The political philosophy of Sonia Gandhi was revealed in her startling statement that if there was no money available for the food security bill, the money would have to be found. She did not bother to suggest where the money was to be found. This defies even the simple common sense of the housewife who knows how to cut her coat according to the cloth that is available. It would be easy to cite Ms Gandhi’s statement as evidence of her utter irresponsibility, but, unfortunately, there is more to it than just that. Ms Gandhi’s statement grows out of her intrinsic belief in populism. She believes measures that are popular are worth pursuing irrespective of their implications and consequences. Thus she pushed through the food security bill without any guarantees about the delivery mechanism, because she is convinced that it will make her popular. Popularity is the aim, not the benefits of the measure actually reaching the poor. The gesture and the rhetoric have precedence over the actual delivery and results of the welfare measure. Ms Gandhi has effectively imbibed the essence of Congress politics since the time of her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi.
The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is too good an economist to be unaware of the disastrous consequences of Ms Gandhi’s statements. Yet there was not a murmur of protest from him and the food security bill will go down as a piece of legislation passed by his government. It is an irony that while an economist was the prime minister a series of steps was put in place the overall impact of which was damaging to the economy. Mr Singh cannot escape responsibility or these measures. His speech in Parliament showed no awareness of his sense of responsibility. Mr Singh could argue that he was made prime minister under most unusual circumstances and that he is not quite his own master. This is a dishonest and dangerous argument. Mr Singh is the prime minister of India. He is not the prime minister of the Congress and, most emphatically, he is not the prime minister of Sonia Gandhi even if she gave him the top job of the country. Once he has taken oath as prime minister, Mr Singh is obliged to take decisions that are the best for the republic and not for a party or an individual. If there are compulsions that prevent him from taking such decisions he should resign as prime minister. There is nothing in the oath that he took that tells him to cling to office for the sake of clinging to office.
There can be a myriad analyses of the plight of the Indian economy and the inertia of Indian politics. But at the root of it all are two features — the fact that the leader of the ruling coalition is committed to populism and enjoying power without responsibility, and that the prime minister seems to have lost all sense of dignity and self-respect. Thus falls India.