Today is Budget Day in India, and the questions are pretty big: Is it too early to roll back the stimulus measures; how can rising food prices be brought under control (a political priority) while at the same time reducing public spending (an economic priority); and can India find a way to spread all this wonderful growth around the millions being left behind?
As it tackles these problems, the Congress government sits in a pretty comfortable position, knowing that its absolute majority in parliament puts it firmly in the driving seat. This has been looking like more and more of a problem over the past couple months, with an unthreatened Congress party starting to look complacent.
An opposition is needed, and unfortunately the Hindu nationalist BJP is the only other game in town. It was dealt a serious blow at last year’s general election from which it took several months to recover. But with new leaders appointed over the winter, there are signs of a comeback, particularly over the issue of rising food prices, which has been enough to topple governments in the past. It also seems to be realising that Hindu nationalism just doesn’t play with India’s hip, new image. Instead, as this article from WSJ argues, they are pushing economic progress and sensitivity to local cultural norms as the way to regain their lost influence.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow. The BJP has been intimately in numerous incidents of bilious fascism, from the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque in 1992 to the brutal anti-Muslim pogroms of 2002. But even they are better than no opposition at all, so perhaps we have to hope that the desperation to get back into power will have a dampening effect on their more rabid impulses and return some effective checks and balances to Indian politics.