Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stop playing populism with the economy

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Populism sells in Indian politics more than anything and when a government takes a decision based on logic it has to face serious opposition. The recent decision of the centre to increase the prices of fuel has met with severe opposition from all the opposition parties. There has also been some hushed protest from some within the UPA ranks with Mamata Banerjee not attending the crucial cabinet meeting in which this decision was taken. She has clearly set her eyes on the assembly elections is West Bengal.

The opposition parties are claiming that with this hike the ‘aam aadmi’ will be hit badly. This coming at a time when the inflation is already soaring at 15-17% and expected to deliver a killing blow to the ‘aam aadmi.’ Any increase in the price of an essential commodity hits the dometic budget but wasn’t this hike necessary? It is another fact that this ‘aam aadmi’ seems to include CEOs, Sarkai Babus, middle level executives and businessmen who drive their sedan everyday.

These parties are now planning for a nation wide agitation on the issues which aren’t expected to lead to any results other than a show of strength. A day of work will be lost especially in states like West Bengal which is already famous for its poor productivity. The government is firm on the decision and sees no logic in rolling back the hike that has snowballed into a major issue cutting across political circles.

What would have the BJP done if it was in power? It acted like no saint when it came to fuel price hike during its rule. So why is it opposing this move just for the sake of opposition. The Left parties always seem to have a problem with any economic reforms. What have they done for the ‘aam aadmi’ in a state they have ruled for more than three decades? Is the condition of the poor in West Bengal better than the country? It is worst on the contrary due to the policies of stagnation of the Left.

If parties like the Left, BSP and BJP feel that the prices of the fuel will hit the aam aadmi they can reduce the state sales tax on fuel in the states that they rule. Every litre of petrol and diesel has a tax component which is close to 50% of the price divided almost equally among the centre and the state governments. Is the opposition bold enough to do this in the states that they rule? Why not show the Congress and the UPA rather than taking the strike to the streets and making the lives of ‘aam aadmi’ into hell.

Even if this hike makes one percent of car owners shun their vehicles and opt for public transport it will do a lot of good to the nation. We in India have to start living with the fact that we do not produce all our fuel requirements and depend on imports. The prices in the international market keep on fluctuating from time to time and we should not be expecting the government to spoon feed us for ever.


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