Blinkered vision

Updated: Aug 5 2005, 05:30am hrs
The Congress partys method of competing with the Left for socialist political space poses a grave threat to the entire reform process. The latest instanceCongress MP Jairam Ram-eshs proposal that a parliamentary resolution be moved to ensure that navaratna companies are not privatisedis a case in point. Though some Congress ministers have reportedly distanced themselves from Jairams proposal, the partys reluctance to come out firmly against it does no good to either its image as the original party of reform or to the cause of reform in the country.

Running with the hare and hunting with the hound may make good politics, but does not make good economics. What is particularly galling is that the suggestion should come from Jairam, secretary of the partys economic affairs cell and supposedly a reform proponent. His proposal would have had the additional merit of tying the hands of future governments by ensuring they have to take Parliaments approval for something which would have earlier been an executive decision. It would have enshrined the status quo, a clear instance of the evil that men do living after them. The party says he spoke out of turn, but Jairam was, after all, fielded by the Congress in Parliament to make the case that PSUs were safe in their hands. He then repeated it to journalists later, as the partys thinking.

Socialism is a holy cow in this country. So much so that even today, more than a decade after we started on the path of reform, no political party that refuses to swear by socialism can be registered. Strangely, this excites no indignation amongst our people. Which makes it all the more necessary to topple some pedestals. The belief that state ownership of the economy is the way to higher democracy and progress was an unmitigated curse for the 20th century. Fortunately, our rulers never went the whole way in imbibing this narcotic, unlike those in China or Russia, whose people paid a terrible price for this belief.

The urge to build an equitable and just society is a powerful impulse in humans, and Marxism was one such attempt. One expects parties like the Congress, with its democratic moorings, to offer an alternative way of getting to that end. To offer to be better Marxists than our Left parties shows moral and intellectual bankruptcy.