Thursday, 12 June 2014

The NDA, Its 10 Points, Public Expectations, And Our Armed Forces

The NDA Government has just announced a series of focus area, or a to-do list, if you will. This is a great beginning, a start - at least a roadmap is in place. Reams have been written on this, so I will not write on these 10 points, but rather on what else needs to be done on a priority. But first, let us take a look at these 10 points

  1. Food Inflation
  2. Economy
  3. Jobs
  4. Taxes
  5. Reforms
  6. Agriculture
  7. Reviving Manufacturing
  8. Infrastructure
  9. Energy Security
  10. Urbaniszation

Sounds good... if they can pull it off. Time will tell. The key lies in overcoming Centre-State Issues, legal blockages, Public Interests Petitions that will surely follow if proper land acquisition is not done, meaning Land Acquisition law needs to be dealt with. As someone I know  {Mr Mohankrishnan R} pointed out, "Money being no excuse it is the question of speedy planning, land acquisitions, addressing environmental considerations and executing the projects on time. It is not unreasonable to assume that the present government will measure itself to these requirements. " Can they pull it off without Police, Adminstrative and Judicial Reforms? I dont think so. And the news on all 3 is total silence, while the nation continues to hurtle towards a precipice.

Because, the moment you get into Land Acquisition, you run into the Land Mafia, Local vested interests, protests of affected people, etc - all requiring extensive administrative and police reforms. If anything, the news on that is disturbing, with recent events confirming the total lack of any movement on these vital reforms. You cannot expect fairplay in these matters without a free police, fast court redressal, and a fair reasonably incorruptible administration that is not hand in glove with local vested interests. And, if perchance these forces come together in unhealthy ways - you are staring at another andolan. Can the NDA do it?

Let us see. I reserve comment - except to state that I am skeptical. Without tackling the powerful vested interests, desired results will not flow. Sure, improvement will be there - no issues. But dont expect magic; it will be turbulent, and hard fought all the way. Might succeed, might fail. Let us see 

The single most problem area for this Government is high public expectation - if they do not deliver...  The writing is on the wall. And the public wont be looking for steady improvements - they will be on the lookout for a transformation. When passions run high, expectations go through the roof. Their biggest challenge is managing expectation - which is going to be impossible, any which way you look at it. Unless they can find a way to reign in inflation in the next quarter or two - which is a very, very tall order indeed. The most optimistic of estimates are looking at cooling inflation over a period of 8 quarters. This is in terms of public expectations

Stock markets are running amok; People are making big plans and talking big; Big Foreign players have suddenly become bullish about India; Nations have a fresh approach; people are running a fever... these expectations will have to be managed, if not met - through action, clear and transparent communication. So far, the NDA is spot-on in communication, at least. That is a big plus.

I cannot recall any such period of euphoria in the past 2 decades or more. The key is managing these expectation - India cannot afford to fall short. NDA has to deliver - and is HAS to manage these expectations properly. How will they do it? They have this initial period to strike gold. The Budget will be the key for a lot of reasons. For more reasons than one. That is one document that is the most awaited one.

The other aspect that is left is the needs of India's Armed Forces. The Armed Forces need a massive infusion of funds, as they are in dire need of any number of systems. That will require money. This is one requirement that cannot be put off. They also require a relook at organisation, with steps like a CDS, and other needed interventions. Defence Procurement needs a thorough revision, while border infrastructure needs urgent refurbishment. A first step seems to have been taken, with the intention to clear the Fighter Acquisition within the next few months, while today's reports show an intent to simplify road construction in border regions. This is heartening.

And this will be the litmus test for me as a person - I, despite being a person interested in Business and Economy, will be watching one thing, and one thing only - what is the NDA Government's plan to refurbish the Armed Forces? And by when? I will be watching concrete measures taken, not words. The reason for this is simple - with the status the Armed Forces are in - they need the help on a priority, to ensure our continued security. This is best done when both our threats are in no condition to mount an offensive - covert or overt. Pakistan is neck deep in trouble, and China is currently locked into the USA-Japan-SE Asia triangle while fighting internal fires on the growth front. We have a few clear years in front of us, and it needs to be utilised. The UPA ignored these points - if the NDA goes the same way, and does not solve the Armed Forces problems, the intent will be clear. Let us see. if they are UPA-3 in another form, or really NDA. Time will tell  I hope, for India's sake, that they deliver - my fingers are crossed... All the very best, GoI!

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