By Harihar Swarup
Jay Dubashi is not remembered publicly by the BJP in the 21st century. But, in the 1980s and 1990s, the right wing economist would begin his day early in the party’s national headquarters, spending several hours poring over data and policies of the governments of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V P Singh and P V Narasimha Rao and giving his alternative policy options to Atal Behari Vajpayee, L K Advani and several other BJP leaders of the day.
As a convener of the party’s economy cell, the scholar from London School of economics would hold sway on the need for fighting the centre left policies of the Congress government. He had strong praise for reforms of Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, and he was thrilled and that throttled entrepreneurial spirit was being unleashed and controls were dismantled.
Dubashi was also a key member of the party’s manifesto committee, writing alternative agenda of reducing government monopolies, eliminating bureaucratic controls and allowing more private sector participation.
Many young office-bearers would attend the session of the “professor”, among whom were the late Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu, K N Govindacharya, Narendra Modi, who was secretary and later secretary-general in-charge of the organization.
Dubashi, along with industrialist Viren Shah, who was the party treasurer, argued how self-reliance cannot be achieved by the government commanding the heights of economy and how the country needed a people’s economy. Dubashi took on the phalanx of the pro-socialist economists of the Congress and leftists persuasions in debates, even as he told BJP leaders to refrain from imitating the Congress in their quest of power.
By turn of the century, though Dubashi gave inputs to the national agenda of governance of the NDA, he was disillusioned that the coalition government was status quoist, where barring finance, commerce and industry, all other economic portfolios were given away to coalition partners who resisted reforms.
But now the Dubashi agenda is getting implemented with significant medication and caveats since the economic crisis of 2019 and the pandemic which began last year. Dubashi, who was unimpressed by land reforms of the Congress and left parties, had argued that farm holdings need to be consolidated and corporatized, so that a number of people were weaned away from agriculture dependence.
The three farm laws brought by the Central Government last year in the teeth of opposition by farmers organizations in north India would be a beginning of what Dubashi had given in his blue prints. He had emphasized the need for a huge investment in manufacturing and infrastructure through foreign sources and private sector. Modi’s two Make in India programs, as well as the rush to sell or consolidate the sprawling public enterprises, including those in the strategic sector like Defense and space, had their origin in the thinking done under Dubashi’s charge decades ago.
The opposition is crying hoarse that the assets would go to crony capitalists. The BJP leaders are giving credit to Modi. But Dubashi, the original prophet of rightist change, will not get credit or discredit for this economic policy change. (IPA Service)