistakes and provided a credible solution for the economy," he said. Sitharaman also made another accusation against Mr. Singh while she was in the USA recently. She said that India’s state-owned banks had their worst phase when Singh was the Prime Minister and Raghuram Rajan was the RBI Governor.

The BJP government is not ready to accept any one of its failures. Anyone, who is critical about the government’s failures, is personally attacked by the BJP.  Piyush Goyal, the Minister of Railways and the Minister of Commerce and Industry, addressing a press conference on 18th October said, "Abhijit Banerjee won the Nobel Prize; I congratulate him. But you all know what his understanding is. His thinking is totally Left-leaning. He had praised the NYAY scheme effusively, but the people of India totally rejected his thinking."  Abhijit Banerjee who has won the Nobel Prize for Economics along with this wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer had said that Indian economy is doing badly and it is going to “tailspin”. Because of his critical views of the government’s economic policies, the BJP is not able to appreciate his contribution. On the contrary, the BJP has tried to ridicule him. The BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha said, “Those people whose second wives are foreigners are mostly getting the Nobel prize. I don’t know whether it is a degree for getting the Nobel.” The highly offensive statement amply reflects the culture of BJP.

While announcing the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the research conducted by Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer has considerably improved the ability to fight global poverty. Banerjee is one of the world's leading development economists and is presently working as a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

While delivering a lecture in Brown University in the second week of October Abhijit Banerjee identified the signs of the economic slowdown faced by India. According to him, growth slowed massively and investment totally collapsed. “Exports are not growing. Public borrowing, properly added up, is 9-10% of GDP; hence we are in a crisis”, he said.  He has made an analysis to find out the reasons. As per his analysis demand is deficient as a result of demonetization and bad implementation of GST. 

He prescribed certain measures to bring the economy to the right track. The measures include raising the wages for India’s employment guarantee schemes, raising prices for farmers and letting the rupee slide. He also advocates clearer regulation that does not depend on the government controlling what people think or how they act. His last prescription is to “pray”. The implication is that bringing the economy to the right track is a herculean task.

Raghuram Rajan has been a critic of the economic policies of the BJP government. He had pointed out earlier that demonetization and the bad implementation of GST were two important reasons of the slow economic growth. Recently he widened his criticism and said the wrong priorities of the BJP government and its way of functioning contributed to the economic crisis.  While delivering OP Jindal Lecture at Brown University in the US on October 9, Rajan said that the BJP’s majoritarianism and authoritarianism were taking the country down a “dark and uncertain path”. He also accused it of weakening institutions.

According to Rajan, “factors such as ill-conceived demonetisation and poorly executed GST” were the tipping point for the current slowdown. He blamed centralisation for the Modi government’s inability to progress on the economic front. “Ministers are disempowered. The bureaucrats are unwilling to take decisions on their own and do not have a strong idea of serious reform,” said Rajan. “Because of the weakness of institutions every government runs the risk of turning authoritarian. Even the high judiciary, which was so active in the past, has been strangely silent on the constitutional issue whether changes in Kashmir are warranted and whether the continuing restrictions on a sizable number of citizens there is okay constitutionally,” he said.

Highlighting that the ruling party identified majoritarian issues like triple talaq and Kashmir, Rajan said: “I don’t believe that the majoritarians improve national security. They weaken it; they want national integration on their terms. Majoritarian nationalism is intrinsically divisive because it labels a bunch of citizens the ‘others’ and sets impossible terms for these minorities to be considered true citizens. It ends up alienating them and, as Lincoln said, a house divided by itself cannot stand.”

Because of its obsession with the Hindutva ideology, the BJP is not able to think out of the box. It is not ready to accept any criticism. As a result, issues like massive unemployment, farm crisis, inability of the people to withdraw their own savings from the bank as in the case of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank, increasing number of stunted children are not the priorities of the government. According to Global Hunger Index 2019 Report,   India ranked 102 out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019.  India is much below Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. India has the highest number of stunted children- 46.6 million. One third of all stunted children in the world are in India.

The opposition parties have totally failed to expose the failures and blunders of the government on the economic front. As a result, people are in the make belief that the BJP will ensure a golden era after defeating the “enemies of the nation”. The BJP continues its strategy of identifying the “enemies of the nation” and destroying them. How long the BJP will be able to hoodwink the people?

(jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 28th October 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 44)