Bharatiya Janata Party
National Council Meeting
Late Suryabhan Vahadane Patil Parisar
Once every few generations is born a wayward son, who through his irresponsible and profligate ways, dissipates the hard earned assets of the family and ruins its future. The National Council of the BJP strongly feels that the UPA government has behaved exactly like that wayward son during the last five years and nearly ruined a perfectly healthy economy. When the UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh assumed office in May 2004, many people in the country thought that the golden age was about to dawn on India under his intelligent leadership. Five years later that dream lies shattered.
The UPA government inherited a robust economy when it assumed office in May, 2004. According to its own Economic Survey presented to Parliament before the first budget of this government in July, 2004 it said “The economy appears to be in a resilient mode in terms of growth, inflation, and balance of payments, a combination that offers large scope of consolidation of the growth momentum with continued macroeconomic stability”. It went on to add “Apart from agriculture, the industry and services sectors also maintained the momentum, with GDP growth from these two sectors accelerating from 6.4 percent and 7.1 percent respectively, in 2002-03, to 6.5 percent and 8.4 percent respectively in 2003-04. A broad-based acceleration in growth from the second to the third quarter of 2003-04 was also observed in mining and quarrying; electricity, gas and water supply; trade, hotels, transportation and communication, and financing, insurance, real estate and business services”. In his budget speech which followed the Economic Survey, the Finance Minister said, “The economic fundamentals appear strong and the balance of payments is robust”. For over four years, the UPA government has coasted along on the strength of the legacy left behind by the NDA government without making any efforts of its own. It did nothing to build upon and consolidate this legacy as the Economic Survey had suggested. The elixir of an 8 percent plus growth since 2003-04, the last year of the NDA rule, intoxicated this government with a false sense of complacency and success to which its own contribution was zero. Far from making efforts to further propel this growth and take India to double digit growth, the UPA government not only stopped economic reforms, it went into the reverse gear and abandoned many of the useful initiatives of the NDA government like highways development, inter-linking of rivers and pension reforms. The mismanagement of the economy has led to several major imbalances such as high fiscal deficit, high current account deficit, elevated inflation levels and a collapsing economy. None of these is the creation of the recent global financial crisis. All of them are directly the result of the complacency and the cavalier attitude of the UPA government while the crisis was brewing. It did not build the needed hurricane shelters when the sun was shining. Even the Reserve Bank of India in its latest monetary policy statement for the third quarter of the current financial year has observed “The Indian economy experienced a cyclical moderation in growth accompanied by high inflation in the first half of 2008-09”. With due respect to the judgment of the RBI, the National Council of the Bharatiya Janata Party would like to assert that the so-called moderation is actually a recession and it is not cyclical, it is the direct result of the mismanagement of the economy by the UPA government.
In fact, the NDA left the economy with sufficient growth momentum and efficiency gains so that the economy could grow at a sustainable 8-9% level for the next many years. The global credit bubble and the irresponsible fiscal spending by the UPA government predictably led to high inflation in 2008, which led the RBI to slam the monetary brakes. Industrial production, credit expansion, and infrastructure spending then immediately started to decline as interest rates spiked. Thus, when the global economy began to collapse in late 2008, the Indian economy was already slowing down dramatically. Returning the Indian economy to its sustainable growth rate of 8-9% will now be doubly hard because it will require reversing and remedying the UPA’s failed policies while simultaneously dealing with the global economic meltdown.
Why did the UPA’s so called economic dream team pursue such misguided policies? The National Council of the BJP believes that the UPA government’s economic policies have been solely guided by political and often unethical considerations rather than economic principles. The first of these is the principle to stick to power at any cost. The great reformers of this government had no hesitation in jettisoning economic reforms in order to placate the Left parties and continue in office. Pension reforms, which would have ensured higher returns for the organised sector and brought the benefit of pension to the door step of the unorganised sector, are a case in point. After coming to power, the UPA government was so concerned about these reforms that it actually brought an ordinance to give effect to them. Then under the pressure of the Left parties, it sat over the recommendations of the Standing Committee of Parliament for the next four years. It is now trying to do stealthily what it could not do through legislation.
