Context is always important when judging a government’s performance on reforms. Many commentators who believe in free markets tend to rate Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s reforms higher than Narendra Modi’s, possibly because the former led a messy coalition while the latter has an absolute Lok Sabha majority.
But look deeper, and the answer to the question – who did better, Vajpayee or Modi? – is not that simple. Let us start with Vajpayee.
The key reform initiatives in NDA-1 were the following: privatisation of many public sector companies; mending the broken electricity and telecom sectors by enacting changes to the Electricity Act and reworking telecom policy; funnelling major public investments towards infrastructure, including national highways and rural roads; and, enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.
Of these initiatives, three have stood the test of time. In privatisation, the Vajpayee era’s performance has been unequalled till today. The infrastructure building programme is now part of a national consensus. And teledensity has been achieved, albeit with several scams punctuating its progress during UPA’s tenure. Read More