Rao to Modi: failure and success

Radhakanta Barik

On PV Narasimha Rao's anniversary there are articles in various papers telling that he is a modernizer of Indian economy and in politics he was interested to push Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to the margin. Sitapati (Indian Express ,30-6-20) interviewed his sons and found Rao 's economic outlook as moderniser like Deng in China. He had an antagonistic relation with his sons as he claimed to his personal doctor that they were so corrupt that he suffered for them. After he retired from Prime Ministership he never allowed his sons to enter into his official residence of Delhi. Liberalization started by Rajeev Gandhi and pursued seriously by Rao. He did not start it as many thinks so. He had a cabinet with highly competent ministers like Arjun Singh as Human resource Minister who brought the reservation for backward classes in educational institutions. Arjun Singh had a scholarly approach to education which allowed many progressive steps for providing autonomy to public institutions. This was possible and he himself was a strong political person. Dr Man Mohan Singh as the finance Minister was a competent scholar and politician.

Sitpati says as "Prime Minister Rao did much undercut Sonia Gandhi". It is wrong as Sonia Gandhi preferred Rao as the candidate for Prime Minister rather than other competent candidates. Furthermore, they wanted to bring him back in 2004 once more but Rao destroyed his chance by allowing destroying the Babri Masjid. This gave a blow to Congress ideology which believes in Secularism and socialism for which Rao himself pushed out of the Congress politics. As the story gets circulated that he was close to Vajpayee and some more and they spent time in evening and that evening club puts pressures on him to go for destruction of the Babri Masjid. After that Congress has not revived from the blow.

As Sitapati gives all credit to Rao for pursuing economic reforms despite he was heading a minority government. He was being challenged within the party “colleagues such as Arjun Singh, ND Tiwari and Sharad Pawar.” These persons were political persons having strong roots in their home states. They are people with a deep understanding of the social problems and economic and political problems. They bring problems to decision makers which require the cabinet resolution which was headed by Rao.

Sitpati blamed the Congress Party for not celebrating Rao on national level as she claims ‘the chief culprit is his own party unwilling to highlight any prime minister who does not come from one single family.” This is another wrong observation made by her. On the contrary today the Congress Party in opposition where Dr Man Mohan Sigh is given due respect inside the parliament and outside for speaking out the economic policy of the party against the Modi government.

Shri P V Narasimha Rao, a brilliant mind who took politics as his profession born into a feudal family from Telengana. He knew thirteen languages and proficient in Telugu, English Sanskrit, Odiya etc. Those days the political establishment depended on his scholarly life for writing something in Sanskrit for political work. He became close to Indira Gandhi and became the chief minister of Andhra. An American scholar wrote an article on the chief ministers of Andhra where he gave an observation: "Brahmananda Reddy, a sophisticated turned into a good administrator, Sanjeev Reddy a crude person but a very good administrator and Rao a scholarly person but proved to be disaster for Andhra." He became the Prime Minister and brought a brilliant Professor Man Mohan Singh as Finance Minister but as Prime Minister he proved to be 'disaster for nation and the Congress Party' and he allowed the destruction of the Babri Masjid which created a havoc for Indian politics and today's Hindutva face has emerged from the destruction of the Masjid.

The Congress Party is committed to secular liberal values for which the present government is attacking them and shouting at the top of voice for “Congress Mukta Bharat”. This is the result of the sectarian policies pursued by Modi government. Furthermore, the economy is dwindling which was in a good health in 2014 having a reasonable growth and control over the unemployment rate. Modi government lacks competent people which Rao had. In each department they left an imprint over public administration be it railways to finance to education and environment. Decision making process requires involvement and participation of various stake holders such as competent scholars, NGOs, Media and public personalities and regional and national leaders from the ruling party and from outside the party. Public policies succeed only built on consensus. Here Modi is failing in the case of Demonetization to managing the Covid 19 or a serious humanitarian issue like migrant labour. Modi has a strong bias against the public sector and public hospitals which create problems for management of the covid 19 with a human face. The Congress Party pursued liberatisation policy with a human face and they kept some of the leading public sectors in public for competing with the private players. They kept agriculture where state has a major role to play as providing inputs at the cheaper price and output at a reasonable price.  Modi has gone for opening the Airlines and Life Insurance Corporation to be privatized which is going to be disastrous for a nation.

Agriculture has been opened by Modi for the market forces. All the chief ministers except the BJP ruled states have expressed an opposition to the free market for agricultural products. There will be no procurement price for rice or wheat. BJP as a trader party is right in support of the traders which can destroy the agriculture and peasantry in India. Odisha during 1990s farmers were pushed to poverty trap as they could not get fair price and market price for rice was so low that by selling quintal of rice he could not buy a dhoti. I wrote an article for Mainstream which got published. This was done because of the trap of Marwari traders over the political leaders of Odisha. After Naveen Patnaik became the chief minister, he introduced the procurement system which has saved the farmers to some extent. He has not given any statement in opposition to the Modi stand on open market.

Violation of rules of Lockdown led to custodial deaths of father son duo in Tamilnadu has shocked our conscience. This leads to fear psychology among common people in India that state under Modi has turned into a police state by which they can arrest the innocents and put them into police station or keep them in jails which is happening in Delhi as many women activists are arrested under the sedition charge and kept in jail. A pregnant woman suffered worst. The state is ready to inflict sufferings on common people by which state can turn into a terrorist state. It seems that State in J and K after abrogation of Art 370 has made the society into a prison. This experiment has got extended into whole India in the name of Lockdown because of Covid19.

