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Rediff.com  » Business » Room for reforms gone, but some see hope in Budget

Room for reforms gone, but some see hope in Budget

Last updated on: March 7, 2012 14:52 IST

Room for reforms gone, but some see hope in Budget

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BS Reporters in Mumbai/New Delhi/Kolkata

Business and politics always make a heady cocktail in the world's largest democracy.

Millionaire industrialists double as parliamentarians and industry groups get branded for their perceived political alignments.   

This gets starker every time Uttar Pradesh or Tamil Nadu goes to polls, giving market pundits enough fodder to correlate the fortunes of politicians and CEOs.

But this time around, the impact was national, setting the tone and tenor for the government's economic agenda.

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Image: A file photo of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Photographs: Reuters

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"Considering the Samajwadi Party has strong links with some industrial houses, it will help Uttar Pradesh and its economy grow on an aggregate basis," said the global head of strategy of an energy major in India.  

But with a nightmarish performance for the Congress, with just one victory in the five states that went to polls, the verdict on that is equally fractured. Many actually see this as a big opportunity to unleash the long pending reforms.

"United Progressive Alliance didn't have political capital before. And, they don't have political capital now.

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"So, what's there to lose anymore?" quips a leading Mumbai-based investment banking CEO who did not wish to be quoted.  

Most feel the government must use this opportunity to their advantage and strike.

This is the best time for an image makeover for UPA-II, CEOs would recommend in private conversations.

That means a Big Bang Budget for starters to reverse the diffident mood.

"UPA must review its policy approach and become more growth oriented and business-friendly.

"Hopefully, the Left wing of the party will give up its opposition to reforms," says Rajiv Kumar, secretary general, Ficci.

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According to Harsh Pati Singhania, managing director, J K Paper Ltd, the government should keep pushing for reforms but with a proper consensus building.

"I sincerely hope that the Budget takes some definitive measures towards economic development. Reforms are an ongoing process and the government should not shy away from taking those."

But it boils down to hard numbers and that is something the Congress does not have.

After this result, the SP's clout will go up significantly in the Rajya Sabha and most analysts say the non-Congress, anti-Bharatiya Janata Party parties like the Trinamool Congress, NCP or even SP will make it difficult to pursue hard reforms.

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Rajeev Talwar, group executive director, DLF, has a realistic take on the turn of events.

"The results will surely prompt immediate need for economic reforms. But the capacity to carry these through will depend on management of the floor in Parliament."

"This will be a lame-duck government. So, the policy paralysis will continue. SP has already opposed FDI in retail.

"Even GST rollout will get delayed," feels a Delhi-based CEO of a large diversified corporate house.   

The tremors can be felt even as far as Kolkata.

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Tags: FDI , GST , DLF , Rajeev Talwar

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"The industry has no option but to wait and watch now, and seems like we can bid adieu to foreign direct investment in retail for the time being," says a senior Kolkata-based industrialist.

Their apprehensions are grounded to reality, as the TMC is already making its intentions clear.

"We cannot betray our voters, especially after the stellar victory in Manipur and after gaining considerable share of votes in Uttar Pradesh.

"We will never allow FDI in retail or pension reforms to happen and we will also be against the government on issues like price rise," says an emphatic Partha Chatterjee, Trinamool Congress leader and commerce and industries minister of West Bengal.

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Some like Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon are still hopeful.

They feel that nobody wants to upset the apple cart and opt for mid-term polls. They don't think even with the numbers in Parliament on Tuesday, the Finance Bill will be voted out.  

"Though things have not turned out to be favourable to the ruling Congress party at the Centre, I believe that there is no threat to the government."

Agrees a senior executive at a foreign cash and carry chain who did not wish to be identified.

"Once the government has announced the policy of allowing FDI in retail, it does not die. So, it will be rolled out, it is just a matter of time. On the timing of its introduction, there's no clear visibility yet."


Image: Venugopal Dhoot.


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