When the leader goes into a silence mode, his frustrated followers fret and fume. Since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has chosen maunvrat, his key advisers and foreign-educated academic paratroopers are over-compensating for his self-imposed silence. Last week, it was the turn of Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu to embarrass the government he advises on macroeconomic issues. Addressing his favourite audience at Carnegie Foundation, Washington, Basu was speaking to the gallery, with the audience cherishing every word he uttered to run down the Indian political system. As if the investment climate wasn’t bad enough, he muddied the waters further by warning listeners that expecting economic reforms until 2014 from the current government is a futile exercise. Once the Basu bomb hit the UPA government at home, he was quick to issue a 500-word clarification through the government-managed Press Information Bureau, indirectly blaming the media for mixing up his remarks, and the opposition parties for stalling the reform process. While his clarifications are popping out of every website, it is next to impossible to locate the full text of his speech. Even at the Carnegie Foundation website, it is not accessible. Does the speech contain much more controversial confessions of an insider than what has already been reported by the press? Or did Basu speak his mind only after putting in his papers to the government?
Now when their attempts to force the government to take an extreme right turn has been foiled by allies and some conservative Congress leaders, Manmohan’s elitist tag team has chosen to attack the system and those who have sabotaged their dreams. Recently, news about the economic downturn and the fall in foreign investment is being played up to force the government to fall in line out of panic and not out of conviction. Basu has set the tone for others to follow. He has indeed spoken the truth about policy paralysis and confidence deficit plaguing the UPA government. But his lament was meant to dictate policies by going public. Unless the prime minister reins his non-political aides, the UPA is going to face a tougher challenge and fight from the same people who were hired to promote it. As the countdown to the General Election begins, and the UPA leadership gets weaker, fair weather birds like Basu and company will dump what they feel is a Titanic and look for better ships to sail their schemes in the next dispensation.
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