Tracing the spectacular trajectory of Ahluwalia’s life from its humble beginnings in Secunderabad to the corridors of power in New Delhi, this book is a classic insider’s account of how the India story was shaped and scripted. Ahluwalia played a key role in the transformation of India from a state-run to a market-based economy, and remained a constant fixture at the top of India's economic policy establishment for an unprecedented period of three decades.
The book traverses the politics, personalities, events and crises in India's recent history. It goes behind the numbers to bring alive the politics of reform, and how policy change was pushed through—at first, slowly, under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and then much more boldly in 1991 when the opportunity provided by a severe balance of payments crisis was seized for wide-ranging reform. Ahluwalia, who served as commerce secretary and finance secretary during this crucial period, makes a convincing case for why, contrary to the accusations at the time, the reforms that formed part of the conditionality of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 1991, were home-grown and not thrust upon a reluctant India by the IMF.
Ahluwalia discusses the successes and failures of the UPA regime during which period he served as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, a Cabinet-level position. He presents the story behind India’s spectacular economic growth in the first half of the UPA’s tenure as well as its historic achievements in poverty alleviation. He also candidly discusses the policy paralysis and allegations of corruption that came to mark the last few years of UPA 2.
Narrated with wit, humour and remarkable intellect, Backstage is a definitive contribution to India's economic and political history by one uniquely positioned to write it.