It’s pretty much obvious that a few select, perhaps just a couple of, parties are holding up the proposed implementation of the GST. The BJP cannot really maintain a holier-than-thou attitude as they blocked the passage when they were in opposition.
The political situation in India is so disastrous that whether the Congress wins or the BJP wins, the nation seems to loose. And there really is no ideology involved in this particular issue – not that I believe either party really cares about one.
To the citizen, the petty issues and the quid-pro-quo between these parties do not really matter. What counts is speedy implementation and resolution of economic issues that determine the nation’s progress.
As I see it, there is no political solution to the deadlock – and just as BJP stalled the implementation for the last 5 years, the Congress can easily do the same for the next five. At this point, it really doesn’t matter what Jaitley or Modi say or do – when all they did was mindlessly object when they were in the opposition. Where did their sense of nationalism go then? As you sow, so shall you reap.
The question then really is not what the BJP should do to get the bill passed, but how do we save the nation from the BJP and the Congress?
I would suggest a very different apolitical approach and it’s up to Modi to take this forward. If “India First” is his religion and something more than just a political slogan, there is no reason why he shouldn’t take this approach and throw down the gauntlet to the Congress.
On issues such as crucial economic bills such as the GST and Land reforms bill, let the President refer it to a three member non-partisan “Economic Resolution Panel” committee appointed entirely by him with no political interference whatsoever. The decision of the 3-member panel can be a binding one on both parties purely through public pressure. Let Modi put forth the proposal and see how the Congress responds.
But the real question is, would Modi be willing to cede control to an undemocratic, and more importantly, an independent panel? I am sure his advisors would advise him against it. But then for starters, Jaitley himself is an unelected authority. If election results are deemed to mean what they superficially indicate, citizens of Amritsar thought Jaitley unfit to represent them in parliament. How then can such a person be trusted to decide the economic future of a country?
The ways of democracy are quite bizarre and so Modi has to forget those “democratic excuses” and look forward – in fact, he has done that earlier in choosing his FM and there’s no reason why he cannot do it again.
What about the panel itself? I think we have to leave it entirely to the President’s discretion and hopefully he will nominate not the Sens or the Panagariyas with political leanings, but citizens who have spoken out on issues without much botheration other than national interests at heart. I can certainly think of names like Deepak Parekh, NRN etc., but I am sure there are plenty of other Indians who would fit the bill. There’s no reason why the nation would not trust these men with stellar credentials when we have lived with the decisions of people with dubious and questionable character, not to mention competence.
Here are 5 reasons why Modi should do it.
1) This would be setting a precedent and a great one at that truly reflecting issue resolution through a competency based approach rather than a political give-and-take one.
2) Since it’s up to the President to choose the panel and nobody knows upfront the decisions of the panel, it would be hard for the Congress not to agree with the approach. A few election cycles down the line, when the Congress is in power, they would benefit through the same process.
3) Modi has often been accused of too centralized an approach. While I do not want to go into the truths of such arguments, this is certainly one way of him demonstrating that he is willing to let go off the decision making to competent individuals.
4) What better way to demonstrate the nation’s commitment on economic reform to foreign investors? I am sure, foreign investors would feel a lot more comfortable when they realize the systems we are putting in place to resolve important issues in a fast and efficient manner.
5) What reason can Sonia or the Congress possibly give for not accepting the approach? As it is, the stand of the Congress looks silly but what saves the day for them are the past mistakes of the BJP on the same issue. If Modi is willing to let go of his “my GST architecture” or none, it would be very difficult for the Congress not to make a similar climb down. Will Modi do it?
I don’t know, but rephrasing Armstrong this would truy be “A small step for Modi & Sonia, but a giant leap for India”. But as a good friend of mine put it “Only a hopeless optimist can expect two hardened politicians to accept an apolitical forum”. Let’s see.
The author is the founding director of Benchmark Advisory Services – an economic consulting firm. He is also the India Economist for the World Money Analyst, a monthly publication of Mauldin Economics. He can be contacted at [email protected]