Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent remarks at the National Development Council do not come as a surprise. Apparently, he wants the Muslims of India to have the first claim on the country's resources. This is the latest in UPA’s appeasement politics. To contain the fall out, his spin doctors have gotten into action. They have made sincere efforts to inform fellow countrymen that it is the opposition BJP that is twisting his statements out of context!
Manmohan Singh is apparently so far removed from the ground reality in India that I guess he is either oblivious or no longer concerned about his sinking image. Such a remark from the Prime Minister and the subsequent face-saving efforts are indeed so amateurish that now even Indians are beginning to ignore this high political office. Fellow academia has long given up on the good doctor. Nevertheless, such a statement from an economist and a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, only adds to the agony of the nation.
Resource allocation, if I may respectfully remind the Prime Minister, must be prioritized to reach the neediest segments of society. In a country which houses most of the world’s poor, it should automatically begin at the bottom of the economic spectrum. Poverty in India, like elsewhere, does not favor religion, caste or place of birth. Muslims are not the only have-nots in India. It has afflicted whole regions and generations of Indians. The sufferings among the poor in India is uniform be it the Muslims or Hindus or any other religion.
Mr. Singh informs India that he wants to ”devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development”. The learned economist pompously declares that “they must have the first claim on resources”. That grandiloquence is naked word smithy to tier India’s pathetic poor by religion and thus polarize the nation. He has however, with great gumption, not informed us why the Muslim poor need the ”first claim on resources”. In India, the Prime Minister, by force of precedent, is not obliged to tell the nation why.
If you stop to reflect on his statement, it shows how callous and nonchalant he is towards the Hindu or a non-Muslim poor. The reality as we all know, is that most of India’s poor - in absolute numbers - are Hindus. Secondly, he has in effect proclaimed to the world outside India that the Hindu poor do not need urgent resource allocation. This must indeed be a new variety of Nehruvian economics with an Oxford flavor. See the subtle shift and value additions in Manmohanomics version 2.0 that is geared for minority compatibility.
The Manmohanomics algorithm still does not tell us how a Hindu poor mitigates his hardships and hence deserves less attention while the Muslim poor cannot and so requires priority. Probably, it must be the Hindu’s past karma that makes him less eligible for ”resource allocation”, whatever that means. But is it not the constitutional obligation, moral responsibility and the country’s minimum expectation of the government to seek the holistic implementation of anti poverty programs to all needy sections of India? It now appears that if you are born a non-Muslim and poor in Manmohan’s India, then the government stands relieved of such aforesaid obligations and responsibilities whatsoever. The legal pundits can quibble over the breach of the Prime Minister’s solemn oath to uphold the constitution and serve all people of India. This is but one more addition to their list.
India’s polity today is all topsy-turvy. Unthinkables have happened and continue to happen. The root cause, as many distinguished Indians have noted, is the continued erosion of the people’s faith in the political class and a consequent fragile polity. Every election fetches the political parties less and less of popular support and a wafer thin edge over their rivals. To keep the diminishing constituents happy, the gambles are getting more desperate. Hence you find an otherwise reputed economist turned PM devising an allocation methodology that would appear to defy logic. Yet, that does not give him the excuse to abdicate his responsibility to ensure equal treatment and unity of the country.
This new resource allocation priority is yet another vehicle cunningly drafted to circumvent and subvert the Constitution and the unalienable right to equality. Of course, the constitution clearly seeks to prohibit any discrimination based on sex, caste, class or religion. The Supreme Court of India has clearly spelt out on multiple occasions that reservation per se is unconstitutional and strikes at the very heart of the principles of equality and natural justice. That progressive judges have played no small part to undo this right guaranteed to each and every Indian has been well documented by Arun Shourie in his book - Falling Over Backwards and is beyond the scope of this essay.
Some may dismiss this as a ploy born out of political expediency. But it is noteworthy to remind the Prime Minister that it nevertheless amounts to playing with fire. In his quest to stay on in power, another weak predecessor had set the country on fire over reservations. V.P Singh is living to see that the people have not forgotten his attempts to undo India in his desperate clutches at power. But more dangerous, as many have pointed out, is the fact that this is an ominous reminder of the tragic religious polarization that led to India’s partition in 1947. India’s destiny is above the immediacy of staying in office for a full term. It would be far more honorable to resign than destroy India in the long term. Manmohanomics ver 2.0 may have passed the expediency test, but still fails to impress the nation.
(The author is a US based Banker and the views expressed are his own and not of the organization he works for)