With reference to “What happens to Niti Aayog?
” (September 27), the setting up of the Economic Advisory Council
of Prime Minister
on the whole is a welcome step. What is rather more telling is the choice of the members of the council. What the positive general perception of the independence of the council members signifies is the grudging acceptance by the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) that it’s committed intellectual lobby lacks both — the depth of ideological alignment with current realities and the spine to stand up to the political leaders of the party, if necessary. An independent status for the council, as allowed by the government (or was it demanded?), will be a bitter pill to swallow for many BJP leaders who have a habit of pronouncing economic ideas to the press to be defended later by harried government bodies.
Another important news, elsewhere in the newspaper, indicates change in the government’s thinking in shifting to electric from diesel locomotives within less than two years of signing a $2-billion project with General Electric. It shows how in the absence of a clear economic thinking, the direction the country takes can go awry so soon. The lack of mention of economic issues in the PM’s address last week in the national executive meeting of the BJP, on the other hand, appears as a pointer to the churn the party is undergoing in evolving a new economic policy, which may prove wiser later on.
The first litmus test for the new council may be to make its views public on whether it supports the 50 MUDRA
(a loan refinance scheme) promotion camps, to be chaired by BJP cabinet ministers and to be launched by the department of financial services and State Level Bankers Committees. This is nothing but a euphemism for notorious loan melas held by the state-owned banks, with ditto footprints. This was an economically damaging culture distributing people’s money as loans, and in the process also creating committed inept senior bankers. This was started by Janardhan Pujari of the Congress in 1988-89. The Reserve Bank of India with Herculean efforts took years to banish it. The seeds of the present-day permissive loan recovery culture were sown in those loan melas. One fails to understand as to why the BJP must follow this suicidal mistake made long ago and subsequently stopped by the opposition party?
Lastly, it will be interesting to watch if Subramanian Swami and his brigade will change their tone towards the new council. Inviting and on-boarding independent scholars is one thing, but retaining them is a whole new ball game. On the whole the BJP economy managers have a tough balancing act on hand. Good economics may not necessarily make good politics.
Y P Issar
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