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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Whither Congress?

Indian politics consists of two national parties - the Congress and the BJP - and a bunch of regional parties, such as the TDP, DMK, CPI(M), etc. A few years ago, one could have thought that we were headed for a BJP that would grow into sound economics + sound international relations, with a twinge of Hindutva silliness, and a Congress that would grow into sound economics + sound international relations, with a twinge of welfare program silliness. Things have worked out well on international relations, where there has been a coherent framework across the NDA and UPA on recrafting India's international stance.

Apart from this success story, things have gone awry, and there has been no tidy evolution towards such a two-party system. The BJP seems to have folded, and the Congress seems to be reverting to 1970s economics. The CPI(M) gets a lot of blame for bad economic policy in India today, but old Congress politicians are equally part of the problem.

This does not bode well for India: with weak national parties, general elections will increasingly generate situations where small players like the TDP (in the NDA) or the CPI(M) (in the UPA) have a high Shapley value, and an incentive to extract rents in an irresponsible way. I really don't look forward to the 2009 election outcome.

On the front page in today's Indian Express Shekhar Gupta has a lovely piece diagnosing what has gone wrong with the Congress.

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