Politics Of Convenience And Opportunism
It can perhaps happen only in India where a party which has managed only 37 out of 224 Assembly seats has been able to instil its Head as the Chief Minister of an important State. Whereas the other 2 major parties which won 80 and 104 seats in the same Assembly election respectively are not directly in power. The answer to this quandary is simple; it is the politics of convenience which is at the display. In India, any 2 or more parties, which have fought bitterly against each other during the polls, shamelessly come together into a post-poll alliance to grab power. Ideologies don’t matter, people’s mandate is of no consequence; the only thing that does matter is to somehow usurp the throne. And why do parties want to come to power- to make more money and to leverage personal gains for its members?
Before India became independent, people joined politics to serve others, whereas now they join parties only to serve self. They can only achieve this by coming to power either by hook or by crook. Our political representatives initially strive to recover the enormous amounts of electoral expenditure that they had incurred during an election. After recovery, it is time for more accumulation. If there is still some time left before the next polls, some token service is rendered to people, but that too with an eye to garnering votes from them in coming elections.
The Brazeness Of Politics
The politics of today is at an all-time low. Sample this- Post poll alliances were preferred by the respective Governor’s in States like Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, but in Karnataka, the party with the largest no. of seats was invited by the Governor to form the Govt. To add more brazenness to this scenario the invited party kept on clinging to power till the very last moment when all its efforts to wean away MLA’s from other parties fell flat. The other coalition also acted quite dramatically when their MLA’s were kept under 24 hrs surveillance in plush hotels, just to ensure that they do not trade themselves to the other side.
Here we are talking about the behaviour of our elected representatives who are supposed to be reflecting the collective will of their electorates. Post polls, the MLA’s these days are almost openly offered plum posts, cabinet berths, obscene amounts of money etc to cross over to the other side and they readily oblige, belying the faith of their electorates in the process. Several parties in India are known to openly take the side of whichever party comes to power irrespective of ideology. The party in power at the centre doles out financial packages and aid to their political allies while discriminating against other states. Principles and ideologies have thus taken a back seat in the Indian political milieu.
Practising Populism To Garner Votes And Stay In Power
If we see the conduct of our elected representatives in Parliament/Assemblies, we feel ashamed and frustrated. Sessions after sessions of Parliaments/Assemblies are washed away as one party or the other disrupts its proceedings due to one reason or the other. There are no fruitful debates in these places anymore, just raucous yelling and commotion has become the order of the day. In such a scenario, important bills keep pending or keep oscillating between the 2 houses of Parliament/Assembly. The result is that little or no development or progress happens at the actual ground level. Eventually, when the next election is on the anvil, the astute political parties know that they cannot face the electorate on the basis of their work done over the last 4 years. However, they have devised a clever strategy to divert their focus. They do so by announcing populist measures.
Tamilnadu was the first Indian State which started this trend. The politics of cheap rice was first played out in 1967 when DMK founder CN Annadurai promised 4.5 Kg of rice for Rs 1 through the state public distribution system. This populist measure was embraced wholeheartedly by other parties in both Tamilnadu and in India overall. Cheap rice was followed by free colour TV’s, cash doles or farm loan waivers, 2 acres of land to the landless, free gas stoves, Rs 300 cash doles for the unemployed, maternity assistance of Rs 1000 to all poor women for six months; as well as the free power to weavers. Over the years the politics of announcing populist schemes have become almost a norm in India. Most of the times these populist schemes are financed by public money ie through increased levies and taxation. So citizens should realise that the freebies given by their political masters are not actually free; in fact, all of us bear the brunt of these freebies, by giving in to ever increasing new levies and taxes.
Recent Populist Schemes And Their Impact
Farm Loan Waivers
Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka have announced farm loan waivers this year after a string of farmer suicides in these States. It is estimated that the combined fiscal deficit of the States in Financial Year 2018 was 3% of the GDP or Rs 4.99 Trillion. Here it may be noted that the farm debt waivers announced by UP and Punjab were part of their respective FY 2018 budgets, but the waivers announced by Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka are outside their budgets. Now, these states will have to either generate additional resources to fund farm debt waivers or cut their budgeted expenditure. Whenever there is an expenditure compression, the axe usually falls first on the budgeted capital expenditure followed by social expenditure. Both cuts do not augur well from the point of view of the medium to long-term growth prospects of these states.
Free Housing & Farm Subsidy For The Poor
The ambitious scheme of providing 5.72 Lakh 2 BHK houses to the poorest of the poor in Telangana State has grabbed many eyeballs recently. Out of these, 2.76 Lakh houses at a cost of Rs 18,000/- crore are targeted to be completed by 2019 in Phase 1, while the remaining 2.76 lakh houses would be completed in 2 other phases by 2024. The combined expenditure thus would be around Rs 36,000 crores. The State Govt. has followed this scheme by announcing farm subsidy of at least Rs 5,000 crores. The State also indulged in the laudable but expensive Mission Bhagiratha Scheme as well. The result is that the present State Govt. commitments have reached about Rs 40,000 crores by way of pending bills, subsidies, contribution to CSS (Centrally Sponsored Schemes) and others. In the present financial conditions, the state govt. was not in a position to clear the pending bills this fiscal year.
Populist Schemes Announced By Central Govt. In The Last Budget
The Central Govt. to has announced a spate of populist schemes with an eye on next year’s general election. The Govt. decided to set up a National Health Protection scheme that aims to cover 100 million poor families and reach out to approximately 500 million beneficiaries, providing Rs 5 Lakhs per family per year.
The Govt also decided to increase the MSP (Minimum Support Price) of all kharif crops by one and a half times and launch ‘Operation Green’ with a fund of Rs 500 crore, to boost the production of onions, potatoes and tomatoes.
The Govt. also decided to increase the outreach of the Ujjwala Scheme to 80 million more women, Saubhagya to 40 million families and building 20 million more toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission. These schemes are expected to have a huge social impact.
Most of the abovementioned schemes have been launched with noble motives and they are mostly directed to the poorest of the poor in our country. To take an example- the mid-day meal scheme for school students has been a grand success, generating a great amount of goodwill among the poor who sent their children to school, at least to have one good meal a day. The only problem is the implementation and the final result of these schemes, as many of them may fall prey to corrupt handling and fall apart mid-way. Let’s hope and pray that this time they succeed for the betterment of our Country.