Indian elections are around the corner – easily the most complex democratic exercise on earth affecting one in seven people in the world directly, and more indirectly.
Democracy is all about choices. In order for that to succeed, the choices must be clear. The biggest issue facing India is economic – how to lift millions of Indians out of poverty and give the best possible economic advancement for as many Indians as possible. And yet, if you see the electioneering, there is total absence of economic policies or what the choices are. There are general myths , perceptions and blind loyalties on which the people are being asked to vote. No specifics at all.
In the area of economic policy, the front runner is arguing that he would replicate the success of Gujarat nationally. That is fine, but how would he do it ? India is not Gujarat. It is far more complex and requires an entirely different set of policies. So what specifically would he do to ensure “development” (his favourite word) in India. Complete silence.
The incumbent is maintaining complete silence as well. If the track record of the last ten years is anything to go by, he would be a disaster. If he is going to change tack, then he should say what is the new direction he would take. Nothing there
There is a motley crew who would all like to be the leader and who would like to constitute the third or fourth or fifth fronts. They are all, especially the three women amongst them, economically illiterate and their track records in their respective states is abysmal. No announcement about what their policies would be, except the lady from the East mouthing some general platitudes.
Then there is the new kid on the block. We do not as yet know, whether any of his pronouncements are to be taken seriously, but the general feeling, economics wise, is that it would be the biggest disaster of them all. In any case his philosophy appears to be that noise is better than policy.
This is ill serving the people of India. If we are to make a choice, we need a specific manifesto. In the absence of any of them stating this, this blogger, in his hotheaded way is proposing to offer one. Not that anybody would take the slightest notice, but then blogging is all about airing one’s views.
In the next post, I will outline India’s revenues and expenditure in a simplified way and ask you to make the choices. Then we will together, co create an economic manifesto. How about it. I will also plead with some of my usually silent readers to also articulate their view on the choices - every Indian should think about the way forward.
By the way, the theory that economics does not matter with people and that they will not be influenced by what is economically the right thing to do is completely untrue. For evidence, you only have to look towards China. The entire legitimacy of a system of government that is unitary, non choice based, dictatorial , non representative, etc etc is the implicit economic contract with its people. Politicians in India might wish to ponder over the reality that if a free and fair election were to be held in China today, the Communist Party would romp home with a three fourths majority.
We will also cover the political side of the economic argument – how to sell it to the voters as well.
Walk the next few days with me - I promise that the discussion will not be too technical. Let us create our own manifesto for India.