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Doers all

But what exactly do India's leaders want to do?

Business Standard Editorial Comment  |  New Delhi 

The government is in a state of frenetic activity - with as many as 30 decisions in a marathon meeting last week, and more over the weekend. The government has extended reservations to the community and, acting with unusual alacrity, set up the Previous commissions were set up in 1946, 1957, 1970, 1983, 1994 and 2006. The gap between the appointment of one Pay Commission and the next has therefore varied between 11 and 13 years, with an average gap of 12 years. This time it is just eight years, and everyone knows why: the government wants the eight million votes of central government employees and pensioners, and some votes too if that is possible. In giving the truncated state of Seemandhra special category status for five years, it has also lit a fire in Bihar - which has no justifiable claim to such a status, but the more prosperous Seemandhra has even less. Meanwhile, Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said that the Committee on Investment has cleared proposals for investing an impressive total of Rs 6.6 lakh crore. Having been accused of inaction for the best part of its tenure, the government in its last breath seems intent on showing that it can be a doer - even if, in the process of doing investment approvals, the prime minister has reportedly thrown some environment regulations into the dustbin.

is similarly in "belated action" mode. He has probably the worst attendance record among all members of Parliament in the outgoing Lok Sabha, and also perhaps the worst participation record in House proceedings. In recent weeks Mr Gandhi has sought to make up for lost time. If Parliament does not or cannot clear the Bills that he is suddenly in a hurry to push, he wants the government to pass ordinances to make them law. Where has stepped over environment protection laws, Mr Gandhi wants to trample on parliamentary propriety. Fortunately, the fear of a presidential rebuff has reportedly prompted the to hold its hand.

of the Aam Aadmi Party was another doer during the seven weeks that he ran the Delhi government. Once again, haste was the order of the day. Subsidy announcements, police cases against the Centre, street dharnas and pavement sleepovers - it was an action-packed seven weeks when wise counsel would have suggested making haste slowly, after sufficient thought and preparation. Mr Kejriwal was also in a hurry to leave the government. The result is that many of his actions as chief minister will either be reversed or simply lapse. So what exactly has he achieved?

Finally, there is the original doer in the persona of Narendra Modi, who was anything but a doer during the riots, but who has shown since then that he can be very action-oriented indeed. But when it came to the event last week at which this doer was to outline his economic ideas, he mostly delivered alliterative buzzwords - three unconnected words starting with D, four with M, five with T and so on. There is some merit in this (imagine if voluminous five-year Plan documents were reduced to brief alliterations), but listing subjects does not a strategy make, nor for that matter a plan of action. Economics is about choices - price stability or growth, subsidies or market prices, protectionism or the opposite, reducing debt or opening the spending spigot, and so on. No one is any the wiser on what economic choices Mr Modi will make. Is he devoid of firm thoughts when it comes to the key economic challenges, or so busy doing (ie campaigning) that he has had no time to think? The point is that action without thought may be worse than the opposite (of which the country has seen quite a lot in recent years). As someone asked about many moons ago: he was a doer, but what did he want to do?

First Published: Mon, March 03 2014. 21:40 IST