Our politics is filled with ironies. Here is a government led by a dream team of reformers, but all we seem to hear is the Left's strident criticism of the reforms as the frustrated reformers watch the show. The second paradox is that the Left has historically stood for change but in India today our Left stands rigidly for the status quo. The third absurdity is that the Left advocates the same swadeshi policies of the extreme right wing RSS and SJM, policies that harm consumers and favour producers. The final mockery is that the Indian Left's policies protect organised labour but hurt the poor.
Why should we bother to listen to the Left when it has been consistently wrong in the past fifty years? It opposed computers in our offices. It banned English from primary schools. It supported the Licence Raj, which created the present culture of corruption. It advocated a foreign policy that landed us on the losing side of the Cold War. It backed inefficient government monopolies in preference to competitive markets. It protected 8% organized labour at the expense of the 92% unorganised workers, while feeding the myth that it stood for the poor.   As for the Communists, why should we heed the party which sided with the British during the Quit India movement, which did not condemn the Chinese invasion in 1962, and which was silent during the Emergency when the entire opposition was in jail?

In the past nine months the Left has opposed foreign investment as vociferously as the RSS/SJM when the nation desperately needs capital for infrastructure. With oil prices hitting the roof, the Left fought against the rise in cooking gas price; it forced the interest rate hike in Employment Provident Fund; it opposed unbundling of State Electricity Boards, thus preventing electricity reform. All these three acts betray that the Left's constituency is not the poor but the middle class, who uses cooking gas, saves in EPF and works for the SEBs.

The Left foisted on us an Education Cess just when the Kremer/Murlidharan report brought scandalous but solid data proving that one out of four teachers across India are absent from government schools and half the teachers present are not teaching. It is imposing a leaky, corrupt Employment Guarantee program, instead of allowing labour reform, which will create genuine, self-sustaining employment. Instead of finding better ways to improve delivery of services to the poor, it prefers to bankrupt the treasury and undermine the Fiscal Responsibility law. Finally, it will not allow NTPC to revive the orphaned Enron plant, which could solve Maharashtra's severe power shortage.
Henrik Ibsen, the great Norwegian playwright, wrote a powerful drama called, An Enemy of the People.   Its title, it seems to me, is an apt description for the fanatics both of the Left and of the Right. Both promote anti-national policies and both would snuff out human freedom if there were a conflict between the state and the individual. This is why, like Isaiah Berlin, we should distrust all ideologies. As the Budget nears, most of us appreciate that coalition politics has its constraints, but we also want our leaders to vigorously defend reforms. Our dream team mustn't go down in history as weak leaders who did not have the spine to stand up to their convictions. We want this leadership to snatch the Left's moral high ground and show citizens how the Left's policies are designed to keep Indians poor. Above all, we want our leaders to say “No” to Left lunacies, just as Mr Vajpayee learned to ignore politely the idiocies of the RSS and the SJM.

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