Thursday, February 20, 2014

AAP for an "Honest" Neo-Liberalism?

The Aam Aadmi Party leader, Arvind Kejriwal, has spoken at a CII meeting in Delhi recently about his party's economic policy outlook.  In the absence of a full-fledged economic policy document of the AAP, Kejriwal's remarks in the speech gives an indication of the ideology and policy approach of the AAP.

Kejriwal said, "Government has no business in business.  Government should not do business.  All this should be left to the private sector".  He also declared that he was against the inspector raj and licence raj.

Some may say that Kejriwal was catering to an audience of industrialists and these remarks should not construed to be their basic economic thinking. But Kejriwal has been consistent in setting out this view.  On an earlier occasion, he had said, "As for our economic policies, we are neither capitalist nor socialist or leftist. We are just `aam aadmi'.  We are not attached to any particular ideology.  We will borrow from any ideology, left or right that solves our problems.  But yes, we firmly believe that government has no business to be in `business'. Business should be left to private individuals".

This refrain of "government has no business in business" and all should be left to the private sector" is typical of the neo-liberal outlook which prevails around the world.  By this criteria, all sectors of business and economic activity should be in private hands and governed by the market.  Even basic services like the supply of electricity, water and public transport should be privately run.

Kejriwal argued in the CII meeting that what is required is for the government to set-up a good regulatory regime to see that the business enterprises play by the rules of the game.  This again is part of the neo-liberal model where the regulatory agencies set the rules of the game in favour of big business.  Kejriwal seems to have forgotten the days when he opposed the privatization of electricity supply in Delhi.  The criteria he has set out goes even against the stand of the AAP regarding privatization of water set out in its vision document.

The other point made in Kejriwal's speech in  the CII was that he is against crony capitalism and not capitalism. He argued that  his fight against the Ambani-run electricity distribution company in Delhi or on the Reliance gas pricing issue is directed against crony capitalists. Here Kejriwal and the AAP are missing, or, ignoring the main issue. It is in the nature of the neo-liberal order to spawn crony capitalism on a large-scale. It is inherent in the neo-liberal regime which facilitates the loot of natural resources and the making  of windfall profits for the big business class as a whole.

Take the case of mining.  Across the board, mining companies of all hues are reaping windfall profits after the mining sector was opened up to private companies.  The nexus between the State and big business under the neo-liberal order is crony capitalism par excellence. According to Kejriwal, all it requires is a good regulator and the consent of the gram sabhas for such crony capitalist operations to cease!  By Kejriwal's concept of the "government has no business in business", the exploitation of the mineral resources of the country has to remain in the private sector.  The CPI(M) and the Left parties are demanding that the mining of mineral resources should be  in the public sector. This stand of the Left is dismissed by the AAP leaders such as Yogendra Yadav as "not intelligent economics".

The AAP leaders go on harping that they are neither left nor right.  About their economic vision, they say, "It is neither left nor right and will support every good idea, old or new, if it is in the interest of India".

Their ideologue, Yogendra Yadav, has stated that "The Left-Right spectrum never made sense in the Indian context" and this comes from a person who used to claim to be a socialist.  The so-called non-ideological, neither left nor right stand of the AAP  is only a cover for a mishmash of policies which do not go outside the neo-liberal framework.  With such an outlook, the attitude of the AAP leaders towards the Left parties is not surprising.  At a recent press conference in Mumbai, Yogendra Yadav has said that "The idea that we share the same ideological or political space as the Left is wrong". He also claimed that, "Whenever the Left has been part of the government in Kerala or West Bengal, they have behaved exactly in the same manner as other parties".

Obviously, for Yogendra Yadav, implementation of land reforms, ensuring workers' rights, decentralization of powers to the panchayat system and a conspicuous absence of atrocities against dalits and adivasis in these two states which were run by the Left-led governments are of no consequence. They are after all, the results of Left policies.  As for the Left stand on a universal public distribution system, Yadav is against it. He told an investor conference in Mumbai, "Food subsidies should not be provided. Giving food directly to the person concerned is the most inefficient and expensive manner of serving the poor".

Yadav boasted that they "want to present an alternative not just to the Congress or the BJP, but also to the Left". What the AAP alternative means is getting clearer by the day.  It provides no alternative to the neo-liberal policies, instead it pursues the chimera of being an "honest" variant of the same.

Prakash Karat

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