Talking Good Politics at Network 18's Think India Dialogue

Policy heads at the second edition of Network18’s Think India Dialogue acknowledged the need for fresh economic reforms

Published: Jul 17, 2013
Talking Good Politics at Network 18's Think India Dialogue
Image: Amit Verma
Network18 founder Raghav Bahl (L) moderating a discussion on the UPA’s left-of-centre policies. Panelists include (from L to R) the country’s top economic brains C Rangarajan and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Trai Chairman Rahul Khullar and Competition Commission of India chief Ashok Chawla

As India enters a phase of hectic political activity—starting with elections across four states this year, and general elections in 2014—the second edition of Network18’s Think India Dialogue focussed on a pertinent theme: ‘Good Economics = Good Politics?’

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who is hoping to win a fourth term in the state, was the keynote speaker. She shared her opinions in favour of the motion. However, she felt that opposition parties, both at the state and the Centre, need to behave more responsibly for economic reforms to gain political heft.

The evening also saw Network18 founder Raghav Bahl quiz two of the most seasoned economy and policy administrators in the country: Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, and C Rangarajan, chairman of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council. Has India’s economic policy become more left-of-centre since the UPA took over in 2004? And is that to blame for its current economic woes?

Both Ahluwalia and Rangarajan disagreed. They also downplayed the so-called “policy paralysis” which is holding back India’s economic growth. In fact, as Ahluwalia said, “95 percent of what we need to do to get back to 7 percent growth by next year doesn’t even need legislative reform”.

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“There is a bunch [of people] who have made Right To Information their full-time job, and as such RTI has slowed down government work. I don’t fear RTI but I fear it is misused,” Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said during a chat with Rajdeep Sardesai.

The last item on the agenda was a panel discussion featuring representatives of two crucial regulatory bodies—Trai Chairman Rahul Khullar and Competition Commission of India Chairperson Ashok Chawla—along with Ahluwalia and Rangarajan.

The moot point: Is the Indian government afflicted by a deep suspicion of market forces—be it the ban on put-and-call options or the Vodafone tax case or the appointment of career bureaucrats as market regulators?

It extracted spirited responses from the two regulators, both of whom are former bureaucrats. But Rangarajan had the last word, “Carrying anything too far has its problems. Striking a balance between regulation and innovation is the key.”

(This story appears in the 26 July, 2013 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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