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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Comparing NDA vs UPA performance

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Perhaps this is the right time to compare the performance of the two regimes. But before I begin to compare, let me state some facts so that the rest of the discussion is seen in that context.

To begin with, the BJP had 189 seats in the NDA coalition while the UPA had a mere 145. The UPA had to bear left almost throughout its term as an alliance partner. The average oil price during the NDA regime was between 20-25$ while it was well over 50$ in case of UPA. During the UPA, world economy witnessed phenomenal growth except during the last 6-8 months. Average rate of growth ofIndian economy was 8% during UPA while it was 5-5.5% during NDA. NDA era also witnessed the 2001 recession.

Now in the above context of things, let us try to list down the achievements of both the Govts. Let me also admit right at the start that I am a bigtime Congress basher. In case I forget to mention some of the achievements of UPA, I request the readers to point it out to me. Moreover, since I cannot cover everything, I will try to cover the major ones.

First, let me with NDA. The NDA regime began with a bang - yes, literally with a bang. India became nuclear. Ofcourse Pakistan also became one. Now it is no more a secret that Narasimha Rao too wanted to have the tests in 1995 but backed out after detected by the US. So it wasn't just the NDA that wanted Nuclear Tests. But it is not the nuclear tests that was the achievement of NDA. It was the way it handled the post-Test scenario. Jaswant Singh convinced the US that a democratic nuclear India was not a threat to the US. It was NDA that first brought India and US closer. It was perhaps this which in some ways facilitated the Nuclear Deal in 2008.

NDA worked enormously to bring peace in Kashmir and its Kashmir policy is laudable. Vajpayee made three attempts to strike a deal with Pakistan including the Lahore bus journey and also the Agra Summit. It also made regular attempts to bring Hurriyat to table. Vajpayee Govts also made a strategically important move by starting the construction of Baglihar Dam and also KishenGanga. This served two purposes - one, it could provide electricity to a power deficit state, two, it would give India a capability to cut-off water to Pakistan whenever it wanted thus giving India a massive bargaining power. However, unfortunately India could not strike a deal with Pakistan.

1999 also witnessed the Kargil war. Kargil war once again showed India's underpreparedness with respect to weaponery. While some blame of the intrusion could be handed to the NDA regime, its the previous regimes that have to take the entire blame of the lack of modernization of the Indian armed forces. Infact, India forces suffered massive losses initially. It was Israel that came to India's rescue during the war. Had it not been the case, the result of the war might have been completely different. What was also important is that winters were approaching and it would have been virtually impossible to clear Kargil once winter had set in. Therefore winning Kargil was an achievement of NDA govt. It was NDA that started the modernization of the armed forces and also built close military ties with Israel.

Terrorism was present during the NDA regime as it was during the UPA. Two of the major incidents that happened were Kandhar hijack and Attack on Indian parliament. Kandhar hijack didn't happen on Indian soil but there was a chance to stop the plane from going away from Indian soil. That is something that cannot be wholly blamed on the Govt. Neither can its surrender to millitants. News were flooded with plight of the relatives. Every news channel was only talking about the victims and none of them talked about the broader national interests thus creating huge pressure on the Indian Govt. The Govt. did what it could, negotiate with the terrorists who were now in a safe heaven. Jaswant Singh in a interview later on said that he had no regrets about the release of the terrorists. Critics including the same media have raised time and again this issue saying that NDA too wasn't strong enough against terrorism. My only question to them is, "Will Rahul baba go to Afghanistan to talk to a regime that does not believes in any kind of rational and has no principles". Infact Jaswant Singh's going to Kandhar was an act of bravery rather that cowardice. The problem is that the BJP hasn't really communicated this well and has allowed Congress to attack.

