It is said, competition is good for consumers, but how about competition in politics? Where, I am reminded of what Indira Gandhi had once said,
‘My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition there.’
She indeed was one of the tallest leaders of the Congress party and even that of India. Who dared to dismember a neighbouring country. Therefore, if we superimpose her quote. On the tenets of Congress Party or for that matter, on any other political party. It will be an interesting churning of inferences.
Before India attained freedom. There were thirteen political parties. That jointly fought the British Raj for independence, with Congress in the forefront. The focus then was not development, but to attain independence. Where, they competed and colluded in a smart manner and achieved it. Post independence. Some of these parties wound up, as their mission was over. Whereas, some dissolved into each other. Congress, then became the tallest party with practically no opposition. Muslim League, the other powerful party was more or less hived off to Pakistan upon partition. Congress, thereafter, was in power for around fifty six years. But in these years. They could have done much better. Than what they actually did. On the contrary. Post independence. They brought in the ‘License Raj.’ That only stifled the progress and development of the country. Where, only a few in power benefited. So can one say political stability attracts development? No is the answer.
License Raj was finally dissolved. When P.V. Narasimha Rao took over as the Prime Minister, in 1991, with Dr Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister in a Congress led Government. Thereon, things started looking up in India. But, by then the coalition politics had also come into play. No single party was ruling the roost. Competition had set in. Where, every political party had to perform on economic parameters too. Apart, from the usual, socialistic ones. And, where, the voter’s aspiration had also increased with the spread of literacy.
- If we go through India’s GDP in absolute numbers. We find in 1950-51 it was 2.79 lac crores. That reached 20 lac crores by 1991-92 (15% annual growth for 40 years). But, was that enough? Especially, when we were starting from a very low plank? This grew to 57.41 lac crores by 2013-14 (8.90% annual growth for 21 years). This was when the environment had become more challenging. These growths were also facilitated by growth in population.
- When we analyse the annual growth of India’s GDP at factor cost. We find. In 40 years, starting 1951-52 to 1991-92. Thrice, it showed negative growth, and in 79-80, after thirty years of independence, it even went down to -5.2%, which is shameful. In fact growth started steadying above 5% only after 91-92. When economy was set in to liberalize and when competition among political parties had increased and coalition governments had become the order of the day.
- In 1950-51 the food grain production was 50.83 million tonnes. In 1991-92 it reached 180 million tonnes. An increase of 129.47 million tonnes (an annual growth rate of 6.36%). This could have been much better. Had the economy been opened in the 70’s, which the Congress government didn’t bother to do. By the year 2013-14 production reached 263.2 million tonnes. An increase of 83.2 million tonnes since 1992 (a 2.20% annual growth rate). That goes to show political competition lost focus on agriculture.
- In the infrastructure sector. Construction of roads, (both surfaced and non-surfaced) picked up a steady pace only after 2008-09. After political competition started hotting up in India and the same goes for exports which too picked up post 2003.
The US is the world’s largest economy. There are two main parties. The Republicans and the Democrats. They follow each other close on heels on various issues. Yet, in the last two decades. Like in the case of many developed nations. Its growth rate has been decreasing. If in the 50’s and 60’s. The average growth rate was above 4 percent. In the 70’s and 80’s it dropped to 3 percent. And in the last ten years. The average rate has been below 2 percent and since the second quarter of 2000. It has never reached the 5 percent level. So, has political stability in American politics helped the growth rate? Or is it. That the inertia of good sound policies of the government, is driving the growth, irrespective of which party rules. Or is it that there is no politics over growth?
In India we have seven national parties. That include BJP, INC, CPI (Marxist), CPI India, BSP, TMC and the NSP. In addition we also have forty eight state parties. There is enough competition on the ground. But whether it is helping development is the big question. There is no firm paradigm of continuous fast track of development. That only goes to prove that political competition, may not mean development in India.
So, sadly, India has seen both the extremes. One, when Congress was stable and virtually in a monopoly for 56 years. When, morosely, there was only a skeletal and self complimenting development. Nothing exponential. Which was what, was required. And even now when you have a number of political parties on the ground. The development is dismal and that too at the cost of integrity. That we saw in Congress UPA regime. Somehow, BJP has been able to reverse this trend. Because it is in full majority and politically stable, and its top leadership is averse to corruption. Needless, to say political parties are not competing for development. But for retention of power. This reflects glaringly in Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh is the political hot seat of India. It has BJP, SP, BSP and Congress as main parties on the ground. In the past there were five prime ministers from UP. Apart from Dr Manmohan, who, also, was under the command and control of the first family of Indian politics, supposedly from UP. Yet UP is where it was some forty years back. Despite, being the cradle of civilization, and the cynosure of every era. Today, UP is poor, hungry, unemployed, illiterate and is one of the most prominent members of the Bimaru states of India.
In six and a half decades of independence. India has grown manifold in population, but sparsely in infrastructure. But some states have grown faster than the others, and that’s where UP has lagged behind. It is still way behind Kerala, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.
So, then what went wrong in UP? Especially, after independence. And where did UP drop the ball? It was one of independent India’s most prosperous states. It kept growing till 1980s. From a steady growth in the beginning of the 1st five year plan in 1951 till the 1980s. UP has also seen frequent change of guard. Therefore, most certainly, it is a victim of political competition.
AAP came with a lot of hope. That India will witness a different style of governance. But the situation with Delhi Government is atrocious as of now. On the contrary if we take Tamil Nadu. Governance and development is far better, between the two major parties that is the AIDMK and DMK.
So then what is good for India? Political stability or political competition? There are no straight answers. But I found an appropriate quote that can act as a solution—‘stop competing with others, start competing with yourself.’
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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