“UPA is on its way out”

Text of Arun Jaitley's speech on the motion of thanks to the president for his address to the joint session of parliament

arunjaitley

Arun Jaitley | March 7, 2013



The UPA government has completed nine years in office. Nine years is a reasonable period for any government to leave its footprints behind. It can effect changes which will impact the destiny of the nation. The UPA has a dismal record in office. It inherited the governance of an enthusiastic nation. India was being show-cased before the world as an investment destination. The NDA left behind a GDP growth rate of 8.4 percent and sound fundamentals of the economy. As the UPA enters the last year of its rule, India is no longer on the global map as it was a decade ago.  The ‘I’ in the BRICS is threatened to be dropped. There is an environment of cynicism, a distrust of governance, a policy paralysis and a yearning for change.

How did the UPA convert an enthusiastic nation into a cynical one?

The UPA’s governance model

I have repeatedly maintained that the model of governance of the UPA is unfit for the world’s largest democracy. The natural leader of the party must be the prime minister. The model where a board takes decisions with regard to a company and a hired CEO administers it, may be true of corporate governance but is unfit for governing a nation.  The lack of political authority with the prime minister has resulted in –

•    A leadership crisis
•    A policy paralysis
•    No control over erring ministers and corruption.
   
Absence of leadership in the government is self-evident. Policy decisions in the past 9 years were taken at an extra-constitutional forum, the National Advisory Council. Several ill-advised policies such as the bank loan waiver and implementation issues in the MNREGA have resulted in the present economic gloom. The benefit of the bank loan waiver has reached ineligible people. MNREGA  consumed a lot of national resource without resulting in any asset creation.

The state of economy

There is no conflict with the proposition that India needs growth.  India cannot afford lower growth nor can it afford Populist slogans such as those for poverty alleviation as were done in the first four decades after Independence.  India needs higher growth rates, greater economic activity, job creation, better infrastructure and a larger revenue in the pockets of the state for poverty eradication schemes. How has the UPA which inherited a growth rate of 8.4 percent instead of maintaining a 9 percent growth rate brought the economy to less than 5 percent? At 5 percent growth rate the economy will not create adequate jobs, it won’t fight the curse of poverty.

India needs to transfer a large part of its population currently involved in agriculture to the manufacturing sector. It needs to convert into a low cost manufacturing hub. Our growth curve of manufacturing should be 12 to 14 percent.  It is only then that we can target manufacturing sector to occupy 25% of the GDP. For that you need to immediately announce a massive infrastructure programme. Why has the National Highway programme slowed down? Why our contractors are pulling out of the highway programme? Why is NHAI becoming  a impossible organization to deal with? Highway developers are not willing to bid for new projects.

•    The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sarak Yojna has almost been abandoned last year. This year against a provision of Rs.20,000 crores only a sum of Rs.8,000 crores has been spent.

•    The power sector has suffered because of the corruption in the allocation of coal mines. Power plants are starved of coal. The success story of the power sector which the NDA created with the enactment of Electricity Act, 2003 threatens to turn into a sub-prime crisis.

•    The telecom sector which was being show-cased as the fastest growing economy in the world in India has no takers left. Indian telecom is no longer saleable.

•    There is hardly anything in the budget which either gives a boost to the agriculture or manufacturing.

•    Projects worth Rs. 7 lakh crores are being held up because of squabbling ministers.

•    No steps are being taken to involve the private sector in defence production.
  
•    The North-East developmental projects are non-existent. The North-East is crying of neglect. The UPA is satisfied by just changing the demography through intruders and infiltrators. Its priority is a changed demography and not developmental campaigns.
   
•    Programmes for elimination of manual scavenging, universalisation of sanitation should be given top priority.
   
•    Having practised financial indiscipline during the past few years by wasting national resources, the UPA now leaves the nation under debt.  All social sector schemes have been pruned to make the fiscal deficit appear optically more acceptable, capital expenditure has been cut down by Rs. 93,000 crores. There is a paltry amount left for the implementation of the Food Security Bill. The increase is only Rs.5000 crores.  Grants for MNREGA and the rural roads have been substantially reduced. The game-changing Direct Cash Transfer scheme today provide only Rs.5601 crores for the next year.

•    The Food Security Bill remains an illusion. It is the Chhattisgarh model which has universalized food security subject to exclusions. Last year for food subsidy Rs.75000 crores was proposed to be spent but the actual amount spent is Rs.85000 crores.  For the next year there is a marginal increase of Rs.5000 crores (not Rs.10,000 crores) i.e. Rs.85,000 crores + Rs.10,000 crores)There is only a discussion in New Delhi about food security.  As against this some of the NDA ruled states  have come out with extraordinary performance. Bihar maintains a GDP growth rate of at least 12 percent.  Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhatisgarh have a near double digit growth.  The agriculture production in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat has hugely increased.

Corruption

With the leadership of the government not in control, corruption seems to be the hallmark of the UPA’s performance. The UPA has  a government of various kinds of ministers. Some are arrogant, some are excessively corrupt, some squabbling and some non-performing.  Some commit a Gaffe with regular periodicity. Boquets have  now been replaced by flower pots. Corruption has important role in reducing India’s capacity as an investment destination.  Not only are international investors wary of investing in India, domestic investors are looking for better options elsewhere in the world.  The reverse flight of capital is costing Indian economy dearly.

The Commonwealth Games instead of giving fillip to India as a sporting and tourism destination are  now remembered for corruption. UPA leaders have been jailed and the sporting environment in the country has been disrupted.