Similarly, despite the gross mismanagement of the National Highway Development Programme by the concerned Minister, the Prime Minister has failed to discipline him and put a stop to his unprincipled and corrupt ways. On the other hand, he has become a willing party to the shenanigans of the Minister in order to continue to get the support of his party. For the same reason, the Prime Minister has remained a silent spectator to the assaults made on the autonomy and excellence of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi by the Health Minister. The setting up of six new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences announced by the NDA Government have failed to make any progress during the last five years, yet the Government does not hesitate to announce the setting up of new Institutes for political reasons.
The second principle which the UPA government has followed during the last five years is of vote bank politics even in the economic field. Nowhere is it more evident than in its approach to the farmers of the country and their problems. The National Council of the BJP is of the view that the seeds of the present agrarian distress were sown by the present Prime Minister when he was Finance Minister in the government of the late Shri P V Narasimha Rao. Capital investment in agriculture declined sharply during this period. Rural infrastructure was completely neglected. The public distribution system received the short shrift. Agricultural extension services came to a halt. The farmers of India were left to their own devices and to their own fate.
During the NDA regime we tried to reverse that trend through schemes like the Kisan Credit Card, the Watershed Development Programme, the Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojana, construction of cold storages and godowns, the Sampoorna Grameen Rojgar Yojana, the improved Form income insurance scheme ultimately leading to the income insurance scheme for the farmers and the reduction in the rate of interest on farm loans.
The UPA government has merely changed the names of many of these schemes and claimed them as their own. Bharat Nirman is nothing more than the bunching together of already existing schemes. The UPA government tried to add a new dimension to it by making it ‘a four year business plan’ ending in 2008-09 but its targets are far from being met. The famous National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme is another name for our Sampoorna Grameen Rojgar Yojna. These examples can be multiplied.
Farmer suicides have been rampant during this regime. Yet, the UPA government’s heart did not bleed for the farmers until elections approached. Then, without giving proper thought to it, it hurriedly came out with a loan waiver scheme. Quite naturally, the loan waiver scheme, despite its size, has failed to meet the challenge of agrarian distress and farmers continue to commit suicides. It has done nothing to follow up on the excellent initiative of the NDA government to provide income insurance to the farmers. The Kisan Credit Card scheme has not yet covered the entire farming community, irrigation for every field still remains a far away dream, agricultural inputs, specially fertilisers, kerosene oil for field pumps and pesticides remain expensive and outside the reach of the small and marginal farmers. Nowhere is the UPA government’s failure more glaring than on the farmers’ front.
Communalisation of the budget of the Government of India is another misdeed of this government guided solely by vote bank politics. Instead of backwardness, poverty and deprivation being the sole considerations for allocation of resources, this government has made religion as the sole consideration. The Prime Minister’s assertion that Muslims had the first right over the resources of this country is a direct assault on secularism.
Its third principle is to make money wherever possible. Economic policies and large projects have been sold to the highest bidder under the UPA government. This is the most troubling ethical breach. The NDA put in place the SEZ policy to encourage a few, world class SEZs that could match China’s SEZs. Instead, the UPA converted the SEZ policy into a naked land grab for real estate firms and corrupt politicians. Coal mines for ultra-mega power plants were diverted to other power plants. Telecom licenses were procured through a rigged bidding process. And, finally, the Satyam fiasco has shown the world the unholy nexus between corrupt Congress politicians and sleazy business families. The National Council of the BJP promises the people of India to put in place an empowered super regulatory framework for banks, auditors, FIIs and other players in the capital markets to prevent scams like Satyam. It also promises to reopen the entire gamut of telecom spectrum allotments.
The fourth unethical principle that the UPA government has followed is the principle of “After me the deluge”. Both the RBI and the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister in their latest reports have clearly indicated that the fiscal deficit of the government this year will be in excess of 8 percent of the GDP. Our own estimate is that the Government of India’s deficit will cross 10 percent of the GDP this year. What is more shocking, however, is the fact that the then Finance Minister was less than honest about this issue while presenting his budget last year. Today, the budget presented on February 28, 2008 is in tatters like the account books of SATYAM. Huge liabilities by way of bonds have been passed on to future years by this government. Even the liabilities on account of arrears of the Sixth Pay Commission and the farmers’ loan waiver scheme have been spread over the next two to three years. This sleight of hand in budget making is unprecedented in modern Indian economic history. It will take many years for a future government to set things right on the fiscal front.
