At the preparatory meeting of the World Speakers Conference in Geneva in early June, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan made a strong plea that countries of the world ought not to be judged or ranked merely on the basis of their GDP statistics. The volume of how much goods and services an economy produces, she averred, should not and cannot be the only yardstick for measuring a nation’s contribution to global development outcomes – there are other aspects that need to be taken into consideration while measuring progress in real terms, such as freedom of expression, well-being of the common people and checks on unhindered exploitation of nature. Our Political Commentator Raman Swamy writes on India’s posturing on the world stage…
Sumitra Mahajan’s observations were made in the context of global issues of great magnitude relating to achieving equitable economic development and bringing about a just world order for all human beings, whether in the rich developed nations or the poor and developing countries. But back in India, governments at both the Centre and in the States are struggling to grapple with similar problems of growth and justice; and bridging the gap between rich and poor. The erudite Governor of the Reserve Bank, Raghuram Rajan, who does not always see eye-to-eye with government policies on growth and inflation, recently came out with the thought-provoking concept of following what he chose to call the “Goldilocks policy” – neither too aggressive nor too conservative.
Boldly expressing views that are different from the official claim that things have turned better during the past 12 months of the Modi sarkar, Raghuram Rajan asserts that the economy is still not out of the woods and overall growth was likely to be lower than what was being projected. Advising against both over-optimism and over-pessimism, he warned that the economy is still in a gamble on rainfall and an uncertain monsoon could have an adverse effect on food prices, leading to a widening the gap between haves and have-nots.
The 52 year old RBI governor’s reference to the Goldilocks metaphor has aroused much curiosity, with many analysts scurrying to understand the meaning of his words. In Western countries, most people are familiar with the children’s fairy tale about Goldilocks and the tree bears. The story is about a little girl called Goldilocks who gets lost in the forest and comes upon a house in which nobody was there, but there were three bowls of porridge on the dining table. Her stomach growling with hunger, she tastes the porridge from the first bowl and finds it too hot. So, she tastes the porridge from the second bowl, but finds it was too cold. And when she tastes the last bowl of porridge, she finds it just right. She happily eats it all up. Then she comes across three chairs – two of them were too big for her, and only the third looks just right for her. But just as she settles down into the chair to rest, it breaks to pieces. Goldilocks is now very tired by this time, so she goes upstairs to the bedroom. She lies down in the first bed, but it was too hard. Then she lies down in the second bed, but it was too soft. Then she lies down in the third bed and it’s just right. Goldilocks happily falls into a deep and refreshing asleep.
This charming children’s tale is not as simple as it sounds. It is full of symbolism and philosophical concepts which eminent scientists, astronomers and economists have adapted in various fields. Basically, the Goldilocks principle states that something must fall within certain margins, as opposed to reaching extremes. Each nation and each group of citizens within a nation have their own unique needs and preferences. Each consumer has his or her own requirements and preference of food, chairs and beds. As Goldilocks discovered, some products are always too much in one extreme (either too hot or too hard or too large), others are too much in the opposite extreme (too cold or too soft or too small). Only one is “just right”.
This principle is applied across many disciplines, ranging from medicine, psychology, biology, economics, engineering and astronomy. For instance, in the science of astrobiology, the term “Goldilocks zone” refers to the planets near the Sun where life can exist. A planet must neither be too far away from, nor too close to the Sun to support life. Such a planet, like the Earth, is called a “Goldilocks Planet”. In medicine, it refers to the ideal dosage of a drug, and the extremes which may result in death of a patient.
In economics, a “Goldilocks economy” sustains moderate economic growth and low inflation, which allows a market-friendly monetary policy. This is what Raghuram Rajan was referring to. The term may be applied to virtually all aspects of the economy and to government policies. A “Goldilocks market” occurs when the price of commodities lies between a bear market and a bull market. Goldilocks pricing is a marketing strategy that uses product differentiation to offer three versions of a product to attract buyers from different segments of the market: a high-end version, a middle version and a low-end version.
In the communication industry too, the Goldilocks principle indicates the amount, type and detail of communication necessary in a system to maximize effectiveness while minimizing redundancy and excessive scope on the “too much” side and avoiding incomplete or inaccurate communication on the “too little” side.
In the context of the celebration of the first year in office of the Modi government, it is fair to say that there is an “information overload” both from Government Ministers and Opposition parties. Much of the claims and counter-claims are based on too little truth and too many false claims. Similarly, the Prime Minister is open to criticism for indulging in “initiative overload” due to which he is announcing too many over-ambitious schemes in too short a time frame – like bullet trains, 100 smart cities, clean Ganga project, river linking, Jan Dhan Yojana, Swachchh Bharat, tax reform, education reform, land reform, Make in India, jobs for all, et al., some of which may even be somewhat at odds with the needs of the country at the present state of economic development. Perhaps, the Prime Minister should pay heed to Raghuram Rajan, with whom he reportedly has a good equation, and apply the Goldilocks principle to vision of ushering in Achchhe Din.
