Much More Clarity Is Required

The way this Government is functioning, it is giving mixed signals and the picture is not really getting clear as to what is their overall strategy and who is masterminding a total strategy, if at all there is one. First of all, the Prime Minister went to Brazil for the BRICS summit. From what appeared in the newspapers, it seems that he represented India’s case well and the general result is to be welcomed  that is on the positive side. Secondly and on the negative side, the External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj. initially refused a discussion on the Israel-Palestine conflict in the Rajya Sabha. This was not understandable. She said both the countries are our friends, we don’t want to discuss here. The question of courtesy does not arise, and (it is also correct) she is correct that we need not take sides. We can discuss it out, it is a democracy  some people will favour Israel, some will favour Palestinians. After many disruptions and protests, the Government finally conceded the Opposition demands for a discussion and the final resolution of the House was expected to be a balanced one. Like the External Affairs Ministry has issued a statement which is in line with India’s foreign policy, similarly Parliament is mature enough to adopt a position. Thirdly, the Budget. There was an unexpected and unrealistic expectation from the Budget, which has not come true. It is a very prudent and a very conservative Budget. However, supporters of the BJP, especially the trading classes, will definitely be disappointed. They expected large scale amendments to make the lives of an average businessmen lighter, the big corporate houses can hire lawyers and look after themselves. What about the average businessman, whose business is in lakhs or maybe 2 crores, 5 crores, he cannot afford to give the kind of bribes the taxation department wants, he is always threatened with prosecution, and a prosecution threat is always meant to extract money. It is really not meant toprosecute, I have not seen any businessman going to jail. So these clauses threatening prosecutions should be either abolished, which is what people expected from the BJP’s first Budget, or life should be made easier in some other way. People would have to be pardoned if they think this is a Budget of UPA-III. Mr Chidambaram, if he would have continued as Finance Minister, would have presented a similar Budget. A few changes are there, especially the highway plan of rupees 38,000 crores is quite ambitious, but the overall thing is quite lukewarm. We have to still watch what the Government does for the next few months, but the signals are mixed. And one journalist has gone and met a terrorist across the border and TV has been showing only that. Did he really go with the tacit consent of the powers that be? If so, they have to come out with the truth. After all, the person whom he met is not an ordinary person. He is a man wanted in India. A section of the BJP is demanding cancellation of the passport of the journalist and prosecution for sedition. Overall there appears to be a lack of focus, no one man appears in charge. Even when the Prime Minister went to Brazil, no number two was nominated. So much so that in the BJP Parliamentary party meeting also – though Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley both are deputy leaders – none could preside, because the positions were not clear. These are not good things for a ruling party which has a clear majority. There should be much more clarity in the way they function. Let us hope things improve in the weeks to come.

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