Q & A: Veerappa Moily

'Reforms only way out'

The former Chief Minister of Karnataka and the Chairman of the Revenue Reforms Committee, Veerappa Moily, says development was not just an item on the agenda for the Congress but a mission. In the big picture, the short-term gains in revenue do not mean anything, he says. The economic reforms followed by the NDA are short- sighted and decisions have been taken in haste with an eye on the elections, he tells M. Raghuram.

The NDA's agenda seems to focus on infrastructure development. As a former Chief Minister and a reformer, what do you think is the course India should be taking?

Nobody can quarrel with development. India is a democratic country and there are checks and balances every time it comes to making policy; but short cuts can be dangerous just as too many U-turns can also be harmful. Development also does not mean bulldozing social commitments to achieve a high level of development. India needs more public-oriented people to run schemes for development, economic empowerment and social security. For this, there has to be planning involving both economic and social factors, which have to be backed with the political will. This synergy can come only when there is a closely-knit federal system of governance; it needs a more statesmanlike approach.

How safe is the socio-economic environment of the country, especially when there are fractured and truncated mandates because of the multiplicity of parties?

The multiplicity of parties is fine, it means that democracy is alive and kicking. But in a political system like the one prevailing in India, there is a big element of anti-incumbency. The anti-incumbency factor can be steep and quick as seen by the electoral swings in Karnataka and in the nation. This is a sign of mature decision making by the electorate and perhaps democracy in India is now poised for a take off where real issues will be properly understood by the people and issues like religion in politics, caste and community factors will become things of the past. There has been a lot of negative campaigning in both first and the second phases of electioneering and this will have a negative effect on the BJP.

Corruption has always been on the minds of the electorate especially when it comes to voting. Why do political parties still not accept that corruption in public life has been the bane of our democracy, with politicians and bureaucrats working hand in glove, leaving the common man in the lurch? Don't you think there should be some administrative reforms also?

Absolutely, administrative reforms have been the Congress plank in this election. The Indian administrative machinery is so big and the accounting system is also perhaps the world's largest. Taming the administration through reforms is the only way out and there has to be policy support for such a step. The administrative reforms will have to come from within the political system and the reforms should be total to achieve the expected results quickly and fully.

What do you think will be the future of fundamentalism, keeping in view the present elections and its probable outcome?

During the last 5,000 years of history, the texture of the Indian society has not changed. Mighty kingdoms and sultanates and the British Empire could not change it. Chandragupta Maurya, who was a Jain married a Greek lady, but he did not attempt to change his kingdom into a Jain kingdom; Ashoka, who accepted Buddhism, did not make it a Buddhist kingdom, even the Moghuls did not make it a Muslim kingdom and the British did not make India a Christian state. Then how can anybody make India a Hindu rashtra? The secular character of the people has been integrated into the polity of the nation and it cannot be separated by petty politics of religion.

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