By Kamal Morarka
The UP elections have been announced yesterday with other four states. Political activities have warmed up and by 11 March the results will come as to which way the wind is blowing. We will analyze that later. First, the question is the demonetization problem has not settle down as yet. To begin with, there is not enough currency in the banks and to change the old notes into new. Then on some calculation the Prime Minister and the government announced that up to 30 December you can change your notes and they thought all the notes will be changed. It has not happened. Then they announced after 30 December till 31 March notes can be exchanged with the Reserve Bank instead of the other banks.
Apparently, there is still a goof up because the Reserve Bank branches do not have the money nor they have the facility to change the notes. First thing government should do to allow change of currency at the banks, all banks, up to 31 March that will be easing the pressure on the AAM AADMI. Of course the government has got the figures how much currency printed, how much likely to come, when the position will really ease. Chidambaram has rightly predicted that it will take seven months from September which means it will take us to April-May. I don’t understand the hurry, if you know when the money is going to come that date you should have announced? Everybody must get money for his money. Black or white that is the Income Tax department will see. But anybody who holds a promissory note must get a new note in exchange of that. That is elementary, it is no rocket science.
Even now, at the highest level the Finance Minister should see when it is physically possible to hand over new notes instead of old ones and that is the date they should announce and stick to that. On the broader perspective, they are saying that almost all the money has come back. If that is so, the expected benefit of black money going out of the system has been belied; counterfeit currency and terrorism has already been belied. Prime Minister has now changed the goalpost. He says he wants cashless economy, less cash economy and unfortunately for a person of the stature of the Prime Minister of India the speeches of Narendra Modi are going down in quality and dignity. The Prime Minister cannot start explaining the people how to swipe a card that is the job of credit card salesman. Yes, government can ask its banks to propagate this on big scale. Bank employees should go to the people’s houses and explain them how to use Paytm, wallet or whatever, not the Prime Minister himself. It may be his personal hobby but he cannot belittle the office of the Prime Minister by talking like this in public. But you never know in politics everybody think strange thing, he must be thinking this will gain him popularity that we will have to wait and see. Really nobody can figure that out.
On the world scene I believe that the US is saying that India is going towards recession, if not depression as yet, but slowing down. Of course many economists have predicted that after 8 November, but again we will have to wait and see. It will be a sorry state of affairs if that happens, because the need of the hour in India is employment – growth in terms of employment. By demonetization we have already done dis-employment: the daily wage earner, the construction worker, the person who was getting cash every evening that he has stopped getting. When the plastic card will come or when you will open banks is a long cry. Just now you have created immediate stress which could have been avoided. This definitely goes against the government and ruling party, but they don’t seem to think so. We have no choice but to wait and watch.
Coming to the UP elections, the distressing part even for a voter is that these parties seem to be breaking and breaking. Samajwadi Party which rules for the last five years with a comfortable majority of 224 in a house of 403 suddenly seems to be divided into two between father and son. This is not good for Indian politics in the long run. Who wins or who has upper hand is a small thing, it does not matter. Voter will vote somebody wins somebody will lose. But the message on the ground is that other than national parties, regional parties cannot rule, which not a good message. Mayawati of course is holding forte; she has own her party in full grip and people say if these two people fight separately she will be the gainer, so be it. Law and order in her five years regime from 2007 to 2012 was quite good and in UP the two things that matter are law and order and employment. If law and order any government is able to promise it will have an upper hand. The law and order was not very good in the regime of Akhilesh Yadav, whatever he may claim. Seventy percent of the police stations in the whole state were manned by Yadavs. It does not give a good picture. Of course for that I not holding only Akhilesh Yadav responsible the whole Samajwadi Party is a Yadav based party with supports from Muslims that are their main core vote based. But electioneering, governance, administration are three different things. In electioneering you do all things. Once you come to governance you must give a proper fair governance, and in administrative nitty-gritty you cannot allow the police service, the IAS and other services to be infiltrated by castism, because then whichever government come to power they will not be able to do much.
