INDIAN businessmen and academics here feel that the Congress' re-election at the head of a coalition government would be the best thing for India's economic reforms. However, they hasten to add that the coming to power of the BJP as a major partner in a coalition would not pose a threat to the reforms process initiated by Narasimha Rao.
Several businessmen reacted strongly to an Outlook opinion poll, widely reported in the press here, that forecast a hung Parliament for India. Says George Abraham, executive director of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: "The most important factor that foreign investors are going to look at is the decision-making process and how it will be affected. Our perception so far has been that regardless of which party is ruling in different states, they recognise investments that bring about a more balanced regional economic growth, and the creation of jobs in otherwise backward areas." The Singapore-backed Bangalore Information Technology Park, he says, is a good example.
Academic Mukul Asher, professor of economics and public policy at the National University of Singapore, says that if the Congress returns to power, areas where reforms are needed, particularly fiscal reforms, are likely to be pursued with greater vigour.
"Even if the Congress is not returned to power, reforms are likely to continue, though nuances may be slightly different, particularly if the BJP becomes a part of the government," says Asher.
"I am not overly concerned about any particular party coming to power because the consensus level on both economic and foreign policy is very high, even in the BJP. The nuances and style may differ, but it is not a cause for concern," he adds.
As such, Singapore companies have no real concerns about the political environment in India as many of these investors have gained a lot of experience in dealing with a host of state governments in the country belonging to different parties.
But Nitin Doshi, managing director of Surice Trading Pte Ltd, argues: "The protectionist forces that have again raised their heads may be given a few concessions if another party comes to power." Not concerned about the prospects of the BJP coming to power, he says that while both the Congress and the BJP were committed to economic reforms, a BJP victory would cause the rupee and the stockmarket to become unstable for at least three months.