In Indian Politics, History Is Still What It Used to Be

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), February 9, 2016 | Go to article overview

In Indian Politics, History Is Still What It Used to Be


India, Feb. 9 -- '"History shows," begins the bore at the club'. This is the irritation the great economist Lionel Robbins had expressed in his book The Nature and Significance of Economic Science while describing how economists and commentators had the bad habit of seeing a pre-set connection between any two sets of economic variables whenever they revealed comparable outcomes. Hence the aplomb with which they could congratulate themselves by saying 'history shows'.

As with Robbins' economists, so with Indian political commentators, and maybe so with those in charge of our governance too. There is a lot for the bores to gorge upon.

What does history show about the first 18-24 months of the three successive central governments in India - UPA 1, UPA 2 and the current NDA? Cut the grandiloquence of the political stalwarts and it is practically the same story. UPA 1 looked better than UPA 2 and even better than the current NDA because the growth upswing had started. UPA 2 had the 2008 recession to blame for the slowing growth and even price rise in the same way the present dispensation is blaming events occurring outside India for slowing industrial growth, falling exports and the stock market doldrums.

Come to politics and here too there is a parallel. It is that the success in the Lok Sabha election meant little for the ruling dispensations at the Centre other than victories in the Haryana and Maharashtra elections for the ruling alliance in each of the three years - 2004, 2009 and 2014. There too, the performance of the ruling alliance in the state elections was invariably inferior to that in the Lok Sabha polls, signalling the end of a golden run.

Both UPA 1 and UPA 2 got a drubbing in Bihar and UP. The NDA has got it in Bihar and in a manner that's much worse than what had happened to the UPA in 2005 or 2010. And judging by the way it has slipped up on matters concerning the Dalits and issues such as reservations, UP will be an uphill struggle for the NDA, as it squares up to a resurgent Mayawati, a regrouping Mulayam and a Congress that has only one direction to go, up.

Subsequent to that, both UPA 1 and UPA 2 won sporadic victories and in the same proportion suffered losses. …

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