Kejriwal’s capitalism

If Kejriwal is sincere about his belief in capitalism, he is mixing in very odd company.

Updated: February 23, 2014 4:08 am
 The kindest thing I can say about the economic thoughts of Arvind Kejriwal is that he needs to think some more about his ideas.
The kindest thing I can say about the economic thoughts of Arvind Kejriwal is that he needs to think some more about his ideas.

Citizen Kejriwal announced last week that he was not against capitalism but only against ‘crony capitalism’. This was so astounding a statement from a man who used his 15 minutes in office hounding private companies and flinging charges at major industrialists that I resolved to investigate further. This required careful analysis of the speech he made at the CII meeting in Delhi. The more I analysed, the more I heard the sound of music in my ears. Arvind Kejriwal in concise and clear terms espoused causes this column has espoused ever since I discovered more than 20 years ago that India’s biggest political problems were its economic failures. In this space I have stated ad nauseum that I believe India could still be the richest country in the world if we follow the right economic polices.

By ‘right’ I mean right ideologically as well because I think it has been proven that countries that have capitalism and democracy as their pillars do better than those that do not. I also believe that the Indian economy has been destroyed by Nehruvian socialism that invested unlimited power in the hands of officials. So it delighted me to hear Kejriwal declare that business is not the business of government and that the government’s business is only to create an atmosphere conducive for businessmen to do business efficiently.

It delighted me to hear him say that as chief minister of Delhi he visited industrial areas in the city and was appalled by the absence of basic infrastructure like roads and electricity. And my delight knew no bounds when he spoke out vehemently against the licence raj, adding that he totally disapproved of the inspectors that continue to terrorise businessmen big and small. It was an outrage, he said, that the smallest businesses were inspected by as many as 50 inspectors.

As someone who has often said that the worst victims of the inspector raj are India’s poorest citizens, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. No other politician in India has linked the importance of economic reforms to the rights of the poor. And the Sonia-Manmohan government has in its second term in office done the opposite by making economic reforms sound like the enemy of India’s poorest citizens for not being ‘inclusive’ enough. The truth is that nobody is more harassed by inspectors and licences than poor villagers who come to big cities to make a living by starting small businesses on the pavements of Delhi and Mumbai. When they are found not to have licences, their meagre goods are confiscated and trashed by inspectors regularly. The word ‘hafta’ comes from the mean streets of our big cities.

Had this crusader against corruption noticed these things because of his crusade against corruption? Had I totally misunderstood his economic ideas? Had his strident and illogical outbursts against gas pricing been motivated by a sincere belief that Mukesh Ambani owned the government? No sooner did I begin to ask myself these questions than images of Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and Medha Patkar blotted them out completely.

Citizen Kejriwal cannot possibly be sincere about his economic ideas if his closest associates are as committed to ‘socialism’ as these people have shown themselves to be. Bhushan is so rabid a Marxist that he spits out the words ‘private corporations’ every time he uses them. Nearly always he charges them with ‘looting’ the wealth of the people. Yadav is more genteel but admitted in an interview recently that he was a socialist and that socialism was the economic creed of the Aam Aadmi Party. As for Ms Patkar, she has spent her entire time in public life opposing development of every kind.

So if Kejriwal is sincere about his belief in capitalism, he is mixing in very odd company. As for his crusade against ‘crony capitalism’, what worries me is that he seems not to have understood where the crux of the problem lies. You do not need a Lokpal to tell you that the only thing that we need to do is reduce the discretionary powers of big political leaders and high officials. It is because they have these powers that they can hand out spectrum, valuable mines and prime real estate to their friends and family. Make this process transparent and most corruption in public transactions would disappear.

