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Let’s get the facts straight on FDI and the BJP

Surjit Bhalla’s writings on economic affairs are widely read and his understanding is most often based on his analytical skills.

Written by Nirmala Sitharaman |
December 6, 2011 3:48:22 am

Surjit Bhalla’s writings on economic affairs are widely read and his understanding is most often based on his analytical skills. I read him each time he writes and I mentioned this to him the one time I met him,briefly,by chance. I respect his scholarship and my intention is not to question him. But since he has written so very decisively and conclusively about the BJP(‘The party of no principle’,IE,December 3),a rejoinder may be in order to put the record straight.

Bhalla did not have to strain a thousand words to declare his “support for the flawed king.” But when he cites his poor understanding of the BJP,there is a need to intervene. He describes the BJP as: “a nationalist,religion-based,opportunistic,economic policy party.” Except for “nationalist”,Bhalla seems to have got everything wrong. The “religion-based” is wrong and can be argued separately. I presume the comma between opportunistic and economic policy was a typo — on that assumption,I argue that his perception that the BJP is an “opportunistic economic policy party” (a pedestrian description) is,without doubt,erroneous.

Who disputes that “FDI in retail is an executive decision” that can be introduced without consulting Parliament? However,it is not an ingenious argument to conclude on the role of the opposition: “The reform should have been introduced after the end of the winter session,is the BJP’s refrain.” Where did you hear that,Mr Bhalla?

China’s manufacturing sector is a leading supplier to Walmart. The Indian farmers cannot be compared to those in the West who,even today,are heavily subsidised. A large section of the farmers in India are small and marginal,who rely on the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce. The Swaminathan Commission has recommended that MSPs be made more meaningful and timely. Dr Singh has not implemented the commission’s recommendations but hopes that the foreign investor will treat the farmer fairly,if not kindly.

If only our connectivity was improved our farmers would have found better markets,within the country,for their products. Under Dr Singh,rural connectivity — roads and telephony — is moving at snail’s pace. Haven’t we heard about the raging debate between the Planning Commission and the road transport ministry on the per-day target in road works? From the 25 km per day of road-laying achieved during the NDA term,it has dropped to 8 km per day. Bhalla concedes this paralysis of governance at the beginning of his piece.

Politics in the allocation of coal blocs to states that have been awaiting Central clearances for years,speaks volumes about Dr Singh and his party’s priorities. One of the justifications offered for opening up the retail sector for FDI is that back-end problems will be addressed. So Dr Singh will provide clearances for the foreign investors that,for political reasons,he denied elected state governments?

Bhalla states: “In 2011,the middle class is close to half the population”. Probably he has included those earning more than Rs 32 and 26 per day (rural and urban) in his middle class! The Planning Commission,the Ministry of Programme Implementation and Statistics and the Ministry of Rural Development may not agree. They are unsure how many are below the poverty line and how many above it. Today the rich are getting richer and the BPL list is burgeoning. That India’s growth story is jobless is now proven with statistics provided by the NSSO and the Ministry of Labour. “If one were to understand the BJP correctly,opening up the economy is something one does in reverse.” It is suggested that you delete BJP and insert Congress,Mr Bhalla.

Has Bhalla checked with the Congress party on the aam aadmi,inclusive growth and jobless growth? A press release from the government misleads the country that 30 per cent procurement by the retailers will be from Indian SMEs,when it is not possible to have any India-specific conditions. They subsequently did a U-turn. Is this one of those “googly or two” that Bhalla credits Dr Singh with? And “the real brilliant googly”, FDI being subject to permission from each individual state,will be subject to expensive legal battles.

As regards BJP’s economic policies,it is clear Bhalla has had no time to refer to the various statements since the Bombay plenary of December,1980. In May 1992,the National Council had underlined the need for “humanistic approach to economic development”. The BJP believes and works for an economic order based on Gandhian socialism and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s integral humanism.

If Bhalla finds “Dr Singh and the Congress worthy of support”,who can deny him his delusion? But that does not warrant half-baked,undignified and condescending remarks against the BJP.

The writer is a national spokesperson for the BJP

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