Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The “For Aam Aadmi” image of Congress

There’s no denying that fact that the image of Congress being a pro ‘Aam Aadmi’ party did lot towards winning decisively in 2009 LS elections. It’s totally a different thing all together whether the steps that the UPA government had taken in the past five years were really the best possible ones. Nevertheless, on the basis of all these the perception that Congress has worked towards the overall development of bottom of the pyramid has been already been created.

It’s now the task of the opposition, lead by BJP, to make sure that the populist steps, that UPA has taken in the past five years and will take in future, don’t put a long term dent in the financial health of our country. But again doing so is a double edged sword. Saying anything against the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme or waiving of loans would directly hit popularity. There’s lots of credence in making people understand that any step with very short term populist outlook would be very detrimental to the same people for whom the schemes are being created.

Let’s take the example of the NREGS. Yes, it did give some economic security to around 45 million households amidst a global slowdown. But couldn’t something else be done that would have had even greater impact? Already there have been enough talks about the futility (1, 2, 3) of the work against which the employment has been provided. In many cases the sort of work done is comparable to what is said of the US about what they did to come out of the great depression of the thirties – one group digging up a hole and another filling it back. In stead of that the government could have launched many useful infrastructure projects and provided employment. The Golden Quadrilateral project has been almost stalled. A lot of employment could have been generated had all the incomplete roads were completed on time.

There’s no doubt that loan waiver scheme for the farmers was just an eye wash. In reality only the rich farmers were benefited. Majority of the poor farmers, who take money from the local money lenders, are still not benefited at all by this and they are the ones who continue to commit suicide throughout our country. In stead of waiving the loans, which anyway doesn’t impact majority of the farmers, the government can think of something like micro finance which can have much greater reach and impact.

Things like RTI and fixed terms for civil servants are indeed very good steps in instilling hopes in people. The RTI was a great success. A large number of PILs were filed in the past few years just because more and more information were available to the common people. These steps are simple to implement and can’t be criticized easily. BJP should come up with more such steps and propose them in the parliament.

It’s written in the wall that you can’t win any election any more unless you have the confidence of the bottom of the pyramid. But that doesn’t mean that you have to become populist in an unviable manner. That’s where BJP has to play a great role – that is to serve the “Aam Aadmi” in a much more efficient way than what Congress is perceived to be doing or have done.

1 comment:

arijit said...

just a few observations about why I feel the government bailed out the country from the recession

The fiscal expansion in rural india prevented a total collapse in demand. As for the claim of being populist ; well aren't petrol and diesel subsidies populist yet the bjp opposed the government tooth and nail when it wanted to delink fuel prices. Another demonstration of the bjp hypocrisy was the opposition to vat

As for your point on infrastructure and the golden quadrilateral it is well taken, however six lane highways would only help growth if they help lower logistics costs ie you have truckers using them not mercedes cars unfortunately the
Latter case is true due to exorbitant tolls.

Lastly the case on farm loan waivers benefiting rich farmers, even if the assumption is right
this so called subsidy preserves jobs in the agricultural sector and keeps the price of food grains low. Case in point global food prices are still over 200% of the historical average , have we seen that kind of inflation india'?

Now is not the time of fiscal conservatism, the economy is still not out of the woods yet. The great depression and the japanese recession have demonstrated how so called prudent fiscal policies can wreck the economy. One hopes that the bjp plays the role of a responsible ownership
And avoids its fetish of the free markets. Unfortunately the bjp past record point s to the contrary
One last point why are subsidies to the poor seen as populist while corporate subsidies (land grants , tax exemption) seen as progressive?