The second incident of attack on Indian Parliament. This was perhaps the attack on the very idea of India, perhaps of the same level as that of 2008 Mumbai Attacks. But there was a major difference. US had started the War on Terror in 2001 and Pakistan was a major ally. Therefore, India could not really do much. They did try the Operation Parakram but failed to meet any objectives. It was a massive failure. On the other hand in case of Mumbai attacks, Pakistan was already under pressure from the US and UPA used it to its advantage to coerce Pakistan into accepting that Kasab was a Pakistani. Ofcourse, UPA hasn't been able to achieve much beyond that but atleast it was better that the former case. But it is important to note that the geo-political situation was completely different in both the cases.

The points discussed so far primarily on foreign policy issues. On the domestic front, NDA made a significant impact as reforms came thick and fast. NDA created a separate ministry of Disinvestment under Arun Shourie and made massive disinvesments including that of BALCO and Maruti. Massive investments were made in infrastructure. Golden Quadrilateral and East-West and North South Highways were planned and started. It was NDA that brought in FRBM act to reduce fiscal deficit which had been ignored and had been increasing.

But the Hindutva agenda was also present. In 2002, Godhra happened and the entire BJP leadership kept quite. That was also what led to its downfall. I am not writing more on Godhra because its already a well discussed topic. Moreover, the benefits of roads and FDI failed to reach to the bottom layer, who voted out the BJP and NDA.

Now, coming to UPA. UPA started its era by announcing NREGA. It was a pretty much a populist measure aimed at getting votes. In someways, it was perhaps required to. But was it really required to be launched throughout the country in such a quick fashion even when there were questions raised about its effectiveness in the 150 poorest districts where it was first launched. Also, the fiscal pressure was also there.

Forming of Sacher Panel was another important step taken by UPA. Though it was primarily meant to garner votes, its importance cannot be undermined. UPA also formed the Sixth Pay Commision. This was once again targetted at getting votes as it was launched strategically at a point so that its report would be out when the Govts. term would be ending. Reservation in higher education was another step taken by this govt. but that can in no ways be termed as an achievement. The problem is that it cannot be openly criticized by the opposition.

Among the major achivements of the UPA govt, two things stand out. The first was RTI while second was the Nuclear Deal. While RTI is surely going make a lot of impact on the long term, Nuclear deal is something that is hard to understand for most Indians like me. But given the fact that Pakistan isn't too happy about it and wants similar deal for itself gives ample proof that it surely in India's strategic interest. Under UPA, India has increased its influence tremendously in Afghanistan. That is achievement for UPA, but also it needs to be understood that things were completely different in case of NDA and they could never do the same.

On the fiscal front, the UPA fared very badly and has failed to meet the targets set by FRBM. It is also important to note that Indian economy grew at 8% during UPA which means that Fiscal Deficit increased in real terms in the UPA era despite the 8% growth.

I have tried to cover all points but I am bound to miss some of them. But what onething that is pretty much clear from above is that it is the NDA that is much more decisive and capable of taking strong and long term decisions. Ofcourse, BJP having 189 seats played a big part in enabling in taking those decisions. UPA has taken some politically correct decisions. Perhaps it is these decisions that got them back in power. They also seem to be benefitting from some of the decisions taken by their predessor. But now is the time to take a long term view particularly in this recessionary scenario. The Congress has the mandate to do so with over 200 seats. But are they really capable of that? Only time will tell.


  1. A clear mandate is a big help and to that extent the NDA was much better placed than the UPA in its first innings, as you have brought out. Now that the people have given a decisive vote to the Congress, it can no longer explain away a lot of thins to the Left and others. Let us hope it makes good use of this mandate for the benefit of the country. With Dr Manmohan in the saddle, eocnomic reofroms should move ahead full steam.

  2. Hmm, well its the end of 2011 and look where we are now. So much for hopes.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hope to see some new kind of politics in coming election other than based on religion, caste etc. Hope to see mentally and physically fit people as our leaders who understand the people and our problems. I don't see many like Mr narendra modi irrespective of parties.

  3. awaiting for a better rule............