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An unfinished journey to fulfil tall promises

  By Vijay Darda | 31-05-2016

Political parties have the luxury of promising the moon when they are seeking our votes. But governments do not deliver even a smoothly functioning service delivery mechanism. This is a saga that is well known to voters in every democracy. Two years ago, the dreams promised by Narendra Modi and the BJP were Rs 15 lakh in the account of every citizen after getting back the black money stashed abroad, two crore jobs for the youth of the country, raising the annual income limit to ` 5 lakhs for exemption from income tax, and a separate state of Vidarbha for the people of this region. Of course, there was a long list of other promises as well, but let us confine ourselves to these three key issues.

It is true that the separate Vidarbha promise was made at the time of the state assembly elections as well. But now we have our Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis telling us that states reorganisation is a central subject, we can hold the Modi government responsible for this issue. It is the moral and constitutional responsibility of this government to fulfil this long standing demand, now that the state of Telangana has become functional. There is no logic against the separate state of Vidarbha, as both Telangana and Vidarbha were recognised as fit for separate statehood by the first states reorganisation commission in the 50s. The point is simple, both the prime minister Narendra Modi and the chief minister Fadnavis have to show the necessary political will and move ahead. They have the numbers to achieve this goal.

On the matter of the Rs 15 lakhs in our bank accounts, much before the BJP president Amit Shah came with a confessional that this was a political jumla not to be taken seriously, we the people knew that no government would fulfil this promise. For us the issue is different. It is a question of government’s sincerity and its determination to follow the right path in fighting the menace of black money. Has it created a situation where the people do not have to invest in black money while buying a house? Has it eased the conditions in terms of taxation structures and land use policy for investors in real estate to enter the sector without black money? Or are the government’s stipulations acting as a dampener for the real estate sector and curbing its growth? Why aren’t the Indians who are buying property in Dubai, not investing in India? If there are no satisfactory answers to these questions, then the drive against black money only remains on paper. Even the disclosures of the Panama Papers do not mean anything beyond sensational headlines.

Why are our exports falling and there are not employment opportunities for the job seeking youths? We welcome all initiatives like Skill India, Start-up India, Digitial India and Swacch Bharat or the other well-publicised schemes launched by the Modi Sarkar. These are good initiatives and we also do not grudge the government’s U-turns to reclaim the policies and programmes launched by the UPA like the MGNREGA and Aadhar. We know that imitation is the best form of flattery. But the moot point is that any government of the day irrespective of its political colour cannot fail the people by not providing enough jobs. The poverty of the nation is not measured by the lack of growth, but by the inability of the people to buy goods and pay for the services they need. In this respect without jobs, we can witness jobless growth, but cannot become a nation of prosperous people.

This is not to say that everything is bleak. The infrastructure sector is looking up and all our ministers from Maharashtra-Nitin Gadkari (Road and Shipping), Suresh Prabhu (Railways) and Piyush Goyal (Energy) are among the top performers in the Modi government and have given a formidable push to projects in their ministries. The combined efforts of these ministers along with the environment minister Prakash Javadekar have given rise to some hope that jobs would be available and the average standard of living would improve.

But there are two more areas of concern. Foreign policy and domestic affairs. We can judge the state of our foreign affairs by the fact that we have managed to annoy even our traditional friend like Nepal and the relations have deteriorated to such an extent that they had to sack their ambassador to India on the charges of collusion with forces to bring down the government in Kathmandu. They have also been pushed into the Chinese embrace to meet their existential requirements. This has happened when prime minister Narendra Modi has emphasised the importance of Nepal by visiting it even before he went to any western capital. In such circumstances, the less said about relations with our traditional rivals-Pakistan and China the better. All this has happened in the last two years and as against the expectation that the Modi era would improve the international environment around us, there are problems galore.

In domestic affairs, there is a needless atmosphere of hostility among the two main political parties. Everyone accepts the rivalry between the BJP and the Congress, but no one likes the hostility that is prevailing between them. The conduct of the ruling party of the day should inspire confidence in its ability to take all sections of the polity along with them. Everyone is nostalgic about the former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in this respect. He was never soft with the Congress and did not give an inch but then there was no hostility between the two parties. No one grudges Modi for seeking to achieve a Congress-Mukt Bharat but then it has to happen the Assam way and not the Uttarakhand or the Arunachal Pradesh way. The latter course is detrimental to Indian democracy. As a popularly elected prime minister Narendra Modi has taken the right path, but then he has allowed too many distractions, and committed too many unforced errors. With two of his allotted five years gone, he has the scope for making course corrections and moving ahead.

Before I conclude…

The Congress party has chosen its nominees for the Rajya Sabha and I convey my good wishes to the former finance minister P Chidambaram for getting the party’s nod from Maharashtra,. With our depleted numbers after the 2014 elections, the party can send only one candidate. I am also grateful to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi for the trust she reposed in me for the last decade or so when I represented the state in the Rajya Sabha. I also convey my good wishes to the members who have been chosen by the party former union ministers Kapil Sibal, Jairam Ramesh, Ambika Soni, Oscar Fernandes, and the new entrants senior advocate Vivek Tankha (MP), Pradeep Tamta (Uttarkhand) and Chhaya Verma (Chhatisgarh).


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An unfinished journey to fulfil tall promises


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