​2004: The year that destroyed India

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 09:38 hrs

After liberalization in 1991, a quaint political idea took shape and that was given the name of “Development”. It was felt that people wanted roads, projects and some sort of vision from their leaders. Politicians were running scared thinking that they would now actually have to deliver the goods for a change.

Three bold leaders decided to give shape to that idea.

In 1995, Chandrababu Naidu became Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. He was one of the first leaders to come out with a long-term strategy for his state. He said he would turn AP into an “Asian Tiger” in 20 years. He cut subsidies and concentrated on IT and development.

The accolades flowed in. Economic Times called him “Business Person of the Year” while Time magazine included him in their World Economic Forum Dream Cabinet and declared him South Asian of the Year. He wowed heads of states of world governments and local leaders alike.

1996, AB Vajpayee became Prime Minister of India and later became the first non-Congress head of India to complete a term. It finally seemed that India was heading for a healthy two-party system.

He unveiled the ambitious Golden Quadrilateral project and took forward the economic reforms started by the Narasimha Rao regime in 1991. He made all the right moves like conducting nuclear tests for national pride and a victory in a war with Pakistan.

In 1999 SM Krishna became CM of Karnataka. Like Naidu, he also focused on IT and development and the two states starting competing with each other in a way that both would benefit.

He encouraged good governance, public-private partnership and initiated things like power reforms. Karnataka was emerging as a leading e-governance provider of India. The ambitious Bhoomi land digitisation project blossomed under Krishna and today is a great success story.

Cut to 2004. Naidu, Vajpayee and Krishna were facing re-election all at the same time and were widely expected to win and continue forward their agendas of development and reforms.

Then a strange thing happened. All three of them got the royal boot from the unpredictable electorate of India. While many reasons were given in the post mortems, the truth was that nobody saw it coming. It is still not conclusively known why the electorate behaved in that manner.

It was all the more mysterious for in Bihar the Laloo Prasad Yadav-Rabri Devi combine were already into their third term. If there was ever a “zero development government” then this had to be it.

Many politicians rejoiced and it seemed that the dreaded “development politics” had been buried.

In Uttar Pradesh, both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati had proved to be worse than the Congress and BJP. So after exploring all four options, one would have thought that the Congress and BJP would get a second chance. However both Mayawati and Yadav were given a second chance and that too with majorities!

But the Vajpayee-Naidu-Krishna effect is there for everyone to see in 2012.

That triple whammy has proved to be the undoing of the nation.

Karnataka has seen 5 CMs in 8 years after the exit of Krishna. Governance has collapsed and the most famous event in this time has been the coal scam that led to the resignation of CM BS Yedyurappa.

Projects have slowed down and with BSY threatening to quit the party, there may be more instability in the state.

Andhra Pradesh has seen two shaky CMs after the death of YS Reddy and the Telangana crisis has put brakes in the state’s development. With YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy forming another party, there may be more instability in the state.

At the Centre, Manmohan Singh has proved to be one of the most powerless PMs ever. The National Advisory Council has weakened the power of the central government. The NREGA scheme could well be called a “How to get rural votes scheme”. While it is a noble idea, it cannot be afforded by a country that is not doing economically well.

The cash-for-votes scandal severely dented the image of Manmohan, but instead of being disgusted, the nation gave a second term to Manmohan in 2009.

So now we have a grand spectacle at the Centre with a scam being unearthed at regular intervals, with inflation on a high and growth slowing down. Instead of doing something the government seems more interested in NREGA like schemes (the Food Bill and the farcical mobiles for BPL families).

The nation is still suffering for booting out the development leaders of Vajpayee, Naidu and Krishna.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s development politics has survived but that may be more due to the polarization of the vote-bank following Godhra and Modi’s charisma, such is the personality oriented nature of Indian politics.

Nitish Kumar also bucked the trend in Bihar, but he now seems to be unravelling a bit and if Laloo returns in the next elections, then it’s curtains for Bihar!

However, the future outlook at the Centre looks much much worse.

If we have a totally hung Parliament in 2014, then we might see a Third Front government for two years which will ruin the country even further. Then in 2016, the Congress may well return to power.

If that happens, then the two-party theory would be thrown out of the window. The BJP would be out of power for 17 years (2004-21) and that would finish it off. It would go the Janata Party-Janata Dal way.

Then UPA3 would be more arrogant, more dictatorial and more reckless with the economy since its monopoly over India would have returned.

No wonder Rahul Gandhi is playing it cool. He knows that the Prime Ministership will eventually be handed over to him on a platter!

God save India!

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at