National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who carries more weight than the exalted position he holds, forcefully argues that the country needs a strong government – an euphemism for single-party rule at the Centre, for at least 10 years.
He would like us to believe that big, bold decisions can be taken by an overtly powerful regime alone. That weak regimes are prone to succumb to the temptations of vote-catching populist measures. While delivering a rare public lecture recently, he warned us against the dangers of enemies within. Implicit in his assertion was the belief that only a macho regime can rid the country of enemies within and outside.
Since the statement came from a sharp mind, wielding enormous clout in the present dispensation, I grudgingly persuaded myself to believe it.
A day of google search, however, tells me that we should, in fact, be wary of strong regimes.
Strong Putin’s Miserable Record
Russian President Vladimir Putin perhaps presides over the strongest government one can possibly conceive of. Here is what I found out about the new czar of Russia who has ruled the country with an iron hand for 18 years and is still going very, very strong:
“Over the past 10 years, Russia’s economic growth was negligible, recording average annual growth of 0.9 percent and a devaluation of the national currency by more than 50 percent. In terms of economic size, Russia moved from being the sixth to the 12th largest economy in the world, having lost more than a quarter of its GDP in dollar terms. Western sanctions contributed to a poor investment climate and technological isolation, thus dampening growth prospects. After private consumption declined four years in a row, inequality in Russia has increased significantly, and public discontent and dissatisfaction continue to grow.”
Turkey On the Brink of a Crisis Despite 15 Years of Strong Government
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is up there in the league of very strong leaders. Having already ruled the country for 15 years, Erdogan has got yet another term.
Here is an account of the first few weeks of his brand-new term:
“Hours before taking the oath of office – after 15 years already in power – Mr Erdogan published a 143-page decree changing the way almost every government department and public body in the country operates.
In the days since, he has issued several equally lengthy decrees and presidential decisions, centralising power and giving him the ability to exert control in nearly all areas of life with almost unchecked authority.”
While the strong Turkish leader has all the power in the world, there is very little he can do to stem the free fall of Turkish currency Lira.
The Lira has depreciated nearly 33 percent this year alone, the inflation rules at 25 percent and the country’s economy is on the verge of collapsing, triggering a full blown global financial crisis. One can get a sense of the crisis by looking at the fact that “in September, the MPC (monetary policy committee) raised the benchmark by 625 basis points, bringing the total amount of tightening this year to over 11 percentage points.”
Raising interest rates by 6.25 percent in one month and 11 percent in 9 months! These are abnormal measures taken in the face of unprecedented crisis. Turkey is clearly facing a huge economic crisis and this has happened despite 15 years of very strong government.
Path-breaking Decisions Taken by So-Called Weak Regimes in India
We can always argue that ours is a unique country and cannot be compared to Russia or Turkey. Now let us look at the track record of strong and so-called weak governments back home in the last fifty years.
Here is a list of 10 bold and far-reaching decisions taken by various governments in the last five decades:
- Imposition of Emergency
- Devolution of power by conferring constitutional status to the panchayati raj institutions
- Implementation of the recommendations of Mandal Commission, reserving seats for the OBCs in government jobs
- Economic liberalisation
- Pokhran II
- Golden Quadrilateral project
- Rural employment guarantee scheme
- Right to information
- Indo-US nuclear deal signalling a new high in the bilateral relations
This list clearly illustrates that only these (emergency, devolution of power and demonetisation) of the 10 bold decisions have been taken by the strong governments. And other than the decision to strengthen grassroots democracy, the other two, according to acclaimed experts, have been unmitigated disaster.
While the country took years to get over the blow of emergency, we will have to wait for a few more years to fully comprehend the damages caused by demonetisation.
It is not very difficult to understand why the so-called weak governments have surprised us on the upside. Here is my quick take on why they have worked when most expected them to fail. Suffice here to say that we need a consensus builder, a patient listener and a leader inclined to share power and responsibility to make the governance accessible in our country.
Looking at the track record of strong leaders in our country and abroad, can we still convince ourselves in believing that we need a strong government for at least 10 years?
Mr Doval, also underscored the need to have our own Alibabas to take a giant leap forward. I would request him and all the policymakers to have a look at the insightful analysis of my Editor-in-Chief on why it does not happen in India.
. Read more on Opinion by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsMr Doval, Strong Governments Have Always Let Us Down . Read more on Opinion by The Quint.