Is India on the right track, economically-speaking? Why is there is a disconnect between our rulers and the ruled? Is there a sharp divergence between following sensible market-friendly policies and the well-being of the aam aadmi? Is big government good government?
These, and other such questions, are central to the purposes of Think India Forum, a think tank that is the brainchild of Raghav Bahl, founder and Managing Director of the Network18 media group that includes CNN-IBN, CNBC TV-18 and other TV properties, and several digital publications, including Firstpost and Moneycontrol.com.
Talking to Firstpost, Bahl explains the political and economic disconnect thus. He says India is ruled by politicians who cut their teeth in the days of the command economy of the 1960s and 1970s, whereas the bulk of the current population is younger, and has no memories of what drove the statist ideas of that time.
The incongruity lies in the fact that before the 1991 liberalisation, we had a robust society that was democratically liberal, but was stifled by an economically-illiberal mindset. The economy was walled in by high tariffs and private enterprise was handcuffed.
Bahl rejects the idea that more right-of-centre policies would be anti-aam aadmi. “It is a myth that right-of-centre politics and economic policies are elitist.” He points out that everywhere in the world poverty reduction has been maximum in countries which followed a liberal economic policy. “So it is totally incorrect to say that such policies are anti-aam aadmi. The aam aadmi is at the very centre of this ideology which encourages individual enterprise. The only difference between left-of-centre and liberal economic policy ideologies is in the attainment process, not in the end point, which is poverty alleviation.”
As part of its agenda of setting off a wider debate on the subject, Think India has invited Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to talk of the need for less government, and better governance. The subject is of wider relevance even in the context of the next general elections, where economic issues and recent failures will dominate.
Says Bahl: “We invited Mr Modi for the first keynote since whatever is the other commentary around him, when it comes to advocating small government, he is perhaps the only politician of any stature who says government should be small. Any other leader of that stature usually bats for big government. Mr Modi openly advocates a much larger room for private enterprise and government should be just an enabler.”
The keynote will be followed by a panel discussion on whether the natural rhythm of Indian society is liberal and right-of-centre.
To watch the complete interview of Raghav Bahl with Firstpost click here.
Firstpost and all the news media in Network18 Group will be live-streaming the event which is set for Monday, 8 April, in Delhi. Don't miss it.