All columnists, in a bid to ensure that they are seen as serious and sensible, bring up, from time to time, the subject of fiscal deficit and inflation. This simple ploy not only makes them responsible scribes, but also totally irrelevant. For, the first thing readers do when they chance upon the words like inflation, fiscal deficit, is to immediately move over to that section in the publication that features photos of young actresses in glamorous outfits. Newspapers, in general, publish a lot of these pictures to ensure that their own fiscal deficit doesn’t get out of hand. (Note to Editor: Place a sensuous still of Katerina Kaif here so that the readers wouldn’t have to flip the pages for the same). (Note to readers: If you don’t find a seductive pic of Katerina here the fault isn’t Katerina’s or mine. She is committed to be seductive for life.).
The problem with economist mumbo-jumbo like fiscal deficit is that they don’t come alone. For instance, fiscal deficit has to be read in conjunction with the GDP, another of those inscrutable acronyms that nobody really cares about. But daily journals generally don’t take chances: They publish visceral montages of Kareena or Priyanka to offset its damage.
Inflation, some economists argue, is mostly a percentage of the RBI Governor’s blood pressure reading, while the fiscal deficit is computed out of his blood sugar levels. Sounds very logical as, in general, doctors are more concerned about money supply than any economist possible could be.
Inflation has an interesting history world over. In Argentina, in the mid 90s and early 2000s, inflation levels were so pronounced that it was said to be visible even from the moon. The Argentine government finally emerged out of the crisis as all the calculators used to compute inflation had become too costly to buy.
But what of the various Indian administration’s chequered record in combating inflation? Here’s a bite-sized account of what India has done historically and how each Prime Minister went about the monumental task that is at the core of all government work and business administration: Fudging numbers.
Ok, much of what you are about to read may sound absurd. But that is less compared to what actually happened.
The first Prime minister of modern India, which wasn’t exactly modern then, had to contend with an economy that had not come of age. But not wanting to miss the historical opportunity, Nehru, fuelled by the fires of his socialist ideal, went ahead and put to use India’s new-found freedom by courting Lady Mountbatten and writing his experiences as Discovery of India. The times were more true then and when you said affairs of the State, you actually meant that: Affairs, that is.
Anyway, with not much economy to play around with, inflation, for its part, bided its time for the Indira Gandhi administration to arrive bypassing Lal Bahadur Shastri and his government because India till then was tied to Russia, which practised its economy with truth and facts. Communism, at any rate, didn’t believe in the existence of God and inflation.
Nehru’s daughter endowed with indomitable courage and will, couldn’t countenance the idea that the economy and inflation could misbehave. Naturally she imposed Emergency, which meant that inflation, for the crime of being vagrant and violent, had to spend its times in prison. Economy itself had gone underground for fear of being vasectomised by the goons of Sanjay Gandhi.
The team of Morarji Desai with the likes of Madhu Dandavate and Charan Singh being grassroots politicians were prudent and practical. They realised that if the people had to live peacefully economy mustn’t exist. They naturally tried their best to kill it. In any case, economy was a huge distraction to them when they were involved in nation-building by patriotically fighting among themselves.
By the time this Prince Charming came along, India had become unbound. It was a Tiger uncaged. But unfortunately inflation too was. And as colour TV had come into being, inflation was also no longer drab and monochromatic.
As inflation zipped along, a cornered Rajiv Gandhi came up with his masterstroke: The Bofors scandal. His reasoning was simple and earthy: If all the numbers that were available in India were put to use to write down the money involved as kickbacks in the gun deal, inflation will naturally be smoked out. It naturally worked wonders and also ensured that inflation, both India’s and Italy’s, will ever be a factor to Rajiv Gandhi’s own family.
As Chandrasekhar niftily pledged India’s inflation to the IMF, we come to the historical regime of the man with a historical pout. Narasimha Rao had an interesting way to tide over every potential crisis. His magic hat was a suitcase stuffed with cash. Historians think that Rao might have bribed inflation to lie low.
A son of the soil, Deve Gowda’s dream was to tame the inflation plaguing the common people.Gowda also shrewdly understood that dreams happen only when asleep. So he slept through his regime, and in the infection, inflation too probably dozed off.
I K Gujral
Being a career diplomat, IK Gujral was that kind of a person who, when confronted with a blocked sewer line, entered into bilateral talks with Pakistan. So when confronted with the fizzing inflation, Gujral, in a brilliant strategy, plunged the nation into a peace process with Islamabad. The idea being the notorious ISI wouldn’t incite inflation and trigger explosions all across the country.
A B Vajpayee
Premised on the plank of the country’s hoary Hindu traditions, the BJP administration understood that inflation was a direct result of the minority politics rampant in the country, as the numerals that are needed to constitute inflation were Muslim (Arabic) invention. BJP refrained from using the numbers that had come to India through the Khyber Pass, and stuck to the Hindu rate of growth through the undoubted Indian invention: Zero.
It’s never easy to chronicle history when it is in the making. But the present team governing us seems to have a cast iron plan to combat inflation. The first step involves the Prime Minister and the Finance Minster openly saying that the inflation levels are worrisome. The second step naturally involves Sonia Gandhi, who as the patron in chief of the government, warns the government, of which she is practically and technically part, on the alarming increase in inflation. And finally the Cabinet Committee meets to thank inflation for giving them an opportunity to thank Sonia Gandhi. The plan has worked brilliantly so far.
Never mind, if things go awry: There are still a lot more Katerina Kaif pics to ogle at.