23 September, 2020

The Side Show

It has eclipsed Yashwant Sinha's budget. Will the political storm now threaten liberalisation?

The Side Show
February 28, 2001. Wearing a sky-blue bandhgala, finance minister Yashwant Sinha was eagerly waiting to stride through the doors of high economic growth. Never mind the potential threat of heading straight into a political minefield. He seemed to have conclusively shed the tag of not being a strong enough man for the North Block hot seat. He had belled the cats of government downsizing and labour reforms. He had finally jumpstarted Reforms-Phase II. The fragrance of feelgood wafted all over.

And then came l'affaire guns, grime and videotapes. And suddenly it's difficult even to recall the cheer of March 1. As the government is forced to spend all its time and energy on damage limitation exercises, as the Opposition scents blood and moves in, as the nda allies see a chance to demand their pounds of flesh, as the hardliners of the Sangh parivar discover a window of opportunity to slam liberalisation, the question that haunts the Indian economy is: is this the end of reforms?

This is not petty scare-mongering. The fallout of the Tehelka tapes could conceivably be the...


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