12 - 11 - 2019

Economy back on voters’ mind; Cong can emerge sans Gandhis

The Haryana and Maharashtra election results speak. The Congress can do without Gandhis, regional parties have their sheen and dominant castes have strong minds and clear strategies.

Non-dominant castes also can swing away making it difficult to repeat UP, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal poll scenario. The warhorses like 79-year-old Sharad Pawar of NCP and 72-year-old BS Hooda of Cocngress have turned the fortunes of their party muting impact of BJP’s star campaigners. Similarly, KCR has maintained his domination in Telangana. In UP, Saamajwadis still control sizeable chunk.

And the economy certainly is in the minds of voters. Even a villager is now weary of the sinking banks, NBFCs, the financial sector and agrarian woes. They realise that reforms mean rising fees, charges, more risks, less facilities and they have no security for their deposits beyond ridiculous Rs 1 lakh ‘insurance”.
The World Bank ease of doing business (EDB) index shows improvement in ranking to 63 from 77 among 190 countries. But people seem to read beyond. India has done poorly in EDB on four heads – enforcing contracts, registering properly, starting business and paying taxes. The latest scores do not show any change. On enforcing contracts, India retains its 163rd rank, on registering property 154th; lowly on starting business at 136; as for paying (capability) taxes 115.
These speak volume of high stamp duties, uncomfortable excesses of GST or income tax and resources required for starting businesses remains difficult. 
Political parties may reject these officially but they have realized that they have to be more responsible and mere rhetoric or raising extraneous issues would not work. 
The results also surprised pollsters – the survey companies. They are off the mark. The reason is obvious. They are in business of TRP and not disseminating news. 
Any observer can predict poll results with 98 to 99 percent accuracy if he travels through constituencies, meet people, just not leaders, talk to them, have data, is devoid of bias or a tilt. The pollsters instead are for quick money. The voter is discerning. They want parties and their governments to deliver to their needs. They want them to provide jobs, proper wages, right prices to farmers and just not doles of a yearly Rs 6000 pension with strings attached. 
The voters also do not want to part with their 10 or 15-year-old vehicles, a draconian rule that is not followed anywhere in the world, even the most advanced US or UK. If governments are apathetic, retribution of the people is natural. The message is clear – government cannot work against the interest of the people on pseudo-environment issues.
With the rise of BJP, they want probity in public life, a cry Lal Krishna Adavani had given in the late 1990s. The defectors have been given the deserving treatment and possibly this could become shriller in future elections if really tainted, money-powered criminals, like Gopal Kanda, are taken into fold for forming governments. It can affect their credibility. 
The parties need to remember that clean Rajiv Gandhi had to pay heavy price for the Bofors taint. The future polls may be tougher for political groupings if their track records do not match high-pitched campaigning. 
The present polls also indicate that public mind is not so short as to forget their daily woes, increasing cost of living, problems of complicated taxes, tolls, fess and arrogance of their representatives. No wonder eight of 10 cabinet ministers lose in Haryana. Maharashtra also saw eight ministers losing.
Many who lost now rue distancing themselves from the people – voters. Some rue wry comments like ‘people are not hungry as they queue up at public toilets’. The truth is even the global hunger index ranking of 102 tells Indians are hungry, malnourished and find it difficult to afford for a meal. 
Poverty technically might have come down but disparity has increased. In many cases, the so-called middle class is just on the edge of poverty. Getting elected and empowered is fine but making mockery of the abysmal conditions of the people may cost dear.
The parties getting away from reality also need to learn cutting bank deposit interest rates, selling the family silver of public sector companies, giving large benefits to favourite companies or a particular clan are not liked by voters.
Voters show that they can vote differently in the assembly and parliamentary elections. National issues like 370, 35-A, Balakot and nationalism, the main narratives in polls, had less impact. On the contrary it seems people want them to be wooed on local issues like lack of jobs, villages unconnected by roads, farm distress, rural issues and on ways to beat economic slowdown.
In Haryana, apparently the Jat-Dalit-Muslim combination seems to have worked for the Congress and helped it improve its performance. The Congress is now at the centre stage in the state.
 It may give ideas to others in many parts of the country. The BJP seems to have borne the brunt of Jat anger – rather their neglect or as it is said in Haaryana, the Punjabi domination, unemployment and rural distress.
In Maharashtra, the Maratha revival brought NCP as key performer. It led BJP fortunes to plummet 105 from the last poll’s 122 making it more dependent on its moody ally Shiv Sena. The Sena also has now reduced strength of 55 now from 62..
The opposition is re-energised. The Congress may emerge in a new avatar without Gandhis and may be reviving its core ideology. Regional parties may breathe afresh. 
The BJP came to power on pro-people promises. It has to recall all those and act accordingly. Frequent polls are a measure to keep the faltering rulers on track. It also has to clear the shroud on EVM, not for the machine but for the credibility of the largest party. It has to rethink on shrill slogans and nationalistic projections.
The issue in poll everywhere has been the basics of economy and overall well-being. If that is taken care of any party would marvel. 
People don’t like hypocrisy. They do not want pro-people slogans and hobnobbing with tycoons. It is the country of the highest number of poor, who feel oppressed by policies. 
Elections are meant for course correction. Those who would be on right path would be the cynosure of eyes and rule the roost. It may be a new beginning and lot of churning Ends.
 
Shivaji Sarkar