The finances of the state governments have been seriously destabilised as a result of the burden imposed upon them by the Sixth Pay Commission's recommendations. We feel that the Central Government should bear a part of this burden since it is directly the result of its action. Similarly, the states should be adequately compensated through plan grants for loss of revenue as a result of the massive shortfall in the revenue realisation of the Government of India.
The fifth principle that this government has followed is either to ignore the challenges on the economic front or to mess around with them, be it rural distress, price rise or the global financial meltdown. The fact of the matter is that the present recession is directly the result of the misguided policies of this government, specially the manner in which it sought to tackle the problem of inflation. Along with the Reserve Bank of India it took a number of steps to tighten liquidity, force financial institutions to raise interest rates and not only make credit unavailable but also unaffordable. In view of the fact that the Government of India was already running a huge fiscal deficit and liquidity was already under pressure, these further steps made the situation even worse. This naturally had an impact on demand, both consumer and investment. The slowing down of the economy was the natural consequence of these policies. If inflation has moderated now, it is not because of the policies of the government but because of the global recession and the crash in commodity prices. But prices of essential items continue to remain in double digit. Even the Reserve Bank of India in its third quarter review of monetary policy 2008-09, has admitted that though headline inflation, as measured by the wholesale price index, has fallen by more than half from its intra-year peak of 12.91 percent on August 2, 2008, the prices of primary articles have actually increased. In December 2008 consumer price index for all types of workers remained in double digit due to the firm trend in prices of food articles. Critical products, like fertilisers, LPG cylinders and kerosene are also in short supply causing undue hardship to the people both in the urban as well as in the rural areas.
The UPA government has done great injustice to the working class by reducing the rate of interest on Employees Provident Fund deposits to 8.5% as against 9.5% during the NDA regime, despite high inflation.
Similarly, the UPA government has failed completely to meet the challenge posed by the global financial crisis. Firstly, it failed to anticipate the crisis. Secondly, it went on chanting the lullaby “our fundamentals are strong”. Thirdly, it failed to adjust its policies in a fast changing situation. Fourthly, it always acted in a too little too late fashion, doing a bit today and a bit tomorrow. The result has been a crisis of confidence, resulting in the collapse of the stock markets. The small investor has once again been the worst sufferer. The National Council notes with satisfaction the fact that the Party came out with its assessment of the situation and its suggestions on tackling the crisis as early as October 14, 2008. This was followed up by another document issued on October 30, 2008 in which the Party suggested various steps to tackle the crisis in the different sectors of the economy. The Leader of Opposition Shri L K Advani met with some of India’s top business leaders on November 20, 2008 to discuss with them the steps needed to tackle the crisis. The Council notes with regret the fact that the valuable suggestions made by the Party have not been followed by the government causing avoidable hardship to the people. The National Council of the BJP promises the fight the rigours of this crisis by laying the greatest emphasis on the proper implementation of the important schemes of the Vajpayee Government like the National Highway Development programme, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Interlinking of rivers and creation of a proper safety net for those who are losing their livelihood as a result of this crisis.
The sixth principle of this government has been a “could not care less” attitude. As a result of the downturn in the economy, compounded further by the global recession, lakhs of people have lost their livelihood. Large lay-offs have taken place both in the organised and the unorganised sectors. And there is no safety net for these hapless workers. Textiles, handicrafts including carpets, gems and jewellery, real estate, automobiles and light engineering goods, the entire sector of small and medium industries, mining, steel, cement, travel and tourism, information technology have all suffered crippling blows already. Industrial growth is less than half of last year. Government revenues are well below target. Services sector growth has declined to single digit. Agricultural growth continues to remain weather bound and stagnant. The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council has described 2008 as a year of crisis. It is a matter of shame that when the country is faced with a crisis of these unprecedented dimensions the UPA government cannot find a finance minister to look after this important ministry. First the Prime Minister took charge of the ministry and now after his heart surgery it has been passed on to the External Affairs Minister, already loaded with multifarious responsibilities. The UPA government had to sack its former External Affairs Minister for unethical conduct, it had to sack its Home Minister for non-performance and now it cannot find a finance minister. Should such a government be voted back to power? The National Council of the BJP regrets to note that 2009 will be a year of bigger crisis if the UPA comes back to power and many lakh more workers will lose their livelihood.
