Now that we have voted in 1998, here is a snapshot of what you can expect for the next 12 months.
The BJP will be invited to form the next government - and they will. Mr Vajpayee will be Prime
Minister for more than 13 days - probably 13 months. He will lead a charmed life. There will be
many votes of no-confidence against his government but he will win all of them in 1998. By a strange
series of coincidences, certain members of the Opposition parties who are supposed to be opposing
the BJP-led government will be travelling in Italy while the no-confidence votes are being counted.
The foreign brokerage houses will, initially, put India on a cautiously optimistic watch list. Then, when
the Index hits 4,000 they will tell you how right they were on their forecast for India and will upgrade
India to a Strong Buy. Do not listen to them. They know less than us - as their track record for the
past 3 years has shown. If you have money to invest, buy the shares of well-managed companies. If
you do not have any spare cash, begin to earn it!
Certain advisors to the BJP will tell the central bank to strengthen the Indian rupee. Frightened at the
prospect of a stronger Indian currency, certain industrial groups will use their contacts in the press
and the government to warn the nation of the catastrophe that awaits us if we make the Indian rupee
stronger. I have argued, time and again, that making the Indian currency weaker has damaged the
country more but, then, I don't make policies - I only review them. Meanwhile, confusion will
prevail, the currency will zig-zag and then, depending on which group wins in its lobbying power the
Indian rupee will either appreciate to Rs 35 or collapse to Rs 50.
Indians will continue to ask the foreign experts what they think about us. The newspapers, the TV
channels, and the magazines will always want to speak to an FII to ask them what their view on the
Indian economy, stock market, or politics is. The FII, basking in the glory of TV cameras, will read
out a statement issued by his Indian staff and delivered to him in his Breach Candy apartment. The
Indian press, impressed by this knowledge, will splash a headline the next morning: "Foreign
investors concerned about infrastructure bottlenecks". In response, the Indian government will send a
delegation to Bombay to meet this knowledgeable FII in his Breach Candy apartment (that has 24
hours of running water and electricity) and address his concerns.
While the government officials and the foreign investors are busy interviewing each other, life will go
on in many parts of India. People will still wait in queues to get water for 1 hour every day and
electricity will still be in short supply. Meanwhile, BHEL will still shout and scream about their ability
to provide inexpensive equipment, the Tata group will never shout about their efficient running of
their power plants, and all the deals to build power plants will go to foreign groups. Yes, we will
have a power surplus by the year 2002 - because no one will be able to afford it anymore
(especially if the Indian currency falls to Rs 50).
Population levels will continue to rise traumatically and the politicians will be scared to talk about
reducing our population from 950 million to 650 million over the next 30 years. Instead of using the
dramatic reach of television to educate people on the basics of life, the government will be happy to
sell air space to the television channels and let them show rubbish.
The BJP, after sitting in Opposition, will finally get a chance to govern the country - but they will be
restrained by their coalition partners. Some of the moderation will be good (no destroying mosques)
and some will be bad (protect Indian industry) but, overall, they will get wiser and understand the
realities of governing. But it will be too late, by then. The allies will fight and Mr Vajpayee will resign.
There will be another election in 1999. And that will be good for the country. Because, by then, a
new group of leaders will emerge with none of the baggage of Independence. They will not belong to
any dynasty, nor will they propogate any religion: they will work for the people. I will vote for them.