The kindest thing I can say about the economic thoughts of Arvind Kejriwal is that he needs to think some more about his ideas. He may discover that the last thing India needs is a super-kotwal in the form of a mighty Lokpal because with him would come thousands more officials who will only add to the problems businessmen already face. He may even discover that India is rated by international agencies as one of the hardest countries in the world for business.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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  1. K
    krish
    Feb 23, 2014 at 4:49 pm
    Arvind speech is full of emotion just to create a public feeling that he is for poor. He is just a street politician. He is neither interested in India's development nor putting up a regulation to control business houses. For him all investment belongs to crony capitalism. All Indians are fraud. He was given a chance to rule Delhi but he simply came out because he realized his emotional speech will not help to run the administration. Since Indians are mostly driven by emotions and not reality he was successful in Delhi election. It is time for Delhites to decide whether they want to re-elect such irresponsible persons.
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      Achuta Bhat
      Mar 3, 2014 at 9:42 am
      AAP is neither LEFT nor RIGHT. It is an 'ABOUT TURN' party.
      Reply
      1. A
        Admirer
        Feb 23, 2014 at 4:31 am
        Well written, as always!
        Reply
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          Amit Gupta
          Feb 24, 2014 at 6:23 am
          Scindia family of gwalior has presence in Congress as well as BJP. So by the above argument Jyotiraditya may not be secular enough and Vasundhra Raje is less communal.Prashant Bhushan uming is a hard core marxist but he is working for a party who have officially stated a different position. Could this mean that he is able to appreciate collective will of people at the cost of his opinion. Is that not a good thing? Medha Patkar would not have been that successful in her opposition if not there was some truth on her side.
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            arpit goel
            Feb 25, 2014 at 7:28 pm
            Agreed completely.
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              sb
              Feb 24, 2014 at 4:58 am
              Completely agree!! Further, good governance and reducing discretionary powers of officials can only be brought by e-governance initiatives. We need to adopt modern methods of managements. Alas..this JanLokpal..with lakhs of court cases pending, this will create extreme anarchy and a big tool for political vendetta.
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                Sarvesh Dev
                Feb 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm
                Dialogue and Capitalism as not at odds but Capitalism and Socialism are as are socialism and developement
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                1. K
                  Kangkan Dev
                  Feb 23, 2014 at 8:45 am
                  Well,kejriwal is his interview has said that he wants people on both sides of the spectrum to have dialouge...thats why meera sanyal needs to speak with medha patkar...i dont tink dialouge and capitalism at odds with each other....
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                    kannan ravi
                    Feb 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm
                    Awesome article. India was the most entrepreneurial and capitalistic country in world at one time and hence was the richest in the world till 18th century before the British loot began. We then unfortunately imported Socialistic ideas from USSR. It is time, we go back to out roots, where honest hard work by entrepreneurs are rewarded. Kejriwal is just another Leftist in a new avatar. Being a Keralite, I have seen the tragedy of being Leftist. If you go to Kerala you will be hard pressed to find any able youth in his 20s-30s because they are all out looking for jobs in middle east, US, Bombay or another new avenue - yes, you guessed right - Modi's Gujarat!!
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                      kannan ravi
                      Feb 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm
                      Hi,Gas prices have not been doubled really, they have been linked to global prices. It is true that gas prices will go up and the poor will suffer but ultimately, why will global businesses invest if they cant make profits at par to global levels. India is supposed to have a lot of gas and oil reserves. Why are we not able to exploit those? Simply because we don't reward businesses to take risk. So instead, we pay global prices and import from middle east. The only way to success for India, is less govt regulation and more capitalism. If the govt decides tomorrow that rs.100 for a plate of biriyani is bad for poor and all restaurants should sell at rs 50, will anyone setup restaurants? By not regulating biriyani prices, we have a number of restaurants today. Similarly, if we dont regulate oil companies, we will have a lost of investment in oil sector in India.
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                        KT Premi
                        Feb 23, 2014 at 4:34 pm
                        One the crazy left of the left party is AAP. That is what I feel now. Though I am an AAP sympathiser (may be not that much any more), I don't believe a word now Kejriwal says. Potable water for 1000's of years was charged. He gave free 700 litres of water free. If this is the kind of economic policy he says it as capitalism, then I am afraid we have to run away from him
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                          M Patel
                          Feb 23, 2014 at 5:09 pm
                          Socialist belief that poor needs protection from free, & fair, market is wrong and demeaning to poor. On the contrary, free & fair market provides opportunity to poor.Socialist create license-permit-quota inspectors to protect the poor but Who will protect the protected from protector-inspector? Another super-inspector lokpal? Who will protect to protected from super-protector? Russia already has Lokpal and is facing the problem where hundreds of inspectors, carrying unbridled power, run protection rackets and are used by established business to kick compeor in jail.
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                            Y U Ask
                            Feb 23, 2014 at 4:42 am
                            AK is a confused citizen. He seems to be repeating what Mr Modi says without perhaps knowing they are just opposite to what he stood all the while on the economic front.
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                              one_genuine
                              Feb 23, 2014 at 6:29 am
                              Hi Tavleen, Please do us a favor by a detailed analysis as to how doubbling the gas prices is going to help poor!
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                                ryan110001
                                Feb 23, 2014 at 4:32 pm
                                the one thought that comes to me when i see any idea against an alternative government like aap is this, indian polits cs right now is as bad as it can get. The current situtation is dire, both congress and bjp are corrupt as , they have built a system where only they benefit. The amount of crimes that go on, people getting raped, run over, crimes un solved, the only way to survive or get justice in india is if you are rich, powerful and have connections.Sorry that is absolutely pathetic, I dont think AAP will solve all the problems and i am concerned by so many issues, but i think its high time we give some one else a chance, i dont want to ever see any gangrapes or politicians cheating 1000 of crores ever again. If the current state continues good luck to all Indians, you really need it.
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                                  Sachet Singh
                                  Feb 24, 2014 at 8:37 am
                                  For every Bhushan/Patkar in AAP, there is a Meera Sanyal and Sanju Verma and scores of other "right" thinking distinguished personalities. Even Yogendra Yadav and AK have clearly said they are neither Right or Left. Crony capitalism is a fact, how else would one have scams like 2g, coalgate. AK clearly said government should not be in the business of doing business. This along with removing discretionary powers itself would reduce corruption significantly. Corruption is in reality the biggest tax the poorest of the poor pay.
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                                    Sanjay
                                    Feb 24, 2014 at 6:41 am
                                    Who will give good governance? Law makers ped the bill to protect criminals. i have no hope from these people.
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                                      Venkat
                                      Feb 23, 2014 at 7:34 am
                                      Good on ya Tavleen. I am from Australia. That's what we say when somebody says or does without fear and favour
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                                        Viswanathan NS
                                        Feb 23, 2014 at 8:29 am
                                        Fully agree... I have never believed that Lokpal is panacea to all problems... good governance is... and it will subsute for a Lokpal..
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                                          velamur
                                          Feb 22, 2014 at 10:14 pm
                                          AK is the latest hoax on Indian firmament. His party has no clear ideas on economic development and industrial progress. He can only point fingers at others but cannot digest criticism of his own men. His party is as manitive of the society as others but would want every one to believe that their intentions alone are pure and sincere. AAP will implode from it's own internal contradictions when it gets power, god forbid. From Sanyal to , Patker, is the broadest spectrum a fledgling party can inherit. God help India if these ragmatazz crowd get any where close to seats of power.
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