‘BJP lacks the intellect to govern’

Poornima Joshi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 18, 2016

“99 per cent of all success in life is perspiration. They are not sweating to take the country forward,” says senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal

The party doesn’t know how to run the country, and ad hocism prevails, says Kapil Sibal

The initial shock of the BJP’s staggering victory in the 2014 elections has given way to a belief among Opposition leaders that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not as invincible as he once appeared. Nor, as the continuing fall in exports and industrial production and the failure to get the GST past the Rajya Sabha show, does the first majority government in three decades seem adept at using its political capital to shore up the economy. In a scathing interview to BusinessLine, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal spoke of what he calls the government’s “intellectual deficit” and the “lack of clarity and vision” about the economy. Excerpts:  

What distinguishes this government from the UPA in terms of policy framework and ideas?

This government has a lot of woolly ideas, in the sense that the Prime Minister likes to believe he thinks out of the box. I think he genuinely thinks he has new ideas. I do not suspect the intent or the sincerity behind it. But with ideas and intent, there should also be the capacity to deliver. I do not think this government has the capacity or the intellectual wherewithal to deliver on its statements of intent.

Please substantiate…

The BJP claimed that it will radically reform the policy planning process in the country. The Planning Commission was thus dubbed a defunct relic and the NITI Ayog came into being. But two years down the line, we don’t know the contours of its responsibilities. We don’t know who is interacting with the States. Who is addressing the concerns and financial requirements of the States? We have lost a crucial institution and have nothing that is even remotely a substitute.

Narendra Modi has embraced all the schemes of the Congress after becoming Prime Minister and is trying to show that he has planned them all. He mocked MNREGA and then did an about-turn and embraced it. But he didn’t allocate enough money.

In a country where the per capita income is ₹15,000, where there is abysmal poverty, they are disdainful of left-of-centre policies, but have no substitute to offer. The UPA, in accordance with its commitment to welfarism, had looked out for the farmer. The MSP rose sharply alongside measures like MNREGA that addressed rural distress. But under the BJP, the MSPs have come down sharply. The farmer has lost his buffer. The government neglected MNREGA and then decided to support it by claiming the “biggest ever allocation” this year. There is no clarity or vision. I don’t see either welfare or reforms.

You mean there is confusion…

Total confusion because the BJP doesn’t know how to run the country. Basically ad hocism prevails. There is no clarity.

But the BJP does have ideological clarity…

Of course, in the field of education, there is no vision except saffronisation. The HRD Ministry is running the RSS agenda with absolute clarity. Every Vice-Chancellor is picked with a particular ideological background. Universities are now the centres of dispute and the Government’s attitude is to confront and contest. They have no view on how to deal with the aspirations of young people.

Besides forcing a communal line in areas of culture and education, where the RSS wants to put its stamp on Indian history, the BJP’s claim to be right wing does not reflect in any major reform process being pushed. I think perhaps one of the more competent persons in the government is running the Finance Ministry. But what is the achievement? What has the Finance Minister done about job creation when our exports and manufacturing are down? Mr Modi promised that 12 million new jobs every year. Last year, they created 1.35 lakh. Look at the state of the banking sector. There is no credit offtake, the NPAs are astounding and the restructured debts are bad for the sector’s health.

Crucial sectors like telecom are in crisis. Telecom operators used to pay ₹1,658 crore for 5 Mega Hertz of spectrum. That very operator now pays ₹40,000 crore. The reason is that the BJP brought politics into economy. They should never have supported the CAG because that led to a Supreme Court decision that every asset has to be auctioned. In China, spectrum is free. In many parts of Europe, spectrum is free. You don’t have to pay ₹45,000 crore, which in any case doesn’t go into the development of the sector. It goes into the Consolidated Fund of India.

You earn money from spectrum which should be invested into the telecom sector. Who is going to invest in the sector? The operators will have to pay their loans. The sector is in a debt of ₹3.8-lakh crore and the rate of return for 20 years is less than 1 per cent. The same is in coal… You auction coal… People are saying you take away our security deposit which is in crores, we don’t want to take the coal mine. Again, it’s the policy. The BJP thought that the CAG was doing a great job killing the UPA, but you destroyed critical sectors instead. Yes, you defeated the UPA. But you also killed the economy.

How is the BJP/RSS social/cultural agenda impacting India’s growth?

They follow a dangerous social agenda. When you polarise communities by imposing a majoritarian idea of what people should eat and how they should dress, it affects the social fabric and the rule of law. They are killing the husbandry sector. India has the world’s largest number of cattle. The farmer survives on them. It’s an extra burden on the state and the farmer to deal with old, decrepit cattle. They are not only destroying the household economy, they are demolishing meat exports on which a whole community survives.

Then your cadre go around attacking individuals. Besides crushing individual liberty, they are bad for business. They do not seem to have the time and the resources to run the government. You see, 99 per cent of all success in life is perspiration. They are not sweating to take the country forward.

Published on May 18, 2016
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