Out of power for five years, NDA would like to be remembered for a few achievements from 1999 till 2004. No doubt, the unleashing of reforms by NDA led to a vibrant economy; the golden quadrilateral project gave India the first taste of what modern roads could be like; the expansion of telecommunications and development of ports and airports connected India like never before, the universal education scheme dreamed of making every Indian literate, and Indian IT was put on the global pedestal. Harking back to 1998 Pokharan nuclear tests, BJP , which was to later lead the NDA government, would like to take India back on a power trip.
It is a matter of debate if the economy is in a healthier state at the end of UPA’s rule than it was when NDA ceded power in 2004. Pranab Mukherjee, the keypolicy architect in the Congress, was perhaps reassuring himself, his party and the coalition partners when he told Parliament recently: “People have seen how our government has success fully steered the country through difficult times.” He may have been correct in his claim, though. For, despite the severe knocks that the Indian economy received as the global banking system teetered, the country is relatively better off, thanks largely to the checks and balances in our financial/ banking system.
However, like a good opposition leader, BJP’s L K Advani, has a different take on the UPA’s performance. He sees the economy as badly managed, causing prices to spiral up. “Prices of all commodities and services have gone through the roof. The UPA and Congress have mismanaged the economy badly,” Advani said. Mindful that a good economy did NDA no good in the 2004 elections, Advani turns to other issues. He accuses UPA of turning India into a soft state. “There should be zero tolerance toward terrorism”. On the UPA side, P Chidambaram boasts of 9 per cent GDP growth in four of the five years of UPA rule. During NDA’s time, the average growth was 5.8 per cent. The Shiv Sena leader and minister in the NDA government, Suresh Prabhu, looks beyond growth and sees a government in a deeper debt abyss than ever before. “A yawning trade deficit, faltering exports coupled with an unprecedented rise in current account and fiscal deficits are the legacies the Manmohan Singh government is leaving behind,” Prabhu said.
What has NDA to show? Stable prices during its governance despite the Orissa cyclone and the Kargil war that cost a lot of resources, say its leaders. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy of the Congress lists the UPA’s biggest achievements: The waiver of farm loans worth over Rs 65,000 crore, the rural employment guarantee scheme, easy education loans and high spending on the social sector.