The Prime Minister is acting more like a party spokesperson than the prime minister. He takes any opportunity to say anything. Now, Guru Govind Singh 350th anniversary in Patna is the last thing in which politics comes. There also I understand he is saying Nitish Kumar government was good and all. These are all politics. Praise of Nitish government in Patna is still logical, but what exactly is the game? Because Nitish has supported demonetization, his aim is to distance Nitish from Lalu and probably make a government. These are not good development for the country.
Whatever the results of UP elections may be, we will have two repercussions. One, whether UP will have a stable good government and the second is the future of Modi’s polices and the BJP politics. If BJP gets clear majority, of course they will say it is a referendum of demonetization. And if they lose the, opposition will say it. According to me it is simplistic one should not say that; elections are held not on one item. The one policy or one step may go to advantage or disadvantage, but you cannot say this is a referendum. It is dangerous thing to say in this country. Let us hope the next ten days will show whether parties alignments works properly and they come to some terms.
Another important issue raised by Kejriwal and probably Mayawati is whether Central government should be allowed to present the budget on 1st February which is a new date announce for this year. Finance Minister said today it is a constitutional requirement. There are two points here. The constitutional requirement only is that before 31 March parliament should authorized expenditure for two or three months till the whole budget is approved, finance bill etc. that happens every year budgets are presented on 28 February and Vote On Account is taken in march. So that even by budget full process is completed by April or May there is no difficulty in expenditure. That can be done. Budget session has been called. There is no difficulty in it. But even that is not required because elections process will be over by 11 March. You can call the session from 15 March instead of now. And present your proper budget with tax proposals etc. and pass the Vote on Account. But if you don’t want to take that chance though there is no chance in it you can do that now. But allowing the central government to present schemes and taxation proposals is totally uncalled for. I am sure the election commission will advise the government not to announce schemes. Budget is one of the methods to announce the populist schemes. You really cannot do it. Even in March 2014 the then congress government did not proposed any taxes because that was election year, they stay vote on account and let the new government do it. Same thing should happen now. Government should not be allowed to announce tax proposals etc, except you can make an exception. Whatever has already been announced like income tax they want to reduced, which really does not affect the population. You can do it now, but you cannot announce scheme especially railway. You cannot announce new railway lines in UP or Punjab or where ever the elections are being held. I am sure the election commission will apply its mind and of course it will not be good that election commission asked the Finance Minister what are you going to announce and tell them is not good. The real thing is to allow them to propose a vote of account and take authorization of expenditure and the real budget can be presented after March that will be fare thing to do. Let us see next week what happen. Everyday there is a new development especially in the political parties. Let us wait and watch.
The Prime Minister is acting more like a party spokesperson than the prime minister. He takes any opportunity to say anything. Now, Guru Govind Singh 350th anniversary in Patna is the last thing in which politics comes. There also I understand he is saying Nitish Kumar government was good and all. These are all politics. Praise of Nitish government in Patna is still logical, but what exactly is the game? Because Nitish has supported demonetization, his aim is to distance Nitish from Lalu and probably make a government. These are not good development for the country. Elections are held every five years India has got, whatever Mr. Modi may say, against Congress 70 years. The 70 years of Congress has ensured that elections takes place properly, fairly, transfer of power takes place without any skirmish, and there is no police or army dominance in anything. Democracy has firm roots except in the Emergency in which Mr. Gandhi postponed the elections by one year but she corrected her mistake when out of power came back to power through the democratic process. She restored the balance though the black mark remain, but unfortunately this government wants to follow all the wrong precedents that have happened and healthy precedents they want to give up which is not a good thing to do. New party will be made and old parties will go, all these are part of democracy. If we are copying England and America, we must do it properly.
I am not one of those who feel judiciary is always right but there is a balance and the balance should be kept. Of course balance should be restored and judges appointing judges is not good thing, but I think President of India can call the Chief Justice and the government and discuss with them that what is happening. Solution should be found within our constitution which is very resilient. Our constitution is so good that it has got answer to all problems. Problem is with the practitioners of the constitution. The political parties are becoming small in their thinking, small in their approach, irrelevant in what they are doing. Instead of concentrating on employment we are concentrating on wrong things. Let us hope we can correct it.
By Kamal Morarka