Another BJP Flipflop – FDI this time


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Political opposition works in a funny manner in India. They feel that they must OPPOSE everything that the government proposes. It does not matter which party / coalition is in government and which is in opposition. The modus operandi does not change. Of course since the Congress, in some form or other, has been in government for most of the time since independence, the BJP has more opportunity to criticise.

Another aspect of the political discourse in India is that nuance is lost. Our leaders seldom use rapiers; they only know how to use bludgeons. Thus they seldom pick specific points they object to and reject EVERYTHING that the other side proposes. The only exception may be pay rises for Members of Parliament.

Fundamentally, on the governance front, there isn’t much to separate the two major parties in India. Apart from their idea of India and apparent secularism or lack thereof, there isn’t anything to choose between them. The BJP has powerful orators and a superb ground level volunteer / worker / associate force that the Congress used to once have. Otherwise they are the same. They have similar economic policies and similar social welfare policies. In any case, most of the stuff that nations do are dependent on what is happening in the world and on political compulsions. This is the same for both parties.

Plus as I said earlier, since the Congress has been in government for a much longer time, they have had an opportunity to DO something which means they have had an opportunity to make mistakes. The BJP which has been on the side-lines or in opposition for most time, has only had to build dreams. Now that the BJP is having to DO something, they have started making mistakes (Demonetisation for instance).

So why the flip-flop on Foreign Direct Investment?

This is what Narendra Modi had said when he was in the opposition

If you thought that the future finance minister would have shown nuance, you would be wrong. Jaitley said that the BJP would fight FDI to it’s last breath.

The same BJP, when in power just 5 years later, has approved 100% FDI in single brand retail via automatic route

Why did this happen? What is different now?

The difference is that when the BJP opposed they were in opposition and thus by default opposed everything. In the specific case of FDI, at that time they may have been pandering to their key supporting section of population – small traders. Plus remember that they had never governed the country, apart from a short stint when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM. That meant that the leaders were mostly clueless on what it takes to run a complex country like India. They could only come to power by opposing everything, painting everything as being wrong and promising the moon. That us what they did. It is when they came to power they realised their cluelessness. Which is why we have seen U turns on almost everything that is important. What I am saying wrt FDI  could be said about

  1. Aadhar
  2. Goods and Services Tax
  3. Disinvestment
  4. Pakistan Policy
  5. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

They did not know and were opposing because they were in opposition. Now that they know, they must go on with it. It is not that they do not care about the traders any more, just that they realise FDI is important in all areas.

It is a testament of political skill of the PM and the social media army that they make everything sound wonderful. Shashi Tharoor identified 23 schemes that were merely repackaged and renamed. Schemes that were abused and opposed just a few years later.

There will be more to come in the future. And you can be sure that the Congress will oppose them. That is how politics is played in India.  Poor foolish us, thinking we can change everything by our vote.