A union minister and others have been jailed in the 2G spectrum allocation. Huge amount of national resource  has been wasted.  The telecom success story has been hugely reversed. In the coal mine allocation scam, valuable national resource has been arbitrarily distributed at under stated prices. The result is a huge damage to the power sector where power plants are starved of coal.

The bribery in the purchase of the VVIP helicopters is now  sought to be covered up.  All we need to know is the name of the bribe taker.  He has to be prosecuted.  The government is merely sending the pursuit of truth into a tail spin by referring   it to a Parliamentary Committee.  The MPs do not possess any power of investigation, custodial interrogation or letter rogatory.

The country witnessed a massive protest where a national aspiration was to have a strong accountability mechanism. The Lokpal Bill was rushed through the Lok Sabha but stalled by the Government in the Rajya Sabha. Our effort to improve the Bill through the Select Committee mechanism has been stalled by the government; some suggestions have been accepted but some important suggestions are being stalled.

•         If a delinquent officer is given an opportunity of hearing before the Lokpal embarks upon an inquiry, the secrecy and suddenness of the investigation would be destroyed.

•         Why should an officer undertaking investigations be transferred by the government without permission of the Lokpal?

•         Heads of Investigative agencies such as CBI must function without fear or favour. They must have a fixed tenure and no temptation of post retirement in the government.
 
It is about time that India’s polity showed some seriousness and start  prosecuting the corrupt expeditiously.
 
Terrorism, Insurgency and National security

Kashmir is an integral part of India.  Of late peace has returned.  The Government of India should not entertain any dialogue or suggestion from either across the border or within with regard to the territorial integrity of Jammu & Kashmir with India.   Our policy must be of kindness, compassion with regard to the people of Jammu & Kashmir.  Our endeavour must be development and integration. We must be pro people and anti separatists.

The recent responses of politicians in the valley with regard to the execution of the person guilty of attacking India’s parliament in 2001 are disturbing India is not a soft State and it cannot afford to give a signal that under separatist pressure, it cannot punish those who attack the sovereignty and integrity of India.

The Maoist violence is afront to India’s democracy.

The Maoists are threatening to overthrow our parliamentary democracy through violence. They are exploiting the poverty in tribal areas. We must declare a national policy that the first right of the national resources should be with the tribal areas but to develop those regions we need an adequately acceptable law and order. Developmental campaigns in these areas coupled with an adequate security mechanism is the only way to tackle these Maoist infected areas.

Hyderabad blasts

The recent explosions in Hyderabad have resulted in the death  of several innocents and injury to many. The only way to prevent terror is powerful intelligence and breaking up of the terrorist modules.  The intelligence and security forces have to have a hundred percent success rate.  The terrorists have to succeed only once. Have our intelligence forces ignored the fact that adequate information was available that there is such an activity being murmured in Hyderabad?  Did we need to sanitize  Hyderabad fully?  The Hyderabad blasts are a grim reminder that India cannot lower its guard.  Terrorism has tobe fought in parrternership between the Centre and the States.  The fictional debate between terrorism and federalism has to be avoided; both can co-exist.  The NCTC  can only be based on this premise.

India and the neighbours 

India has never been interested in interfering with the affairs of its neighbours. We want friendly ties  with our neighbours but we have an interest in the stability of our neighbourhood.

Pakistan is a disturbed State.  It is at a stage where observers fail to understand as to who is in control of the State.  The prime minister raised hopes of a dialogue with Pakistan.  I hope he has after the recent provocative actions decided to put some of his hopes on the back-burner.
 
Nepal is an important State between India and China. We have historical links in terms of culture and religion. A protracted constitutional crisis is a matter of concern.

Bangladesh has a polity which is friendly to India. The present environment is conducive to resolving many pending issues in a manner  that is also acceptable to our domestic population.

Sri Lanka is an old friend of India.  Our soldiers have shed blood to bring peace to Sri Lanka.  We have a natural interest  in relation to Sri Lanka since human rights violation in Sri Lanka impact Tamil Nadu and elsewhere.

Maldives : The situation in Maldives is a cause of concern.  We can’t afford a disturbed situation in the Indian Ocean. That the situation can turn so ugly that its former president had to take refuge in the Indian High Commission. India’s interest in the early resolution of the problem is understandable.  I hope we continue to nudge for a situation where normalcy returns to Maldivian democracy.
 
Women

Women constitute 50 percent of the Indian society. It is an undeniable fact that they are a discriminated section of the society. From the very birth itself segments of the society consider them inferior. We may have guaranteed the constitutional equality but  Indian  mind-sets have to change. Changed mind-sets must consider women as equal in building the society. The recent incident of rape and murder in Delhi as also some incidents happening elsewhere compel us to hang our heads in shame. The inadequacy of our laws can be corrected. But our police mechanism, our investigative machinery and the attitude of society and particularly men has to radically change. The recent incidents have shown that we have failed the test of civility. We are on trial. Civility requires that we cannot afford to lose.

The UPA is on its way out. It is leaving behind the economy in a mess. It has discredited the polity. The UPA’s solutions that the hope in this environment of cynicism will emerge by pushing India into a dynastic democracy will not succeed. The real worth of India will realized only when the myth of such charismas of dynasties is smashed. Let India witness a political contest between proven ability and those who want to   convert India into a dynastic democracy. It is this proven ability that will transform India from one of cynicism to one of hope.
 
A non-performing and a corrupt government can inflict a huge damage to a country. This is best expressed in the words of Tacitus, an ancient Roman Senator who said –

”They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger….  They are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor…  They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.”

 

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