Harmony & Poverty
By Dhurjati Mukherjee
It is indeed very difficult the understand election dynamics and what impact the issues would have on the end results. Even doing away with the claims of political leaders, the whole dynamics is indeed complicated, keeping in view concerns of the middle class, the problems of the poorer sections and the caste-class combine. The resounding victory of the BJP bears testimony to the spate of welfare measures, specially those announced in the past one year, the so-called for national security concern and the incapability of the Congress to finalise alliances in some states and emerge as a credible alternative to the saffron party.
The less said about the regional parties the better as these have no clear strategy, except securing power and this has been aired by the Prime Minister again and again. For example, the wanton violence in Bengal during and after the elections has been a distressing factor and speaks very poorly about the state of governance in the TMC-ruled State. Being ruled by a woman who professes to have a simple lifestyle, it was indeed quite surprising she used abusive language during her virtually solo campaign, not just towards any party but individual attacks on the Prime Minister.
It is a fact that other political leaders have mostly criticised the policies of the BJP and rarely attacked the Prime Minister. In this connection, Rahul Gandhi’s slogan chowkidar chor haya also appears not to be made in good spirit though the Rafale scam appears to prove his involvement in this unethical deal with Anil Ambani. But the poor performance of the Congress proved that people thought that since the UPA could not reach the necessary figures and would have to depend on regional parties – power hungry and extremely corrupt – they voted for the BJP.
Another significant development has been that issues like farm crisis, massive unemployment etc. did not cut much ice as in both these areas, respective State governments were equally responsible. Obviously, the results do not reflect the emerging economic crisis or also to the fact that the pro-rich policies of the NDA government have not been favourable to the country and to the impoverished masses.
In analysing the election results, it is indeed difficult to understand why the Congress has been wiped out in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and performed miserably in Chhattisgarh, though in recent Assembly elections it grabbed power. While one group of commentators feel that they want better governance at the Centre, which only Modi can ensure, others attribute it to religious issues as people in these States are not well educated and feel that the NDA government would give a proper status to Hinduism.
The Hindi heartland has possibly rejected allegations of divisive politics of the ruling party. Perhaps people felt that the BJP tried to give Hindus an identity as years of Congress rule pampered Muslims without actually looking into their educational needs.
The results point to the fact that wining elections has a different calculation. While in some very few cases the stature of the candidate has been the criterion for wining, in most cases, however, the party under which he or she stands has been the motivating factor. Moreover, a large number of candidates who have won are involved in criminal cases and are very rich by Indian standards. Also among those who have been re-elected have increased their wealth significantly which, if analysed in depth, would clearly reveal that it is much higher than their known sources of income.
This may not paint a very satisfying picture about the future state of governance. The two factors that stand out to be distressing are one of the rampant violence and hatred witnessed during the run-up to the polls; and two whether candidates with criminal records and/or very rich by Indian standards would be effective in solving problems of the masses. This is reinforced by the fact that the NDA re-emergence boosted up the stock market, which obviously points to the fact that business houses are happy about this. Does this signal to the poor and the impoverished being sidelined?
Mahatma Gandhi had stated that accumulation of wealth by the rich was intrinsically connected with violence. And this has become a reality in modern day society. If this is to be believed, how will people trust that the new government which claims to go for inclusive development – one that will cater to the needs of the common man residing in rural and backward areas of the country? However, it is heartening to hear that Modi, just after his party’s remarkable victory, assured that the next five years will be dedicated to eradicate poverty from the country, which, according to him, as he rightly stated would be the best return gift on the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.
A word of caution is that resources are under strain as the government has been borrowing more and more and seeking to extract additional capital from the central bank. Any further widening in the fiscal deficit, which has reached 3.4 per cent of GDP, may jeopardise the nation’s credit rating.
Pessimism at this point of time may not solve current problems as also emerging ones but one has to hope that the new NDA government would try to put a better governance system and raise hopes through a transformed developmental approach. This would include better opportunities for people belonging to SC/ST and dalit groups, genuine approach in tackling the farm crisis, boosting up employment potential by giving a thrust to labour-intensive sectors through promotion of cottage and agro-based industries, tacking water crisis etc.
But more than all this, decentralisation has to become effective in practice with more power being transferred to the panchayats. Moreover, the personality cult of Modi, which was blatantly manifest during the poll campaigns, does not augur well for a cadre-based party like BJP. Hero worship obviously is not desirable as analysts have been harping for a long time that this may lead to eventual dictatorship.
Though the last 4-5 years saw some big ticket reforms, its benefits did not reach the common man for whom virtually nothing changed on the ground. Also the economic aspect of decentralisation has to be given a special thrust so that people’s power, as envisaged by Gandhi, becomes a reality. But though we talk about this, will power hungry politicians make this a reality? One must not forget that the inherent trend of political leaders to show that they are supreme needs to change and a lot more humility and compassion is needed for bringing about the much desired societal change in the country.
On the social front, harmony has to be prevail in society and religious animosity has to be discarded. Religion should not be used to play with people’s sentiments as Indian religious leaders like Swami Vivekananda and even Gandhi had called for unity of all religions. It is expected that the NDA government would shred its earlier posture and follow a path of harmonious living.—INFA