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Now that the commotion over the formation of Government at the Centre is over, it is back to the business of governance as usual. It is as if a whole nation has come back from a long vacation and it may take quite some time before the people and politicians get their tooting and focus right. Almost six months of politicking and bickerings, besides a nasty election that saw the voters’ list dwindle by a few hundreds, thanks to bombs and Bihar, are enough to test the sanity of even the sanest. Add to it an equal period of inertia on the economic front with all growth charts of various sectors headed south-wards and it would be apparent that we are a country on the brink. India has indeed staged a phenomenal roadshow of all its virtue-read ills- in the fiftieth year of Independence for the whole world to see.

For the BJP and its able Prime Minister it is certainly a tryst with destiny though they would have preferred the path to power to have been a little more smooth. The BJP of today is just a shadow of its past, with most of its contentious tenets put on the backburner owing to coalition compulsions. In a way this taming of the shrew is a good augury though the nation has to live with a perennial feat of uncertainty and unease whenever Parliament assembles for its business. The Congressmen, typically are shouting themselves hoarse over the BJP pushing Ayodhya, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code out of the priority list-all pet topics which failed to figure in the national agenda. Perhaps it was their expectation that once in power BJP would go on the rampage on all mosques and they are now unable to reconcile to a much tempered BJP that dispels all fears that have been planted with great difficulty. The Congressmen’s apprehension is that devoid of those original avowed principles, there would be literally no stick which they could beat the BJP with, and a BJP without these would also be a close contender to whatever the Congress claims to stand for.

In these dog-eat-dog days, economic concerns dictate a nation’s policy in almost all spheres of activity and every decision has an economic tag attached to it. There is already a lot of disquiet in the industry and business circles over the future of reforms and the extent of protection that they can hope for, in view of the BJP’s love for swadeshi. Our industrialists would look askance at the word protection and would prefer to call it level-playing field. Whatever the phraseology, the world attention is now focussed on India on that count and much would be read into every single statement on economic policy emanating from anybody who is somebody in the government. The BJP, given its coalition status, would do well to enforce a minimum level of coordination and synchronisation on this front so that conflicting signals do not emerge as they can very easily disturb the fragile state of the economy.

In fact, much of the battle ahead has to be fought in the mind. The psychological barriers that inhibit growth, the palpable tack of confidence that dogs the business environment and the poor sentiments witnessed in the country’s premier bourses are all owing to the nation’s present mindset which has virtually given up hopes of economic revival. Such a tendency has been evident for almost a year now, ever since political uncertainties gripped the nation after an old man called Kesri suddenly developed ambitions of power at an age when he should have really become a recluse. His foolhardiness has ensured that the economic clock of the count try has failed to tick for almost a year now. No number of policy decisions could really kickstart the economy and a budget that was touted as a dream had to be consigned to history as a nightmare. The position is no better now, and if anything, it has gone from bad to worse, The new government indeed is faced with a Herculean challenge on this front alone; not to speak of a plethora of other issues.

Benz or bullock carts, the quality of roads will decide the speed. Similarly, swadeshi or videshi, the global realities will no doubt dictate our economic approach. Having come half way down the reforms route, any attempt to change direction and tread on a different path would amount to coma-miffing hara kiri. There are of course quite a few such adventurists in the Ministry itself who would recommend a change of course. The prime job of the Prime Minister would be to bridlecheck such men and clear the hurdles in the way for a cohesive economic policy and outlook. Whatever the face of the reforms, at the end of the day the performance of the Vajpayee government would be judged only by the amount in the nation’s kitty.

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Jawahar T R