Prime Minister Modi after taking oath as the Prime Minister in the name of Constitution he spoke -"We are guided by the desire to empower 130 crore Indians and our guiding light the Constitution of India" as reported in Hindu June 28, 2020. This needs to be analyzed in the light of enactment of CAA which goes against the Muslims in particular and minorities in general. There was a massive protest against the CAA which is perhaps an all India movement. His Home Minister Shah has ordered false cases against those activists including a pregnant woman and a retired civil servant as leading social worker and a leading political scientist Yogendra Yadav under the Sedition Charge. One cannot but feels pity for the Prime Minister for giving such a statement where he says that the union government does not discriminant on the basis of faith, gender, caste creed or language which looks like Devil is reading out scripture. After abrogation Art 370 of Kashmir, he claims that he stands for constitution.

This may be the reason behind giving such a statement. Idea of India is an inclusive one where everybody has certain basic rights to live with dignity. Today it is getting challenged by a right-wing party in the name of religion. The party has fringe groups who are attacking people belonging to minorities and Dalits. Every day we hear that lynching of some innocent citizens is being executed by the fringe groups with the indirect support from the ruling party. The law and order machinery does not react against these criminals. Public is expressing their anger against the government by coming to the streets today in various cities to defend the idea of India and constitutional democracy. Let us make the protest a grand success. What are the instruments of power politics of the emergency Raj. The problematic understanding of the emergency needs to be probed by us. There was a twenty-point programme which needed to be implemented by the state. It is an interesting programme as it was antifeudal and antislavery document. Its implementation is uneven as the nature of politics is different. The States where the leadership was in the hands of the progressives within the Congress Party supported by the CPI had implemented some parts of programme. Specifically, the State of Odisha where Nandini Satpathy as the chief minister supported by CPI implemented the Land Ceiling Act. The landlords collected a fund to bribe Nandini Madam which they wanted to pay on the marriage function where she was invited and the landlords wanted to hand over the money but she refused to take it. It was a progressive legislation prepared by Ramakanta Rath as her secretary with the support of CPI. Most of landlords lost their land which created an egalitarian society. The money lenders used to demand usurious interest rate got stopped doing so. But with the rise of Sanjay Gandhi within the Congress Party Nandini Satpathy resigned and the implementation of some of land related policies remained unfinished.

Prof Amartya Sen in his talk on Kerala model of development raises a critical point that Kerala started encouraging their children to enter into school where a concept of social space evolved. This provides them to organise public action for land reforms and health facilities. This led to have Communist government in 1957 who implemented land reforms in the State. Congress and Communist came alternatively which helped in improving public health and education as both agree to go for a common programme. Kerala model of development has some similarity with England after 1940 when the state went for National Health Services. Both Kerala and England have been able to defend their people from the attacks from Corona which USA is unable to do so as the health sector is in the hands of private players. The same is in the case of Gujarat where large number of people died because of Covid 19. Gujarat depended on communal mobilisation to stop public actions by which people get divided whereas Kerala went for public action for demanding welfare measures.

The biggest humanitarian crisis has got unfolded in front of our eyes. Millions of migrant labour have lost their jobs and they are without income, work and food. That required an intervention from the state as many states have done so. This requires a social package of Rs 5000 per month and free ration but the government did not agree to this proposal as made by the opposition parties and some leading economists of the world. Today the laboring community are searching for answers to their problems. Here it is a poem which would explain their loss of livelihoods.

It was the winter morning
It was mystic everywhere
I heard of losing my job
Children would not go to school
This was the examination time
They lost their schools
My wife working as maid
She lost her job
As the middle class refused her entry into their colony
We were on the street
Everything happened so quickly
I could not imagine
My eyes turned moist
Tears were there
but did not fall on my cheeks
Who is responsible
The king's mid night announcement
The industrialists' closure of industries
the fear of Corona
This remains mystic
I search the answer
It is logic of capitalism
That pushed me out of job
My children out of schools
My wife out of her work
All happened in a day
It was a mystic morning
Winter was fading away
My life was squeezed away
We lived in the city for years
We left our villages years back
We are neither in village or in town
We worked here in building the city
we built the tunnels of metro
today people enjoy their trip
We built the bridges
Their cars run faster
we built Malls
Their children come to enjoy a trip
Have a special dinner
have a birthday party
The city has turned into smart
but we were pushed to dull
No work no income no food
we lived in crisis of capitalism
Who is responsible
It is like the story of Bicycle Thief
the greatest film I saw
Which inspired the greatest artists writers and film makers
Roy to Kashyap
The cycle stands here for my livelihood
The theft has snatched my work
I am searching in the city the thief
Who is the thief
or there are many thiefs
The midnight announcement of the king
The closure of the industrialists
the middle class sitting in their drawing rooms
Looking at Ramayana
Myself as a worker
We the workers have not united to fight
Who is responsible
after the bicycle gone
he went to Chor bazar in Chandinichowk
he did not find the cycle but saw parts are their
He went to industrialist
who avoided to see me
He threatened me to put into jail
He went to middle class
He did not open his door
We are nowhere
No work no employment and no income
But the morning mysticism is gone
Sunlight is bright and enlightening
I know who are responsible
I am blaming capitalism
their agents
The king, industrialist and their agents middle class
They are sharks
They want our blood and flesh
They want to enjoy over our work
This is a new India
When no work no income no food
We live in new India

Prof Radhakanta Barik (retd), Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

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Jul 7, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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