From the Viewsroom

Eerie silence

Poornima Joshi | Updated on September 23, 2019 Published on September 23, 2019

Opposition inability to critique economic policy is very disturbing

The spectacular series of post-Budget pronouncements to stimulate a slack economy will perhaps not stop at the latest razzle-dazzle of a deep cut in corporate tax. The Budget having been reduced to a balance sheet, subject to intermittent revisions, individual taxpayers now hope for a Diwali bonanza in the form of a rate cut. In the midst of these festivities, a serious critique and alternative political narrative about the general policy direction is altogether missing.

On the day of the tax cut pronouncement, the ruling party spokespersons doused the niggling queries on economic performance; an ever-ready to please media and the stock market jump helped their cause. There was not one among the top leaders of the biggest opposition party, the Congress, to present a considered critique. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi confined himself to sarcasm and innuendo directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his twitter account. Another senior leader, Jairam Ramesh, was even more ingenious with his clever spiel on twitter. Forgetting the “Suit Boot Ki Sarkar” catchphrase, Ramesh welcomed the tax cut with a couple of smart one-liners about the PM’s Houston event. It fell to the beleaguered party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala to later reverse Ramesh’s warm welcome to the corporate tax rate cut and ask some economy-related questions. The party is yet to come out with a structured response. Unlike the previous decades when issues related to the economy — whether it was liberalisation, Dunkel Draft, WTO, GATT — would spark public conventions, seminars and discussions coupled with strikes, logjams and loud sloganeering, there is near silence, or worse, confusion in the opposition party ranks. Only the struggling trade unions have called for a National Workers’ Convention on September 30 and the Left parties have given a week-long all-India strike notice between October 10-16. The absence of a constructive opposition is being keenly felt. Public discourse on political economy is the poorer with this sluggishness and callous disinterest.

Poornima Joshi Associate Editor

Published on September 23, 2019
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