A couple of weeks ago, in conversation with a media professional in Beijing about the clichéd India-China comparison that has become so popular, I was asked about my take on India’s future. After a few seconds of gathering my thoughts from my reading of the news and from my own perspective as a student at an American university, on the cusp of starting his working career, I summed up the then present political scenario. Explaining how the opposition parties were stalling the passage of a two very important bills in parliament for the want of the Prime Minister to respond on a mini-scandal that involves a high-level minister helping a family friend obtain travel documents. The Chinese person I was speaking with, so used to hearing about the Chinese leadership doing such favors to friends, such incidents in Chinese are often referred to as taking advantage of Guanxi, and completely unaware about how easily material gets sensationalized in India was truly baffled. He asked, “Would the leadership of your country hinder national progress, merely to extract an apology or a resignation?” The simple question he put forth represented my understanding of the situation, and just made me think, what the hell is going on Delhi and is this the environment in which I want to work in the future and realize my ambitions?
On thinking about the above question in an Indian context, I understand that procedures for getting work done in our country are very different to the command and control structure of the Chinese economy and that there is a lot more transparency and scrutiny on the lives of our political leadership. However, even after these two controls, the question still stands, “Would the leadership of your country hinder national progress, merely to extract an apology or a resignation?”
Bi-Partisanship: The Need of the Hour
One of the causes that bring around this sort of myopic behavior is again very simply the existence of a very divided polity in our country. Presently there is a refusal on the side of the Congress MPs to perform their responsibilities as Members of Parliament and merely help the Parliament function. There is a massive lack of bipartisanship in our country’s polity, not only restricted to the present opposition but also to the previous term when the BJP was in opposition. However it is important to point out that the allegations against A. Raja whom the BJP was protesting against were far more serious than dirt that has been raked up on Sushma Swaraj. India is not going to prosper if the people who run it are simply not ready to give up their own personal agendas and put the interests of the country in front. The Chinese Communist Party too being a single party state has a plethora of differences within, such as the Old-Guard and the Reformers, they too have some severe politicking when it comes to the five yearly government appointments. If Indian democrats dismiss this example, we should turn to the bipartisanship in United States, the most recent example being, a Republican Congress working with President Obama to devolve authority to the Obama administration to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this case the polity of the nation, came together understanding that free or preferable trade with East Asian and Pacific nations will benefit America in the long run, even if jobs are to be lost in the short run.
The need to capitalize on the present moment, with the whole world’s eyes on India:
Following the election of Narendra Modi, the world has most-definitely turned its eyes towards India. The world’s focus on India has only been re-enforced by the Prime Minister boosting the country’s global standing with his frequent foreign visits. Every macro-economic investment report in the lead up to the elections spoke about the importance of electoral change to revive the country’s economic fortunes. Well more than a year has passed and the country’s politicians are far from matching expectations. In part we can blame the BJP’s campaign rhetoric lambasting the previous government as Maa-Bete kee Sarkar, and going to massive lengths to deride the previous government. It sure was a sweet victory for the present occupants of the treasury benches, but their distancing the opposition from themselves has really not helped their cause of bringing the much promised ‘Achhe Din’. However it is important for the opposition MP’s to also realize that they have been put in their seats to perform a particular task and that on taking office they too did take an oath to respectfully carry out the duties of their office.
It is most important for our leadership to comprehend that the world is not going to wait for them to get their act together, students studying at overseas universities cannot halt their career trajectories at the functioning/not functioning of the Indian government. The current barometer for bipartisanship was the NDTV anchor Barkha Dutt asking Shashi Tharoor whether he was going to join the BJP just on the basis of the Prime Minister praising his recent speech at a debate organized by the Oxford Union. I find this a real low, if people cannot praise across party lines a person who has given a speech that has drawn unanimous applause from India then imagine what its like agreeing on important matters that influence the nation’s progress. There is a need for the politicians of India not to hold the futures of the 100 million new voters who turned 18 last year to ransom. There is a need to recognize what is truly in the long - term interests of the people and the nation.
I have been in Beijing, China this summer at a language training course, I have had the opportunity to converse with Chinese students, Indian journalists in China as well as business professionals from MNC’s. I have been reading extensively about the country and how it works. And in this entire process I have come to reflect upon the progress India has made in comparison to China. The contrast is stark, if one looks simply at GDP per-capita numbers, given that in 1980, both countries GDP per-capita levels were around $300, today a little more than three and a half decades on, China stands at $8000 while India languishes behind at $2000. GDP per capita being an average figure doesn’t take into account the spiraling Gini Coefficient that represents income inequality, which has become another issue in both countries. I always ask myself if China took 3 decades of almost 10% growth to get to where it is today, India is going to take a really long time to get to where it wants to be. I think its high time our leaders embraced reality, not rest on their past laurels of what they have done for their country and start acting now and making India great.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not Georgetown-India Dialogue or on its behalf.