28 October, 2020

At The Halfway Mark

On most indicators, the first UPA budget has been a cautious but creditable effort

Punit Paranjpe
At The Halfway Mark
For those keen on reforms, the strategic position the Left parties occupy in the United Progressive Alliance has been of great concern. The reformists' greatest fear is that it will embolden the anti-reform lobbies within the Congress and the bureaucracy that had been forced into oblivion by the wave of reforms in 1991. Many of the initiatives originating in various branches of the government in the last month, which came on the heels of an ill-conceived Common Minimum Programme (CMP), have served to give substance to that fear. Therefore, the key question while assessing the first UPA budget is whether it indicates that the progressive, pro-reform wing of the Congress—which the prime minister and the finance minister represent—remains truly in charge of policy.

The answer to this question is a qualified and cautious yes. The qualification is that the budget gives no indication that reforms such as the amendment of the Industrial Disputes Act ruled out by the CMP or those such as redirection of many wasteful subsidies that are not ruled out by it but are politically...


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