Arun Shourie is neither 100% right nor 100% wrong

A lot has been said about all that Arun Shourie has said or is reported to have said about the Modi Government and its policies in his interview with Karan Thapar. While Shourie is a well respected journalist and former NDA minister, it is also a known fact that he has been completely sidelined by Modi.

So is this a case of unbiased, logical criticism? Or are the grapes sour? Or is it about his much talked about rivalry with the other Arun, our current Finance Minister? Let us see exactly what he got right and what he got wrong:

What he got right:

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1. Modi’s foreign policy is good, recognizes China as a concern, unlike past Governments. But Government needs to follow up on MoUs and Agreements signed

2. Modi’s Pakistan Policy has been shaky, needs a “steadier gaze”.

3. Some achievements of Modi Government like low inflation rate and low deficit are in fact due to falling prices of crude and commodities.

4. Concern over the fact that posts like Chief Information Commissioner, Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Election Commission, Lokpals are vacant.

5. Decentralisation of Power from PMO to other ministries is needed.

What he got wrong:

1. On the coal and spectrum auctions he says the Government is merely following the Supreme Court judgement, but he fails to acknowledge the transparent procedure adopted by the Government which we highlighted here.

2. Shourie is guilty of making contradictory statements. First he says the Government is unnecessarily being confrontational with RBI, and later says Bank Credit has grown by just 3 odd %. One of the reasons why the Government was at loggerheads with RBI was to urge for Interest rate cuts, and one of the reasons for low credit growth is in fact higher Interest rate.

3. Fails to praise any of the following economic schemes: a huge push for the long pending GST, Jan Dhan Yojana, which is the base for much larger, ambitious economic schemes, NITI Aayog, FDI in defense, Smart Cities, Divestment Policy, and the Black Money Bill. And he only passingly mentions important reforms in simplification of processes in line with Ease of Doing Business norms.

4. Shourie feels estimates of 8% GDP are “big talks with no delivery” but he should realise, even NDA 1 took a few years to bring the GDP rate up.

5. BJP is expanding footprints too fast, and aggressively (he quotes Amit Shah taking on TMC in Bengal Civic elections) and thus alienates smaller parties and doesn’t get support in Parliament. Does this mean BJP should stop expanding in states?

6. Shourie says since even Ribeiro has expressed fears of Christian Persecution, things have gone too far. A journalist like Shourie should have seen through the false media propaganda, especially since almost everybody else has. And when you consider that he himself has written 2 books on exposing Christian Missionary agenda, such a remark is pretty unjustified.

Mixed Bag:

1. India needs to speed up action on US agreements because US is losing patience and might go elsewhere. As things stand, India is the best future market especially since Europe isn’t very strong yet and China is not a natural partner for US. So India need not get too perturbed by fear of US going away. But yes, it has to be careful of this possibility

2. Partly correct on point that Government must walk the talk on non-adversarial tax regime, instead of flip-flops. He must acknowledge that many of such notices are flowing from past court decisions, and the Government must abide by the decisions, even though they may not agree with them, at least until a higher court quashes the decision

3. He says Modi, Jaitley and Amit Shah are controlling BJP, which isn’t good. Modi being the popularly elected leader, also the face for which people voted has full right to lead the party. Shah, by virtue of being Modi’s main strategists also deserves to be on top. Although Jaitley lost the LS elections, he also was a backer of Modi for long, so he got his chance too. So unlike other dynastic parties, here the top 3 have come up on pure merit and popularity. But as always, if the top leaders are not open to views, then there can be a problem.

4. Criticizing Modi on the monogrammed suit was a bit childish, although in hindsight, its very easy to say he should have never worn it.

5. Shourie said nothing was being done to professionalise ailing public sector banks and recapitalise them. Fact is in January, the Government held high level meetings with chiefs of all banks, to chalk out a roadmap. Tangible progress is yet to be seen but the ball is rolling.

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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