New Delhi: Some months ago, a young Indian friend from Kenya asked a question that had obviously been bothering him for a time. 'India and Kenya were both colonized by the British, but why has India become so self-sustaining whereas Kenya has not?' he queried. All kinds of answers could be given for this, but one particularly struck this writer. 'India could be different,' this writer ventured, 'on account of its strong tradition of entrepreneurship.' And away from that conversation of many months ago, it can be added more definitively that entrepreneurship adds to political freedom, and may even be the basis for it. Which is why the whole debate between Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati is so risible, tiresome and unwanted. Entrepreneurship and its fruits will save India, not non-resident economists in their eighties who have lost none of their ardour and fascination for base power.

Manmohan Singh is called several things including "father of the 1991 reforms", a title that more appropriately belongs to his former prime minister, P.V.Narasimha Rao, who made it all possible. But even taking that flattering description at face value, what did Manmohan Singh do? He decontrolled some things. He got the license-permit-inspection raj to back off a little for entrepreneurs to do what they did best, which is wealth creation. So the real heroes of the post-1991 boom were the entrepreneurs, the small-and-medium-sized entrepreneurs to be specific, but all that is thrust at us are paternity claims on reforms. And these claims are shallow and dubious to the extreme anyhow because in subsequent nine-and-a-half years of power, Manmohan Singh and the United Progressive Alliance government have done everything to crush entrepreneurs, small-and-medium ones in particular, who form the backbone of any country. On the other hand, the government has engaged and feted big business, which is party to the loot of the natural resources of the country, from coal to ore to telecom spectrum to oil and gas (think the Ambani brothers), whilst ministers have gone with a begging bowl to Washington courting foreign investment. It will not work. Why should it?

And this jousting between the economic models of Sen and Bhagwati, similar or dissimilar as they may be (who cares?), is entirely superfluous for this country. What this country absolutely and urgently needs is a climate and environment where entrepreneurship thrives, and an engaged and clued-in political economic leadership that can mediate for the fruits of entrepreneurship and growth to benefit all. Necessarily, therefore, entrepreneurship and wealth creation must rank before politics in this scheme, and the men and women who drive this politics must be intimately knowledgeable about the country, and have an overall vision for its growth and prosperity. Manmohan Singh clearly does not have this vision (coming neither from the streams of politics nor entrepreneurship), nor does anyone else in the Congress party, controlled by dynasts and royals and zamindars, who have run the country comprehensively into a ditch. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, therefore, has to be given a chance to save the situation, and from the record of its past and present governments in the Centre and in the states, there is more than enough reason to be confident about its success.

And any politics from now on must encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. America's greatness lay in this but no longer. Russia's tragedy is that it could never engender true entrepreneurship because Bolshevism straightaway replaced feudalism as Marx never imagined nor wanted. China does not have a market economy and is in deep trouble. Consequently, India needs a market-driven economy where wealth is created foremost and all else follows from there, including nutritional security, healthcare and universal quality education. It does not need economists to tell us this. If you do not have enough, you cannot do charity. And charity cannot be giving doles to people and making them unemployable, as the story is in parts of Western Europe. 'Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day,' goes the old proverb. 'Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.'

But for a genuine entrepreneurial environment to be obtained, the government has to roll back the permit/ inspection raj, which can only happen after the Manmohan Singh government is evicted. The business environment is terrible in the country. Small-and-medium businesses are closing down because the demands of the state have become extortionate. It is nearly impossible for businesses to get bank loans even at the prevailing high interest rates. Corruption is rampant. For example, a clutch of five-star hotels near Delhi airport are being denied permission to open citing security concerns. If they cough up Rs 10 lakhs per room in underhand monies, however, they can commence operations from tomorrow. This is just the tip of the iceberg; the horrors only grow. Big businesses, on the other hand, have lost the entrepreneurial spirit for the most part and have gotten together with the politicians and the bureaucrats to loot the country. This needs a cleanup which cannot be expected from this government, and time is running out for India. The longer entrepreneurial reforms are delayed, the harder it will be for the country to get back on its feet.

India has a huge aspirational youth population. This population has no patience with the old ways of doing things. Gone are the days when the security of a class 1 officer's post was the summit of ambition. The private sector has grown by leaps and bounds, and entrepreneurship holds a special thrill for the young. Check out the tiny start-ups in Gurgaon that may in some cases be nothing more than three tables and chairs in a shared office. The young have the energy and the drive for this sort of edgy entrepreneurship, and their kinetics must be harnessed for growth. India does not need foreign direct investment. India is flush with funds. Talk with businessmen and they will tell you so. But they will not make investments in the country till the ruinous United Progressive Alliance is in power. They have handled corruption. But what the regime is embarked upon is loot. Only a cleansed environment, entrepreneurship and visionary politics will redeem the country, and the United Progressive Alliance is incapable of delivering these. They need to go. And the sooner the country is rid of economists who have little stake in it but hold it to ransom, the better.