Reorienting policies vital

Next Poll Planning

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

The NDA has about five months to go before the Lok Sabha elections and apart from improving governance, the vote on account would be crucial. The string of measures rolled out have to be effectively handled so that the rural populace feel that the Government has done something for them. Though experts believe that the BJP would go full throttle on the Ram temple, it remains to be seen whether this can effective against a united Opposition.
Meanwhile, the landslide victory of the Congress in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and even the not-so-expected one in Madhya Pradesh speaks volumes about the functioning of the Modi government in all sectors. Though the election results have been highlighted in the media and is still a subject of discussion, what has gone somewhat unnoticed is the resignation of the junior HRD minister, Upendra Kushwaha.
Kushwaha in his resignation clearly stated that the Government’s efforts are directed “towards implementing RSS agenda, not the agenda of social justice”. Moreover, he said that people with RSS backgrounds alone had been appointed Vice-Chancellors at the Central universities in the past four years. In this connection, it may be pointed out that various academics were dissatisfied with recent appointments in the universities. Another important point made by him is the trend towards centralisation as, according to Rashtriya Lok Samata Party leader, “the Union cabinet has been reduced to a mere rubber stamp endorsing decisions without any deliberations”.
The aggressive Hindutva campaign, leading to violence in various places of the country, has failed the BJP as the Hindi heartland has rejected the party as it is clamouring for statues and a Ram temple, ignoring the essential interests of the poor. The ruling party obviously believed that the Hindi heartland would be swayed by the focus on Hindutva. However, experts believe, and not without reason that the ruling party expected that infusing the spirit of Hindutva would bring dividends for the party. But though our educational levels are quite poor, the people realise that more than religious issues, the basic necessities of life are far more important.
A section of highly educated people who are strongly religious are of the opinion that Hindus, mainly from Bengal, Odisha and South India, have great faith in Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, both of whom believed that each individual should have the right to profess one’s own religion. In fact, Vivekananda talked of unification of values in every religion and welcomed people from all religions to visit and pray at Belur temple. Most serious Hindu philosophers do not approve of aggressive Hindutva and alienating the Muslims from the mainstream of life and activity.
It is thus quite obvious that the Modi-Shah combine may be forced to shift focus from the waters of faith to more compulsions affecting the aam janata. The focus would have to be on vikas (development) – not just slogans but effective action at the grass-root level — and the need to rush relief to important constituencies of the electorate, including the dalits, the SCs and STs and even the economically weaker sections.
The sugar coated slogans of development that made Modi and his muscular brand of politics digestible for large sections of the middle class has now to be made realistic and an acceptable narrative. It would not be wrong to mention here that the welfare measures undertaken by the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and MP may have helped to stem the tide against the BJP to a large extant.
It has been reported time and again about the all-round crisis — whether the slow growth in employment opportunities, the agrarian problem, the sufferings of micro and small sector, the banking fiasco and the like. Added to this has been the crisis in the RBI and the CBI which showed the government in poor light. The aam janata has been disgusted with the policies of the present Government and the ‘anger index’ has been growing. A certain section of analysts pointed out that one should have expected even better results for the Congress given the current state of affairs but obviously its lack of ground level cadres and organisational base compared with the BJP may have been the reason, at least in MP and Rajasthan.
The young generation, both in the urban and rural areas, are frustrated due to a variety of factors. The trend towards mechanisation as also the lack of investments by the private sector has curbed the growth of jobs and this is more or less agreed by most economists. Moreover, there is a tendency of medium and large business houses not to increase their staff strength. They would prefer to outsource work or employ contract workers.
The other big problem is the farm crisis and the aggressive posture of a major section of the farming community which has been manifest in recent months. The Government is not much interested in the revival of the rural economy but only in a few programmes which have secondary relevance. As is well known, the small and poor farmers are not getting the right price for their produce though MSPs are announced and corruption is quite high as the police and the panchayats remain a mere spectator.
It is indeed surprising that political leaders talk of their love for farmers without doing anything substantial at the grass-root level. The condition of small farmers has been declining over the years and there is no substantial and effective plan to ameliorate their situation by ensuring better incomes through remunerative prices. It goes to the credit of the Congress President that he focused on ‘bread and butter’ issues facing the people and assured them of better governance. On the contrary, Modi’s campaign on Hindutva and the Nehru-Gandhi family failed to impress the people without going into the grievances and problems faced by the masses.
The large number of schemes has not achieved the desired results. Take for example, the Swachch Bharat programme where in spite of encouraging figures, water is not available in most toilets while some others are not properly maintained. Added to this, in the backward districts in the Hindi heartland, where literacy is quite poor, specially among poor women, the awareness programme of the benefits of sanitation has not reached the beneficiaries. Similarly, other such programmes were not executed properly and the benefits did not reach the targeted population.
Not just credibility, but the allies of the NDA, namely the TDP and then the PDP quit the ruling coalition early this year and now the Bihar ally, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, has followed suit. The centralised manner of functioning of the Government and ignoring the allies were obvious reasons. Though BJP dismissed these exits as of little consequence, there is now need to seriously ponder over the matter before others follow the same path. Meanwhile, chief of Shiv Sena, a restive ally of the BJP, stated that the people rejected those they did not want and lauded the people for showing the country the way forward. How many others re-consider their ties with the BJP needs to be watched in the coming months.—INFA