January 26, 2014
High Rhetoric, Zero Content: Greater Misery for People

BJP’s Economic Blueprint

IF at all there was any reconfirmation that was ever needed on the score that there is virtually no difference – virtuality lies in the semantic verbiage – on matters of economic policy between the Congress and the BJP, it has come in the RSS/BJP’s prime ministerial prospect’s address at the recently held BJP’s national council meeting. This speech unveiled a so-called vision in terms of an economic blueprint for India if the BJP is elected to form the government following the 2014 general elections. This, we have been told, will build “Brand India through 5 Ts – talent, tradition, trade, tourism and technology”. This is supposed to exploit India’s current “demographic and democratic dividend” setting in motion an investment cycle to revive India’s stalled growth. Such a blueprint, we are told, will, at the same time, uphold a new representation of a rainbow of “Indian traditions – family values, agriculture and rural India, empowerment of women, environment, youth, democracy and knowledge”. This comes along with a declaration of concern and zero tolerance towards “western influences” such as drugs and narcotics amongst others. This is supposed to be achieved through the building of 100 smart cities and bullet trains in all four corners of the country, creating more IITs, IIMs and AIIMSs, as well as the development of infrastructure, reviving power plants, setting up of agro infrastructure, deploying optical fibre networks, pushing river interlinking and establishing special courts to punish black marketing. These are to be accompanied by a mix of social welfare schemes. Does this sound any different from the UPA’s objectives of Bharat Nirman along with inclusive growth? The moot point is that, however laudable and high sounding such objectives may sound, how are they going to be achieved? How and from where/whom are the resources going to be mobilised? What are the mechanisms and vehicles that are available or will be created to achieve this? The key elements of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial aspirant’s programme, as outlined in his speech, are urbanisation, infrastructure, education and health care apart from cracking down on scourges like inflation, black money and a relentless crusade against corruption. How is all this to be done? There is a complete absence of any suggestion on the implementation of such a vision. This is fascist demagoguery whose hallmark is high rhetoric and zero content. Georgi Dimitrov, in his incisive analysis of the rise of fascism in Europe in the first half of the 20th century following the global capitalist crisis of the Great Depression, says that “fascism puts the people at the mercy of the most corrupt and venal elements but comes before them with the demand of an honest and incorruptible government. Speculating on the profound disillusionment of the masses….fascism adapts its demagogy to the peculiarities of each country, and the mass of petty bourgeois and even a section of the workers reduced to despair by want, unemployment and insecurity of their existence fall victim to the social and chauvinist demagogy of fascism”. As discussed in these columns earlier, it was international capital that hailed Hitler and actively supported his rise and, hence, of fascism as a way out of the crisis of the Great Depression and largely profited from this phenomenon notwithstanding the gross violation of human rights and persecution ever seen in modern history. Likewise, in India today, India Inc. is hailing such BJP rhetoric. Chairman of one of the corporates says: “Finally some economic sense has prevailed ….rather than distributing wealth, the government should be a facilitator for investments to create jobs and help economic growth”. Another says: “Developing 100 cities is a big idea. Look at China, so many new cities have led to economic prosperity”. Completely ignoring the fact that it is economic prosperity that has led to the development of cities and not the other way around. Yet, another corporate chief says: “Brand India (the 5 Ts) is the big idea which can trigger a psychological turn around. It helps people dream big, boost consumer spending, build factories and make substantial investments”. India’s pink – economic – dailies are equally euphoric. The Economic Times says that this “economic vision has much going for it. Modi’s emphasis on big investment – 100 cities, big infrastructure, fast trains – has a boldness that has been lacking from the political class. India grew fast because of private investment.” And, “His economic heart seems to be in the right place”. One commentator says that Modi’s pitch portrays “himself as a messiah of big business and believer of neo-liberal prescriptions on development and growth”. He concludes by saying: “However with the extant government unwilling to stipulate anything normal, the AAP unraveling in its own confusions, Modi’s prescriptions, though a tad overconfident, did much to instill confidence and hope”. India Inc.’s overall applause of such a vision is based on its longstanding understanding that instead of expending public money on providing some relief to the people through provisions of rural employment, farm loan waiver, food security, right to education etc., however inadequate they may be, such expenditures from governmental revenue should have been instead put at the disposal of private capital, both domestic and foreign, for their profit maximisation. They seek to conceal their naked desire for profit maximisation by advancing the logic that making available such resources to private corporates at cheap costs would lead to greater investments generating both growth and employment and, thus, putting India back on a high growth trajectory. As one of their spokesman says, this BJP blueprint promises “to tackle all issues economists and industrialists have been pressing this government (UPA-II) to address – industrial growth led GDP revival, the need to harness a vocationally skilled workforce, rapid urbanisation to create jobs and lift people out of poverty, technologically aided agricultural reform as well as a crack down on key elements of India’s food chain that are exacerbating inflation”. Such precisely has been the logic of the reform process that continues to be implemented by the Dr Manmohan Singh-led UPA governments. The BJP’s vision of “high growth with a mix of social welfare schemes” is nothing else but a rephrasing of the UPA’ s agenda of “liberalisation with inclusive growth”. The UPA’s efforts have only led to the consolidation of the creation of two Indias started by the Vajpayee-led NDA government earlier. The BJP, notwithstanding its illusions of forming the government in 2014, is seeking to further cement the growing divide between the two Indias – the rich and the poor. This logic of making available capital to private corporates at cheap rates for investments would automatically lead to high levels of employment and economic growth is seriously flawed. Any investment produces something. Unless that product is sold in the market, neither can growth take place nor can profits be generated. For a product to be sold in the market, there needs to exist people with adequate purchasing power. In the absence of this, investment itself will not take place as its product remains unpurchased. The funds made available will find the way into unproductive accumulation of capital as can be seen in the current phenomenal rise in the prices of real estate, gold, and of foreign exchange. The rich are investing in speculative profits and not in production. Thus, the BJP’s vision, aping the Congress’s trajectory of economic reforms while paying lip service to people’s welfare, will likewise only widen the divide between the rich and the poor by heaping greater miseries on the vast mass of the Indian people. The Indian people, looking for much-needed relief from the mounting economic burdens, need an alternative economic vision, alternative to both the Congress and the BJP. They require a vision where the resources available in the country are stopped from being looted through mega corruption scams, or, being doled out to the rich as massive tax concessions and, instead, are mobilised for massive public investments by the government to build our much-needed infrastructure. This would generate substantial additional employment, significantly enhance the purchasing power in the hands of our people, laying the basis for a sustainable and more equitable economic growth trajectory. For building a better India and for vastly improving the quality of life of the mass of Indian people, such is the alternative policy trajectory that is required to be put in place in 2014. A secular political alternative sans the Congress and the BJP that will implement such an alternative policy trajectory is what our country needs. (January 22, 2014)