Doles no longer lure

Parties Clueless Of PMP

By Shivaji Sarkar

This election is about PMP —- poverty management programme —- an economic agenda that is unclear and all political parties apparently are looking for an issue.
Post-election the nation is likely to have a new economic path as there is going to be one or the other coalition-led Government. It suits the country as decisions are the result of confabulations and more transparency which is likely to benefit the people.
Yes, the campaign trail has brought the common man at the centre of the political spectrum. There is, however, little clarity on how to remove poverty, a nagging issue since the days of Indira Gandhi’s garibi hatao.
The poll battle has brought to the fore the pathetic state of the country where still 25 crores people remain absolutely poor with affluent politicians keen on luring them. The Congress with its Rs 72,000 offer, many may call it a bribe is keen on bagging their votes.
It may cost, if implemented, about Rs 18 lakh crores a year. While the total tax receipt is estimated at Rs 17.05 lakh crores in 2018-19. This might reduce next year as about 2 lakh crores taxpayers would go out of the net.
The BJP has pitted Rs 6,000 a year for farmers and is harping on pension for different classes of people. The Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi has indirectly challenged it by saying that her party would restore pension abolished by NDA-I. It is the Congress way of trying to solve a crisis of the retired. Or is it a narration of non-success of the 2004 National Pension Scheme?
The aggressive BJP is harping on 431 programmes of the Modi Government. Party workers, however, are mostly not aware that their Government has such a large number of people-oriented programmes. They are finding it difficult to argue with voters on Ujjwala, Ujala, MUDRA, skill-India, toilets and valour of the Government in tackling Pakistan and nationalism.
The last one has silenced voters and they are apprehensive of expressing themselves. The youth in particular is in a daze as the job data puzzles them. As one moves through universities and educational institutions, the 4.5 crores new voters are wondering whether there is any forward thinking process. Loud campaigns put them off as do family-held parties or jingoism.
The youth wants a new political course, dispensation and approach. They are confused that even after 70 years, the religious divide that had led to Partition is still wide; caste sways the political choice and most of the candidates are not aware of economic issues.
Besides, doles do not attract them and jobs, despite the offer to be a pakorawalla, are not to be found. Rather in states like Kerala, the sinking fortunes in Gulf countries and job losses are becoming an issue.
Worse, corruption bogs them but the refrain seems to be that it has become a part of the nation’s culture notwithstanding vociferous post-demonetisation claims. The small traders, salaried and others are terrorised by the tax administration and higher rent seeking. Moreover, cash is a critical issue in the rural and trade sector. Bankisation of the economy has put more costs and inflation.
Unfortunately, the figures of petrol prices and inflation have become suspect and so also the growth figures. Many ask if there is growth? Why disparity has increased between 2006 and 2015? Why more people have sub-standard jobs? Why reservation is not working? Why rural distress is growing and why farmers despite doles continue to commit suicide?
The issue of “chowkidar” is discussed along-with whether such allegations are being levelled against top persons or not.
The village chaupals in western UP give partial answers. Many septuagenarians recall that in the 1962 election, the opposition had given the slogan Pt Nehru chor hai but he not only ignored it but also never even raised his voice against such perceived indecency.
During 1974, Indira Gandhi, amid such onslaught merely said “Haathi chalaa jaata hai” at a rally in Lucknow. Villagers assert that Hinduism is about tolerance and the big ones must have a large heart.
Cash is a significant but silent issue in BIMARU states, be it western UP, Haryana, MP and Bihar villages. Poll managers need to understand that banks are considered oppressive and the poor are wondering why banks should penalize those who cannot maintain a minimum balance.
Villagers, domestic maids and the poor are losing and criticizing the Rs 5,000 crores earnings by State Bank of India and other Government banks. They question whether the banks are for the rich only and why they are in huge losses.
Additionally, the more the parties want to address PMP the more they are getting into a vortex as roads and airports are not enthusing voters. Village elders say such mindless road constructions and airports, an obvious reference to the upcoming Jewar airport in Bulandshahr would lead to desertification of fertile regions.
Political workers fend off such “unwise, anti-development” questions while opposition parties are in a quandary on the development issue.
Importantly, the basic rural issue is destruction — of their homes, hearth and jobs — as development projects would benefit real estate developers and middle men. They argue, development is mindless as it is mostly in thickly populated rural areas.
This raises a vital question: Are institutions like NITI Ayog which replaced Planning Commission or NIPFP clueless or not? These stark questions expose the hollowness of the political system. Have our leaders drifted away from the people?
Rural discussions expose that our leaders have lost touch. The rural masses want a comfortable life but not at the cost of basics. Land holding still is crucial for them, not as family pride but to protect nature as well.
They don’t want doles as they have self-pride but want their sugarcane dues paid by mills on time. The potato farmers desire they get their price and not be hounded by tax marauders.
Strangely, leaders don’t delve or discuss these points at rallies. Consequently, people feel real issues are not being touched and loud campaigns are aimed at junking these issues.
In sum, PMP is not working and clueless political parties are failing to connect with the masses. Hence, the elections are likely to spring many surprises and post-poll India might rewrite its economy. —— INFA