SAPTARISHIS OF THE MODI ERA
Who are the Seven Sages (the Saptarishis) of the Modi administration ? Within the Sangh Parivar and the BJP party and government, there are differing views on some of the names. But after the completing one year of ruling India, the seven names that are emerged today are those of Amit Shah, Mohan Bhagwat, Ajit Doval, Arun Jaitley, Ram Madhav, Baba Ramdev and of course Narendra Modi himself. Raman Swamy writes on the parallax being created by this shifting pantheon of sages on the political horizon …
Not everyone might agree with the inclusion of the names of Baba Ramdev and Ram Madhav or even Ajit Doval. Similarly many might express surprise and consternation over the omission from this elite list of seven sages the names of senior Union Ministers like Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Manohar Parikkar, Suresh Prabhu … and Smriti Irani. However, from what has so far transpired in the tenure of the Modi administration, it is only to be expected that this list will transmogrify and change from time to time, depending on circumstances, events and controversies.
Unlike the complex time-cycle of the Hindu religious pantheon, present day politics and power are very volatile and nobody can afford to take their position and status for granted. Sushma Swaraj could have been among the select seven, had it not been for the shadow of conflict of interest involving her husband and daughter in the Lalit Modi case. Similarly Baba Ramdev might not have been in the reckoning had it not been for prominence he was given during the Yoga Day event. Equally, Ram Madhav could well be dropped from the list because of his needless and somewhat roguish dig at Vice President Hamid Ansari. On balance, the criteria for being counted among the Saptarishis of the Modi dispensation are not just merit and loyalty. The key lies in making significant contributions in terms of ideas and action.
Despite not being in party politics, Ajit Doval is clearly playing a very important role in foreign policy, national security and even in military, diplomatic and humanitarian operations on the ground. He is gradually shedding his low profile image and emerging into the spotlight, whether it be in rescuing Indian citizens held hostage in war-torn Iraq, micro-managing the commando strike in Myanmar, or making advance preparations for Narendra Modi’s visits to China and Mongolia, France and Canada.
Amit Shah’s proximity to the Prime Minister apart, his major mission is to galvanize the party machinery towards capturing political power in States where the BJP electoral presence has been minimal. The debacle in the Delhi polls apart, so far he thankfully appears to have made significant in-roads in the Eastern States. Bihar will be the acid test of his success and utility as a political strategist. In elections and politics, nothing is written in stone and Amit Shah will have to once again prove his worth and mettle to retain his stature as one of the saptarishis.
The case of Ram Madhav is pretty interesting because of his rapid rise over the past year or two. He has had a splendid track record and his credentials are multi-dimensional. Not only is he among the top intellectuals of the Sangh Parivar, he is also a director of the India Foundation, which is the think-tank that fuels policy making for Modi. His appointment as National General Secretary of the BJP has raised his profile and job responsibilities, particularly since he has been a former member of the National Executive of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Over the years, he has acted as a senior functionary, media interface and interlocutor for the intelligentsia of the RSS.
Ram Madhav has his fingers in many pies – he has been an active journalist and writer for over 20 years, authored several books with the latest being “Uneasy Neighbours: India and China after Fifty Years of the War”. He has vast experience of issues pertaining to strategic and international relations, which he has gained over his travels across the globe and facilitation of think tanks. As a BJP general secretary, he has played a pivotal role in several major decisions of the Modi government, most spectacularly as the negotiator of the BJP-PDP coalition in J&K.
Which is why his embarrassing faux pas on the day of the Yoga event at Rajpath is all the more unfortunate and inexplicable. Insiders say that his factually incorrect Twitter message that the event had been blacked out by the Rajya Sabha TV was based on hearsay information that he did not take care to verify. His sarcastic quip that Hamid Ansari was missing was again based on lack of familiarity with protocol and the warrant of precedent.
The feeling within Sangh circles is that Ram Madhav’s intention was to take a potshot at the Congress party and its leaders like Rahul Gandhi for not participating in the International Yoga Day celebrations and he had wanted to use the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to expose the Congress and at the same time convey the ruling party’s displeasure at the manner in which the Modi government’s reform legislation was being blocked in the Upper House by the Congress and other Opposition parties.
This rather devious and indirect tactic boomeranged due to flaws in his basic information and took something away from the sense of immense satisfaction over the success of the Yoga event. Reports say the Prime Minister was not happy with Ram Madhav’s Twitter misadventure. Whether he continues to remain in the pantheon of trusted and valued Saptarishis remains to be seen.