The Sunday Mail very succinctly summed up Rajiv Gandhi’s budget proposals for the year 198788 as “shamelessly political”. No doubt every budget to some degree is influenced by political exigencies but the raw manner in which Rajiv introduced politics in earmarking Spending’s and refrained from levying fresh taxes is unheard of in a healthy democratic order. Only tottering rulers resort to such cheap gimmicks. His sudden donning of a socialist mantle which was contemptuously discarded by his mother, Indira Gandhi, and which he himself kept locked in the ancestral vaults for the last two years will not receive any one. The budget is a transparent bid to wash his pro rich image and to cover up his craze for multinationals. The small concessions to the poor do not suggest any serious departure from his capitalistic approach to economy but are designed to dupe the illiterate multitudes into voting for his party.

The elections are due in Kerala, West Bengal, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. The honeymoon being long over and his popularity nose-diving to a dangerous pit and the ghosts of dead Accords haunting all around, Rajiv can hope to survive only through deceptive manipulation. His economic policy has failed to touch the poverty stricken masses who continue to reel under the grinding wheel of hunger and want while the rich and the corrupt are having a field day in amassing unlimited wealth. The vulgar extravagance of the rich stands in sharp contrast to the horrid privations that the teaming millions suffer. Besides, corruption rules supreme in every quarter of his administration. The common man lies panting, bruised by the fleecing hands.

On the eve of the elections it is a very grim scenario for any ruling party. It is a scenario that no ruler can allow to remain in public focus. It is necessary to distract and divert the attention of the masses and nothing works more effectively than whipping up war hysteria among the Hindu majority nation where playing on the fear of aggression from a Moslem neighbor has invariably proved a vote catcher. The massive deployment of the army all along the Pakistan border and the dramatization of the “Operation Brasstracks” in Rajasthan sector by suspending trains and sounding danger alarms were designed to cloud the pressing economic issues so as to exploit the people in the name of patriotism and national security.

And now comes the unprecedented forty three percent increases in defense spending which means prices will sky rocket, growth will be stunted and scarcity will prowl the crowded alleys of the poor. The huge increase in defense spending is meant to serve dual purpose. It will keep alive the war fever as well as keep the army on the right side of the civil administration. If the election wind turns hostile, the way it turned against his mother in 1977, then, Rajiv would need to exercise his option of declaring a national emergency and rule the country with the help of the army. His grandfather had the foresight to organize the army with such meticulous craftiness as to permanently eliminate the possibility of its ever asserting itself howsoever rotten or anti people the civil government might be. Consequently army’s support to Rajiv or for that matter to any civilian ruler of Delhi will remain assured. To make it doubly sure, Generals and Jawans are kept in a state of exultant euphoria through carefully administered doses of pay hikes and other facilities. Slowly and’ surely India is moving away from democracy and Rajiv’s sole concern is to hold on to power whatever be the price and howsoever destructive be the means. Unless this trend is reversed and substituted by a truly democratic and secular outlook, India is bound to go to dogs. Already Punjab has been forced to the point of final farewell and many other States are waiting in the wings to follow suit. With his “shamelessly political” budgets, Rajiy is unconsciously feeding a fuming volcano and hastening the moment of devastating blast.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 6, 1987