Saturday, Feb 04, 2023

Fifth Column: Future planning

Rahul is back with an ideology: Nehruvian Socialism.

column, sunday column, Rahul Gandhi, Rahul's vacation, Nehruvian Socialism, Capitalism, Congress, Indian, Hindu rate, licence raj, P V Narasimha Rao, Dr Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul’s Mummyji, Narendra Modi, Parivartan, Vikas In every speech since he came home, he has attacked the Modi government for representing only the interests of “a handful of capitalists”.

We do not know yet where Rahul Gandhi went on his secret vacation. What we do know is that he has come back with an ideology: Nehruvian Socialism. In every speech since he came home, he has attacked the Modi government for representing only the interests of “a handful of capitalists”. And in every speech he has accused the government of being against farmers and workers.

Having begun my journalistic career in Nehruvian socialist times, when Nehru’s daughter was imposing a licence raj on private enterprise, I find Rahul’s speeches ominously familiar. They revive memories of a time when India was mocked for its ‘Hindu rate of growth’ and for being a land of ‘starving millions’. Sadly true because Nehruvian socialism succeeded in keeping most Indians very, very poor for a very long time.

Then when India went broke in 1991, a Congress prime minister was forced to end the licence raj and encourage private enterprise, and it was this that led to the creation of a middle class now estimated at over 300 million. But middle-class people do not like dynasties and democratic feudalism, and so P V Narasimha Rao was virtually disowned by the Dynasty for making policies that created middle classes. Next time around, Sonia Gandhi chose Dr Manmohan Singh as her prime minister. Had he been allowed to make economic policy, India may today have been a very different country. But his boss (Rahul’s Mummyji) chose to enforce her policies instead. These caused the economy to collapse and the Congress party faced its worst defeat ever in the 2014 elections.

Young, aspirational Indians no longer wanted talk of poverty and poverty alleviation. They preferred to hear about hope and prosperity. This is why Narendra Modi’s message of ‘vikas’ and ‘parivartan’ was so compelling. Nobody understands better the flaws of Nehruvian socialism than ‘the poor’. They who are forced to rely on the State for schools, healthcare, electricity and clean water. They know that these are areas in which Nehruvian socialism failed abysmally. But, perhaps only guess that there was as much poverty in India when Nehru’s tenure ended as prime minister as when it began. The same is true of his daughter’s reign, despite that promise of ‘gareebi hatao’.
Nehruvian socialism failed spectacularly to provide Indians their most basic needs. But, wherever Rahul went on his mysterious holiday of introspection, they clearly did not teach him any history, so he probably does not know this. He now wanders about the countryside in the company of his caboodle of political princelings promising to bring back an economic idea that he thinks will make him prime minister in 2019. Even as someone who believes that Nehruvian socialism has done India immeasurable harm, I am delighted that this is the road he has taken. This is because the Modi government needs to start hearing alarm bells.

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Since he became Prime Minister, there has been almost no talk of ‘parivartan’ or ‘vikas’ from Modi. Instead he has taken to talking about ‘the poor’ in much the same way as Congress leaders always have. Other than the abolition of the Planning Commission, there have been no economic reforms. He promises that India will become the easiest country in the world for business but nothing has really changed in his government’s behaviour except in small ways. Reform in education and healthcare policies is desperately needed and there are no signs of new policies. And in vital economic ministries, dealing with such important things as energy, there are no signs of change.

The Prime Minister appears to have not noticed either that his ministers have fallen into that deceptive complacency that living in a Lutyens bungalow immediately induces. So there have been no changes in the hated VIP culture or in matters of making governance more user-friendly. As for explaining why we need to move away from Nehruvian socialism, the Prime Minister appears not to even want to go there. This is a big mistake because then the Congress party will surely succeed in convincing voters that ‘parivartan’ and ‘vikas’ were just empty promises. Rahul Gandhi has already announced that there will never be any ‘make in India’.

In opposing everything that the Modi government is doing, the Congress seems to be working towards a new five-year-plan. It is a negative plan whose purpose is to ensure that economic growth remains slow, that farmers remain mired in subsistence farming and that no jobs get created for the 12 million young Indians who enter the job market every year. The ultimate objective is to ensure that Modi has no chance of winning another five-year term. There is method in this plan. Those who made it seem aware that if Rahul Gandhi has to wait till 2024, it could be too late for him and the Dynasty.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter
@ tavleen_singh

First published on: 03-05-2015 at 00:07 IST
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