Job, farm data, Cong emergence

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/24/2019 12:30:14 PM IST

 India’s economic data are puzzling. Electorate preferences may not be static. The issues are there but the opposition is unable to articulate it and the ruling combine is carrying out a vociferous campaign to project itself.

It is not an easy election for the voters irrespective who the parties give or deny tickets. They are toying between emotions and the realities. They are wondering whether they should vote for emotions or as per the problems they are facing. The choice is not easy. There is a dynamic person as prime minister in Narendra Modi, who devastates all opposition logic and more so with possible Nirav Modi extradtion.

But there is also an emerging leadership not so much in the ‘mahagathbandhan’ of opposition parties but in the gradual rise of the Congress and the two siblings Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi – soft new faces of Indian politics. They are trying to touch the core with old Congress linkages of regions, castes and communities. 

They are nudging the voters to rethink and have a look at financial, job and other statistics. They are marching on gradual rise of Congress votes across India. The Congress now has a government or is part of the government in five states--Punjab, Karnataka, MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh--with 21 percent of the population, up from two states with 7 percent population in 2017.

The BJP leaders are watching every step of the two Congress leaders. They feel that Congress has only to gain in major states like UP, an old Congress bastion, where it still has its sympathizers. Somewhere there is also an apprehension that many figures and Priyanka’s “Ganga boat-yatra” through erstwhile Congress bastion, may impact voters’ minds.

Congress has two major symbolic gains.  Amrita Pandey, who is BJP’s UP president’s daughter-in-law joins Priyanka Gandhi in Varanasi, a few days after joining of Manish Khanduri, son of Uttrakhand BJP leader BC Khanduri.

Amrita says, “'I decided to join the Congress as the future belongs to it”. She accused the BJP governments at the Centre and in UP of doing precious little for the farmers, youths and other deprived sections of the society.

Amrita’s is the narrative of the Congress. Other opposition parties being fiefdom of families are less into studying statistics. But Congress is gradually harping on to it. So far, the onslaught is soft but one that is difficult to ignore.

The job data is skewed and even the debts of the government and supposedly unstated figures in the budget, is being tried to be played up. An emotionally-choked campaign trail, post-Pulwama, created by BJP is apparently covering these up. 

The figures, however, are telling and much of it has come from draft reports of parliamentary committees, NSSO and CAG. On issues of defence too, the handling of the situation in parliamentary committee has not been deft. The government is careful not to fall into the trap raising issues of nationalistic interests.

The CAG has pointed out to a huge-off-budget financing of about Rs 4 lakh crore in 2016-17. It says it could pose fiscal risk in the long term in case the entity that raises the funds fails to meet debt servicing.

The jobs data row has led to quitting by top statisticians. As official figures of NSSO, considered reliable, were not available, not so firm figures of a private organisation, CMIE, got credence. The CMIE says around 31 million people are unemployed, the highest since October 2016.

There are also figures of male (earlier it were female) workforce reduction. The NSSO’s periodic labour force survey 2017-18 shows males account for 28.6 crore employed. Since 1993-94 when the male workforce was 21.9 crore it swelled to 30.4 crore in 2011-12. This indicates that fewer male were employed in 2017-18. It reduced even in rural areas.

In India, the unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job has been updated only this March. It says actual unemployment is 6.1 percent up from 3.41 in December, 2014. The World Bank reported it in the latest report. Overall, labour force participation dropped in 2017.

Such figures always discomfort a government, particularly when it elections are around. The government is coming out with figures of MUDRA loans. The banks, however, find these adding to the NPA and are reluctant to proffer it.

Is there a discontent? Apparently, it is not being noticed. Nobody is talking about it. The charisma of BJP leadership is covering it up. These also can be deceptive. The voter is silent. It does not mean people are not aware of their problems.

The cash dole, once a strict no of the BJP, of Rs 6,000 a year to farmers is a mixed bag. Western UP and Maharashtra farmers want that the sugar mills should not sit over their about Rs 25,000 crore dues and pay it. This they consider is reneging on the promise of doubling their income. No one, however, denies that the cash dole is a relief post-demonetisation.

So is the Congress connecting with the rural mass? It is trying but its worker base is weak and so is the reach. Wherever possible, it is sending messages or holding on to people’s issues. The cow is holy for BJP and is not so unholy for Congress, SP or BSP. 

The cow vigilantism and check on smuggling to Bangladesh has added to the woes of farmers in UP and many other places. It has swelled the stray cattle population. In hordes, they rummage crops resulting in a clash between the cattle and the rural populace. It disturbs societal harmony too.

The opposition is silently carrying out a campaign of disrespecting “gau-mata” and cruelty to it. The castes that used to collect and dispose of the carcasses are refraining from doing it further widening social tensions.

 The opposition is carrying out an emotional campaign against the BJP, which had promised to protect the cow. 

The rice-growing areas are facing another problem. As rupee appreciates and the government takes its credit, it has slumped rice exports.

Rising prices are affecting Indian sales to Africa. It may soon become a farm distress issue.

The election is not bereft of issues. The economic issues are stark. Changing political scenario can make a difference. It only points to an all-out impending battle. The churning would help reshape the future.

Shivaji Sarkar

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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