Consensus Makes Possible

Updated: May 28 2004, 05:30am hrs
The Common Minimum Programme, says the United Progressive Alliances consensual policy statement, is the foundation for collective maximum performance.

Thats classic Jairamism! Between two ace sound byte-masters, Jairam Ramesh and Sitaram Yechury, we can expect more variations on the theme. We have two of our own to add.

The CMP requires commitment, money and pragmatism for it to work and show that consensus makes possible! While the CMP will be digested, dissected, debated and demolished by critics and commentators, analysts and antagonists, supporters, supplicants and psycophants, opponents, opportunists and others, it is actually possible for the Manmohan Singh government to deliver a decent record in office by just sticking to the CMPs agenda.

It is an impressive agenda for development. Given its consensual character, it is not meant to generate too much opposition to it.

Yes, those in a hurry will find its agenda of reform too slow-paced. Yes, those who seek a revolution will dismiss this as a confused manifesto of reformism.

In a democracy one should expect such criticism. But the real contribution that pro-changers can make is to exert pressure on the government to deliver at least what the minimum programme offers.

That such a wide-ranging agenda for development and reform can even be dubbed a common minimum programme between such a diverse set of political parties is a great step forward.

The problem is not with the agenda.

It will, has been and will remain with the instruments required to implement that agenda, namely the executive, the legislature and judiciary.

The real challenge for our country is the challenge of good governance. Of improving the efficiency of bureaucracy, of public enterprises and public utilities. Of making people work.

This requires inspirational political leadership. If the UPA constituents will fall in line, empower Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by following his example of simplicity, modesty, honesty, integrity and commitment to work, India can be transformed overnight into a developed nation.

If, on the other hand, the UPA ministers quarrel, become corrupt, fight for the perks and privileges of office, focus narrowly on sectional interest groups and favour vested interests, then no high-sounding agenda can deliver high growth. We have no hesitation in unquestioningly praising and accepting the CMP.

Quibblers will criticise the formulation on privatisation and disinvestment, the myopic will protest against statements on labour and land reforms, the nitpickers will ask why there was no mention of this or that.

The big-picture-wallahs will be quite happy with this agenda provided the UPA constituents will mean what they say, having agreed on what to say about what they mean!

Is there, in the UPAs CMP, any marked departure from the policy record of the National Democratic Alliance Yes there is, on issues pertaining to education (for the better), on welfare of minorities and on regional development.

On much else, the language may differ, but policy will not in practice. If the UPA wants to spend more, however, it will have to find the funds and thats when it will have to put its money where its mouth is.