B S Raghavan

Yes, you can, Rahul Gandhi!

B.S. Raghavan | Updated on January 24, 2011 Published on January 20, 2011

I can't understand why the spokespersons of the Congress Party had to be so very apologetic about Mr Rahul Gandhi's view, expressed during an interaction with college students at Lucknow on January 11, that the Government's inability to control inflation and corruption was attributable to ‘coalition compulsions'.

The only Congress leader who has come to his defence in a forthright manner is the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mr Prithviraj Chavan. He has dwelt upon Mr Rahul Gandhi's observation by pointing out that “coalition can be a hindrance and one has to find a way out to make things happen.”, and that the dynamics of coalition politics meant that there were certain decisions that couldn't be taken.

Indeed, Mr Chavan went one step further and said, “…had (Dr Manmohan Singh) got the kind of majority which Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had, the country's growth rate would surely have been more by at least 1.5 to 2 per cent”!

Coalition politics

That a government that is formed by a single party which has a majority in the legislature, composed as it will be of like-minded persons, will always be at an advantage in decision-making is a self-evident proposition. Whereas a coalition comprises different political parties with their overt and covert agendas and voter bases, and it is unrealistic to expect any of them to give up the long-ingrained habit of scoring points over one another and playing the game of one-upmanship to enlarge their bargaining capacity, if not emerge as the dominant contenders for power.

It must be understood that there is nothing dishonourable about this, because politics itself everywhere is nothing but pursuit of power ostensibly to do good to society and the nation. India should be congratulated for having hit upon an innovative mechanism – the Common Minimum Programme – to neutralise the contradictions inherent in a coalition and help the partners to focus on agreed policy goals. Even so, the egotistic and self-serving propensities of politicians make it impossible to guarantee absolute conformity to laid-down courses of action.

Right track

That said, does coalition politics have any correlation with inflation or corruption? A paper (No 11/12) brought out recently under the auspices of the IMF has come to the finding that looming political instability faced by ‘governments in politically fragmented countries' leads to higher inflation, shortening the horizons of governments, and ‘disrupting long term economic policies conducive to a better economic performance'.

More interestingly, the same paper makes the assertion that political instability, which it defines as “Cabinet changes, that is, the number of times in a year in which a new premier is named and/or 50 per cent or more of the cabinet posts are occupied by new ministers”, reduces the annual real GDP per capita growth rate by 2.39 percentage points. As regards corruption, the impetus provided by of coalition politics to the spread of its tentacles to every nook and corner in India is there for all to see, from the Prime Minister being forced to include in his Cabinet persons notorious for their exploits in making their piles to the misuse and manipulation of investigative and enforcement agencies either to pander to the plunderers of public coffers or blackmail political opponents to toe the line.

Yes, Rahul, you are on the right track. But you should not stop with saying what you have said. I am sure there are many young, bright, educated and idealist persons, like you, in politics, cutting across parties. Bypassing the irredeemable elders, with their antique ways set in concrete, you should bring the youth together on a common platform and boldly lead a movement for cleansing politics and give it a brand new direction. In short, just as the UK's Labour Party reinvented itself into New Labour, if only you put your heart and mind to the task, the Congress too can morph into a New Congress.

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Published on January 20, 2011
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