Political confusion in legislative debate

Political confusion in legislative debate

Politics have a strange character of undergoing swift and rather unpredictable changes. The political mood normally defines the contours of political arithmetic. 

Politics have a strange character of undergoing swift and rather unpredictable changes. The political mood normally defines the contours of political arithmetic.

Yet, the political process remains an enigma many a time. Often parties turn into friends and foes for reasons best known to them.

One such peculiar political behaviour was witnessed in Telangana State Legislative Assembly when the House took up the debate on demonetisation and transition to cashless State.

The people caught in the quagmire of cash chaos expected the political system to discuss their woes threadbare to find solace if not solution.

But, quite surprisingly, political rhetoric reverberated in the august House much to the disappointment of the man caught in the long queues.

The hype over the cashless economy continued to impact on the legislative and political discourse without seriously examining the multiple hurdles in the way ahead.

Meanwhile, the debate over demonetisation drew up an interesting yet perceptible political calculus in the legislature.

The leader of the house, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao was forthright in defending demonetisation. Obviously it was music to the BJP members who lost no time in thanking the TRS supremo.

Political analysts are busy in linking this calculus to possible chemistry. A child may find both calculus and chemistry easy or difficult depending on one’s taste for the subject.

But, this common feeling cannot be seen as a common ground between two different subjects. Similarly, the TRS’s unequivocal support to Modinomics can not immediately be interpreted as endorsement of Modi brand of politics.

However, mathematics and chemistry are mutually exclusive. But, political parties do not have permanent friends or foes and therefore cannot be called mutually exclusive entities.

This in fact lays credence to political speculation of a possible honeymoon between the pink and the saffron.

The Telangana Telugu Desam which is habituated to grinding axe against TRS, especially the Chief Minister was thus dumbfounded when the House witnessed a rare spectacle of TRS-BJP bonhomie.

In fact, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is the chief protagonist of demonetisation even much before Modi announced his grand economics.

He is also the convener for the group of Chief Ministers constituted to work out a road map for transition to cashless economy.

Thus Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly finds trusted allies in both the Chief Ministers. River Krishna seems to be not separating the politics atleast on this count.

It is certainly a strange paradox for both the Chief Ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to be on the same side when the national political spectrum is almost vertically divided over the Modi brand of crusade against black money.

In the euphoria over demonetisation especially in its purported benefits in checking illicit money and terror financing and the cash less cacophony, the Telangana legislature has not paid any reasonable attention to the challenges emanating from cash crunch even if one finds demonetisation a healthy economic measure.

More significantly, the legislature should have perused the impact of demonetisation on the State economy.

Even on this count, the government is displaying unprecedented ambivalence. Earlier, the State political leadership was found visibly upset over the negative impact of demonetisation on the State‘s finances. But, this concern is now brushed under carpet.

The Telangana Congress finds something fishy in the change of heart after KCR had a long one to one meeting with Narendra Modi.

Such a conclusion may seem far reaching. Yet, KCR’s strongest defence of demonetisation is certainly puzzling.

It’s not new for the TRS leaders to extend a hand of friendship to Modi led central BJP though the ruling party in the State is often uncomfortable with State BJP leadership.

But, demonetisation is such an issue on which TRS need not take political risk to so openly associated with. Barring Nitish Kumar, no other important opposition leader is supporting demonetisation.

The TRS may call it in the name of national interests. But, political parties respond to issues purely on political grounds rather than any other undefined interests.

The political arithmetic in Telangana does not warrant such overwhelming support to Modinomics from TRS. Demonetisation is impacting the economy and people.

The consequences are still unclear. If they are good, BJP will benefit. The TRS will not gain anything as it is not an ally in NDA government.

But, if the impact is negative, the TRS has to pay the political price by proactively supporting the measure.

However, TRS leadership may think that publicly opposing will not benefit the State government as it will be seen hostile by the Centre.

It does not mean that the TRS is left with Hobson’s choice. The political rhetoric dominated the legislative debate on demoentisation.

An in depth and scientific appraisal of the impact of demoentisation on the government and the people was unfortunately missing.

Instead of discussing the road map for cashless Telangana, the immediate concern should have been on the impact of demonetisation on the economy and the people of the State.

There has been intense discussion on the impact of demonetisation. The assessments are politically polarised.

A responsible government instead should make a honest appraisal of the impact of demonetisation on Telangana economy with a focus on the livelihoods of people.

The appraisal should comprise:

1. Macro level impact of the economy.
2. Sector wise analysis like agriculture, allied sectors, real estate, auto, cement etc. The sectors losing out and the sectors that can benefit from demonetisation.
3. Evolving suitable measures to offset the negative impact if any.
4. To harness the positive impact on any sector.
5. Short term and long term implications for the economy of the State.
6. How will this impact on the State revenues and evolving suitable mechanism to overcome if there is a shortfall.

Whether one likes it or not transition to cashless economy is thrust upon the State. The government is justified in working out a detailed plan to evolve a road map to such a transition.

It should encompass:
1. Extent of unbanked population in the State.
2. Extent of under-banked and inadequate access to banking.
3. Penetration of smart phone and internet connectivity to enable mobile transactions.
4. Availability of Point of Sale machines in shops and establishments.
5. Cyber security infrastructure available.
6. Measures to effect a change in the mindset of the people.
7. Prioritising sectors where cashless transactions should be immediately taken up.
8. Cost of financial intermediation.
9. Incentives needed to ensure a shift from cash to cashless transactions.
10. Capacity building in the stake holders.

Such an approach would even politically benefit TRS for the following reasons.
By focussing on the study of impact, it would not antagonise the Centre and yet sends a message to the people that here is a government conscious of its people.

But, poltical rhetoric dominated debate over cashless economy too. This state of affairs is not due legislative incompetence. It is a result of politics overlapping economics.

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