WHEN YOU pick up a book called Politics Trumps Economics, you expect to see the darker side of how economic policies are framed and how political forces dominate their making. In fact, there is a growing sense of intrigue when we analyse the whys and whats of economic policies. But if that is the expectation one picks up the book with, one could be in for disappointment. Because when you peruse the 12 essays in the book all written by stalwarts, it appears that they don’t have any connection with the title of the book.
Bimal Jalan starts off this volume of essays with his overview of how the political system has evolved. Being a former member of the Rajya Sabha, he has good insights on how polity works. But this is where his view ends, and while other authors do pay obeisance to the book’s title by mentioning it, they have tended to stray with their thoughts. Yet, if one reads the essays independently without any connection with the book’s title, the articles read very good.
Jalan’s observations on polity are twofold. The first is that we have coalition politics today, where regional parties dominate with their small numbers. Hence, they have a significant hold on the majority party. They can switch sides easily and not come under the anti-defection ruling. This needs to change. Second, criminals get into politics and enjoy immunity, which has led to the quality of our polity deteriorating. The scams in various programmes and policies of the government further buttress this point. Quite clearly, we need to move away from this rot.
Meghnad Desai has a different view on the concept of equity. Rather than economic inequality, he dwells on social inequality, which started with the caste system. His point is that social reforms have never quite been on the political agenda of any party post-independence. Now, new parties have been formed, which are primarily based on caste. And this will be the future, as caste politics will drive the economy forward. Interestingly, he shows that a heartening change has been that, unlike some caste-based parties or politicians like Lalu Yadav who worked only for caste and ignored the economic wellbeing, people like Nitish Kumar have blended the two well to create a stronger society. This could be a winning combination.
Then there is a piece by Dipankar Gupta who, as usual, keeps the reader