2013 has gone and we are at the beginning of 2014. Looking back at the last year one has mixed feelings of how we’ve performed. The economy is in a slow-down mode, but that is a condition the world over. Europe’s in a worse position, America is slowly trying to come up. It is not surprising that India cannot be buoyant or enthusiastic about growth. However, the sad detail is that whenever we have a chance of growth, we tend to lose because of inaction or delayed-decision making. The current account deficit became high and the dollar-rupee parity went out of control. There was panic. However, the Finance Minister did take action, though belatedly, to curb the import of gold and other non-essential items. They brought things under control. I was one of those who was never unduly worried about the economic situation. Having seen the 1991 crisis at first-hand, we are nowhere near that state but we can quickly slide into a bad situation if we are not vigilant and if timely action is not taken. 2014 brings an important point the general elections. Even in the economic sphere people are waiting for elections to look for new policies and new initiatives. That is hardly logical because the country and the Government have to continue whichever party comes to power. However, apart from the economy part of it, elections are important because they throw up a new Government with new policies in the social and political sphere, apart from the economy. There are various calculations and dangers. The business community is very enthusiastic about the BJP coming to power with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. Businessmen, as usual, do not think beyond their own interests. They feel good decisions can be taken and the Gujarat model can be repeated in the whole country. They are short-sighted. Gujarat is a State where entrepreneurship was already there. It was never a backward State, so there is no question of anybody having turned-around Gujarat. Gujarat was already progressing; whether somebody has done a little more or less is a matter of examination and analysis. However, the big danger is communalism. If there are Hindu-Muslim riots throughout the country, the country will not survive — forget business or economics — we have to safeguard against that. All secular parties must come together and prevent this danger. The ego is too big amongst the non-Congress secular parties. Each leader seems certain, and to a certain extent he is right, he is important in his own State, in his own sphere. However, unless they prevent splitting of votes, they’ll come to naught. It is not possible for any individual to do so well as to confront the BJP without the Congress. The Congress and non-BJP parties, if they work in tandem they can still control or they can prevent the Hindu communalists from running-over the country. However, even if that does not happen, I don’t think the BJP can get a clear majority, in which case they’ll have to go for a broad-based coalition that is the only redeeming, saving situation in this whole scenario. If a broad-based coalition is made, like what Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee made, then there is not much difference between the Congress Government and the NDA Government which was under Mr. Vajpayee. There were no major communal clashes, except Gujarat of 2002, which were a blot on the NDA and on Mr. Modi himself. All right thinking people should vote intelligently and see to it that the country gets a good Government; after all the country is above everything else. From 1947, or rather 1952, when the election process began, we’ve had so many elections. For a long period of about 61-62 years, we’ve had this system. It must continue in a stable and proper way. Voters are coming out in big numbers which is a good thing and 75 per cent voting is good. The Election Commission is doing its bit. More and more voters should come and vote as they please. I’m sure if the average voter is allowed to vote independently, the future is safe because the average person in India is communal in mind. Whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian or any other religion, the average person is secular in nature. Secularism has not been given to the Indian nation by the Constitution of 1950. It was already there for thousands of years. All religions and castes they’ve lived here peacefully, without any problems. It is a misnomer, BJP people keep saying. Congress-secularism is not a gift of the Congress party it is a gift of the Hindu scriptures of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagwad Gita all that teaches you secularism. Maybe they talked the language of their religion, but the underlying message is equality, humanity, compassion for the poor. All that is there so all that we have to do is not to invent anything new, but to remember our past heritage and work according to that. That is our safety net.
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