2019 Election Flurry
By Dhurjati Mukherjee
There is hectic activity among political parties and their leaders regarding the impending Lok Sabha elections 2019. On the one hand, the ruling party is flaunting its achievements six months or so ahead as well as outlining big plans for the coming years, and on the other, the Opposition is criticising these ‘claims’ and puncturing these with its alternate statistics. While the educated section, which normally lives in cities, may be in a better position to make their judgement, the common man, even if educated, cannot make out which of these multifaceted claims to believe.
Indeed, it is not easy for people to distinguish between the government’s actual working at the grass-root level and whether these are on paper and more in form of pledges. Claims and counter claims about implementation of various schemes is an area where it is difficult to judge the government’s performance. There is every reason by and large to believe that facts and figures are ‘manufactured’ by the party in power to take undue advantage over the Opposition.
The development that is envisaged has not been forthcoming, if the performance of successive governments for the past 10-15 years is taken into consideration. This is a clear indication of what would happen in the coming decade or so with sincerity and honesty of politicians per se on the decline.
Interestingly, India which boasts of being the world’s largest democracy has in a recent report (published in the research journal, Democratisation), been stated to be akin to some other countries backsliding or moving from democracy towards increasing levels of autocracy. According to Deputy Director V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, Anna Luhrmann, who led the study noted: “While most people in the world still live in democracies in 2017, democracy has declined in 24 countries home to 2.6 billion people,” and said “We are shocked by India’s backslide – mainly attributed to significant downtrends in freedom of expression.”
The India section of the Democracy Report cited the “partial closing” of space for civil society as among the factors contributing to the decline in freedom of association and civil society. This obviously means that the government is not ready to heed the advice of both the intelligentsia and also civil society organisations that work among the people at the grass-root level and echo their views.
It is thus quite natural that independent political analysts, economists and sociologists are not quite hopeful of the future state of things that is likely to emerge. Moreover, if a single party does not emerge victorious, a coalition of parties – not quite subscribing to the same agenda – may further affect the country’s development plan in the coming years.
Further, on the economic front recent statistics revealed that the number of millionaires in the country has been on the increase to emerge as the fastest growing market for high net population, thereby further widening the gap between the rich and the poor sections of society. As per the report of French tech firm, Capgemini, high net worth individuals (HNIs) grew over 20 per cent in the country to 2.6 lakh people while their collective wealth grew 21 per cent to over one trillion dollars in 2017. In fact, the country’s growth on both the number of HNIs and wealth is faster than the global average of 11.2 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
In January this year, a study had stated that the top one per cent of the over 1.2 billion population had cornered 73 per cent of the overall wealth generated during 2017. Moreover, 67 crore Indians comprising the population’s poorest half saw their wealth rise by just one per cent, another study by OXFAM pointed out. Whatever may be the reasons this obviously is a clear indication that the plans and programmes of the government favour the rich and the business community.
It is also no secret that a number of politicians have amassed huge wealth which does not match their known sources of income, more so after being in power for say five years or so. Plus, the people see a growing nexus between politicians and the corporate houses and fail to understand the duplicity of governments that talk of good governance, corruption free administration and welfare of the people.
Politics has become a vicious game which is difficult to comprehend for the common man. Worse there is a growing tendency among the political parties to flare up religious sentiments — some to garner majority votes while others to win the confidence of the minority communities, in their lust to regain power. This is far from pledge that these parties take to take the country forward on the growth track, keeping in view the poor conditions prevailing in the social infrastructure sector, especially health and education.
The poor continue to languish and are finding it tougher to make both ends meet. This situation is unlikely to change as long as policies are not drastically re-oriented, in the true sense of the term. A down-to-earth policy geared towards welfare of the common man is obviously the need of the day. Programmes and targets such as the bullet train, airport modernisation and even smart cities can wait. Instead, resources have to be made available for infrastructure development of rural and semi-urban areas. Also provision of potable drinking water, warehouses to check food wastage, facilities for small and medium farmers and small traders, simple technological inputs for diversification of agriculture, promotion of cottage and khadi industries need sharp focus.
While the Indian common man may not be educated, he is politically savvy. He is realising that slogans are not enough. Instead, effective action at the grass-root level is critical. The politicians, bureaucrats and business houses need to work for the common good. However, it is easier said than done as power and wealth is over encompassing. It is indeed tragic that even media houses, which have so long remained independent, too can fall victims to power and money.
The big question is whether the present government will be able to convince the people of honestly putting welfare of the poor, backward and impoverished sections of society as top priority. While pessimists’ talk of breakdown of socio-economic order in the not-too-distant future, there are optimists that feel that much-needed change can be brought, but at a slow rate. General Election results will throw some light whether policies and programmes have benefitted the common man, i.e. the masses, or whether they have been taken for a ride. —INFA