Expert Opinion

‘A gesture to the corporate sector’

Print edition : September 19, 2014

Ashok Mitra. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

THE liquidation of the Planning Commission is a symbolic gesture from Narendra Modi. The gesture is intended for the assimilation by the corporate sector: Ladies and Gentlemen, you were amongst the foremost to uphold and propagate my cause. You wanted me dearly as Prime Minister. One of the first things I am doing is to order the abolition of that abominable Planning Commission, which pretended to interfere in your affairs. You are now free to plunder the country in the manner you like best.

But I would still say that this is only a gesture—a symbolic thing; because the Planning Commission, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist from the mid-1980s upon the assumption of office [of Prime Minister] by Rajiv Gandhi after the assassination of his mother [Indira Gandhi]. People will not perhaps remember, but he, despite being formally the Chairman of the Planning Commission, had described the members of the Commission as a “bunch of clowns”. He did not understand their language, and they did not much appreciate what he wanted to do with the country. Simply put, he wanted the country to turn overnight into one which would have all that is the best in the best of all possible worlds; the elite will rule and the poor will keep mum; and there would be luxurious living for the governing classes. That was his concept of the nation.

There were some old-timers still left in the Commission who would say such foolish things like “integrated planning”, “coordinated planning”, “higher rates of taxation” etc., etc., whom he wanted to get rid of. The BJP and its leaders’ minds work in the same channel which Rajiv Gandhi rode and which was being followed by the overwhelming majority of the Congress leadership for the past 25 years. So, in a way, the BJP has dared to do what the Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi regimes—and I mean Sonia Gandhi regime—were hesitant to do because it would have been a major affront to the dreams that Jawaharlal Nehru had, at an abstract level, set for himself.

Curiously, or not so curiously, most of the State governments have applauded the decision. The reason for that is obvious. The Planning Commission was presiding over the farce of consultation with the State governments and showering homilies on them. The State Ministers and officers are relieved that the long phase of homilies that they had to absorb is over. The Left-led fronts in West Bengal and Kerala tried to prod the Commission to move in another direction which would be real planning in content, but that period is now past and gone.

As told to Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay

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