Editorial

Editorial: Austerity-Drive that Needs Austerity

At a time, when almost every second political party is struggling with internal problems of one or the other sort, it is quite riveting that the ruling Congress party has its focus on serious issues of principles: democratizing NSUI, Youth Congress, not inducting tainted ministers in Cabinet, and now the austerity drive.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and his deputy Shashi Tharoor, who had to stay in five-star suites due to their official bungalows being renovated but who paid their bills themselves, had moved out after instructions from the party, and now all ministers have been asked to travel economy class.

Leading a simple life and controlling expenses has indutibly been a valued Indian tradition and all political parties inculcated the principle as part of their leaders’ and activists’ expected conduct, which survived for decades before being finally farewelled in the glaze of country’s economic prosperity. Of course, politicians and government officials are expected not to splurge from public exchequer in a country where hunger, unemployment, diseases etc are in zillions.

So what this austerity drive is intended for – improving public image or connecting with common man? Can image be bettered or connection be made with common man merely by putting a tab on purse? What about luxurious cars, costly bungalows, children’s foreign education?

But Congress party’s austerity drive is beyond this, it is beyond public exchequer and controls individual pocket. Obviously, financial tightness has not given call for any such move.

Mahatma Gandhi wore Khadi, for it was common man’s wear then. So what this austerity drive is intended for – improving public image or connecting with common man? Can image be bettered or connection be made with common man merely by putting a tab on purse? What about luxurious cars, costly bungalows, and children’s foreign education? Can these too fall under the austerity drive?

Instead of showy, ineffective measures, it would be better if a party ensures that good party workers but without sufficient money to spend on electioneering get tickets to contest elections, that rules like first timers not eligible for ministerial berth are not broken under compulsion of dynastic or regional pressure, that chief of the ruling party and PM of the country (both hardly available even to media) are available for face-to-face talks with school and college children as a rule like Barack Obama.

Ostentatious austerity measures would serve no purpose but trouble own party men.

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