In March 1998 we had inherited an economy which was going down hill. During the six years of Vajpayee rule, despite challenges, we brought inflation under complete control, took balance of payments and foreign exchange reserves to a safe zone, rid the country of perpetual food shortages and made dramatic improvements in infrastructure. An economy of shortages was converted during this period into an economy of surpluses. The greatest contribution of the Vajpayee government, however, was that it made India economically secure. That security is once again in jeopardy. The UPA government has once again made India weak and vulnerable on the economic front.
The National Council of the BJP resolves to frame its economic agenda for governance, inter-alia, around the following priorities:
1. Establishing a balanced and equitable growth model for all Indian citizens that will guarantee economic security employment and the provision of basic needs. Every Indian should have adequate nutrition, health care, sanitation, the fundamental right to water, access to education and credit. Furthermore, we will utilise modern technology and innovative implementation approaches to ensure efficient delivery of all development and welfare schemes to the beneficiaries with minimal leakages. The communist experiment has failed. The latest crisis has expose the failures of the capitalist system. We promise to evolve a unique Indian model of development to suit our special needs and the needs of similarly placed developing countries.
2. Rapid employment generation has to be the overriding performance metric for the economy given that we have over 150 million young people joining the workforce in the next five years. To that end, we will focus on large-scale employment generation by promoting labour-intensive industries such as construction, textiles, manufacturing and infrastructure. The National Council of BJP takes note the fact that when the NDA was in power it created sixty million employment opportunities during five years.
3. Strengthening agriculture across India and improving farmers’ economic livelihoods through remunerative prices, right decisions on crop management, the best agricultural technology, adequate water supplies, clear property rights, the necessary rural infrastructure that will allow them to operate as efficiently as possible and a comprehensive income insurance scheme.
4. Strengthening rural infrastructure by providing electricity to each village and connecting it with all weather road.
5. Ensuring quality education and health care for all Indians. Both these sectors can benefit from public-private partnerships which can help in improving quality, providing specialised services, and developing new technologies. Moreover, access to higher education needs to be vastly expanded for all students. Expanded access is crucial for training more teachers, professors, and health care professionals. With the right policies, India can create a highly educated workforce at home and be an educator to the world.
6. Developing infrastructure on a war footing. Highways, power plants, transportation systems, irrigation projects (including medium and small projects), railway tracks, ports, all these are absolutely essential for rapid growth. The right regulatory frameworks, fair and honest bidding, single window clearance, and adequate investment returns in each of these sectors are necessary to accelerate infrastructure development.
7. Securing India's energy independence by taking full advantage of our hydrocarbon and renewable resources. India's energy requirements will also require accelerated development of our gas and electricity grids. Green technologies are likely to be a major growth area, and India has the technological resources to be a global leader in this industry.
8. Revitalizing cities and putting them on a sustainable economic footing. Within the next 20 years, 45% of India will live in urban areas, which will require major new urban infrastructure. Local accountability needs to be strengthened and sensible public-private partnerships have to be developed to deliver urban services. Along with fixing our existing cities, many new cities will have to be developed, as is being done in Chattisgarh and Gujarat.
9. Further reforming the financial sector but in a manner which will not expose it to undue domestic or global risks. There is a need to dramatically improve financial inclusion, meet the targets of priority sector lending (particularly infrastructure), mobilise private capital and to have world-class regulation. Additionally, the entire financial system might need to be recapitalized aggressively to support growth.
10. Ensuring access to the best private sector R&D and skills is critical for defense production. Therefore, government requirements and plans need to be as transparent as possible. Contracts should then be awarded with long-term orientation so that the private sector can make the necessary investments.
11. Reform the taxation system, abolish completely the central sales tax and provide easy loans to the small traders so that they can earn their livelihood. Such reform of the taxation system may include linking the exemption limit of personal income tax to the rate of inflation, exempting from VAT such items as are subsidised by the Government and generally lowering the rate of taxes.
12. Encourage development of entrepreneurship among women and creation of self-help groups of women, specially in rural areas on a massive scale.
The Bharatiya Janata Party remains committed to its idea of making India strong, secure and prosperous. It remains committed to improving the quality of life of our people both in the urban as well as in the rural areas. It is committed to rid the country of the evils of poverty, deprivation and denigration. We are committed to providing a life of dignity to all Indians. We are committed to making India a developed country by 2020.