The unabashed pursuance of neo-liberal policies during the first year of United Progressive Alliance–II (UPA-II) has spawned crony capitalism, observes Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat in his evaluation of the government's performance which will appear in the coming issue of People's Democracy .
Pointing out that the nexus between big business and politics has become the hallmark of the Congress regime, Mr. Karat draws attention to several trends that have dominated the UPA-II's one year in office.
These include the legitimacy provided to foreign capital flows from dubious sources through tax havens, political protection to illegal mining business and reluctance to penalise law breakers and super rich tax evaders.
“All this has promoted perverted capitalism which is celebrated as India's growth story,'' observes the CPI (M) general secretary. The first year of UPA-II has already notched up scandals such as the IPL, 2G spectrum allocation and mining by the Reddy brothers. “All this can be directly sourced to the nexus between big business and ruling politicians.''
Mr. Karat drew a distinction between the first edition of the Left-supported UPA government and its second avatar — UPA-II. The latter did not spell out a common minimum programme. Instead, it announced that it would take up policy measures it couldn't push through in its first term in office.
UPA-II failed to tackle the price rise of essential commodities and believes in providing a tax bonanza for big business and maintaining favourable terms for foreign finance speculators. In fact, the proposed Direct Taxes Code will make India one of the least taxed countries as far as the rich are concerned.
Every sphere of policy-making — pricing of gas, allocation of telecom spectrum, opening up of mining and minerals, the financial sector, retail trade or allowing foreign educational institutions into the country — bears the “imprint'' of a government pandering to big business and their foreign finance collaborators, observes Mr. Karat.
The UPA government's concern for the aam aadmi has proved to be shallow. It is still debating the Food Security Bill. The Public Distribution System has been further weakened. Farmer welfare does not seem to concern the government which has cut fertilizer subsidy.
On the political side, UPA-II failed to strengthen secular forces to push for firm anti-communal measures and seems “visibly reluctant'' to come to terms with the Ranganath Mishra Commission report recommending reservation for the minorities on the basis of socio-economic backwardness. There has been a noticeable lack of political initiative in dealing with the problem of Kashmir.
As far as tackling the Maoist violence is concerned, Mr. Karat feels the Centre tends to treat it solely as a law and order problem ignoring the fact that some of its own policies are alienating the tribals.
On the foreign policy front, the government has “remained steadfast in its fealty'' to the U.S. As a quid pro quo for the nuclear deal, India has agreed to buy billions of dollars of U.S. arms and equipment. One of the few positive aspects is the Prime Minister's refusal to adopt a confrontationist stance towards Pakistan despite what sections in his government and party wish.
“If there is an impression of drift and being directionless, the Congress government has only itself to blame for this plight… After the first six months of the government, there has been the rising tempo of popular struggles and movements… the struggle is on against the harmful policies of the government and to defend the livelihood and the rights of the working people. The question is whether the UPA government has learnt any lessons from its first year in office.''