Friday, June 14, 2024
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Bugle for 2014 poll sounded loud and clear

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By Harihar Swarup

The bugle for poll 2014 has been sounded but before that government’s welfare policies, particularly UPA’s direct cash transfer (DCT) plan, will be tested in ten states going to polls in 2013. The major states are BJP-ruled Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and National Conference-governed Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Delhi, elections are slated next year in four northeastern states — Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram. All eyes are set on the poll outcome of two-phase election in Gujarat scheduled to be held on December 13 and 17. Himachal Pradesh has already gone to polls and there are indications that the Congress may scrape through. The newly constituted co-ordination committee, headed by Rahul Gandhi, has identified five states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Karnataka — requiring special focus in the run up to 2014 general elections. Highly placed Congress sources say, these states accounting for 93 Lok Sabha seats, have been selected because there is possibility of reviving the party in these states despite its ramshackle condition.

With the exception of Odisha, which is held by Biju Janata Dal, the others are ruled by the BJP. The panel will identify and remove infirmities in these state units of the Congress and select candidates for the general election. It has accepted the ground realities and decided to tie up with Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar where the party is virtually non-existent.

UPA’s direct cash transfer scheme, popularly known by the catchy slogan — aap ka paisa, aap ke haath — may turn out to be a game changer. Apparently, the scheme is launched with the general elections in mind and proposed to be implemented throughout the country by the end of 2013. But the DCT plan, backed by the catchy slogan, may influence the voters in the ten states. Government should ask its PR agencies, along with the Congress party’s campaign managers, to take the scheme to the people and explain to them its nitty-gritty.

Surprisingly, UPA’s newfound decisiveness signals that the prolonged bout of policy paralysis is coming to an end. Be it sectoral liberalisation or DCT, government’s determination to push reforms overtly has erased the impression almost overnight that UPA is a non-performing dispensation. It will, doubtless, raise a public and electoral debate on reforms that has been missing for long. The mega corruption issues like 2G scam, Vadera issue and coal-gate appears to have receded into background.

The BJP has virtually compelled the government to concede its demand for a debate on retail FDI with voting under rule 184 but to force adjournment of parliament day after day has not gone well with the people. It is deplorable indeed for parliament to be associated with wasting public money than debating and making laws. Also with session after session having been washed out, the opposition has let the government escape replying to tough questions on issues ranging from inflation to corruption.

Crucial bills — financial sector reforms, land acquisition, Lokpal — have been frozen. Opposition insistence on voting has, in fact, worked in Manmohan Singh government’s favour. It has also made UPA constituents to close ranks, with even an anti-retail FDI party like DMK, siding with the government. With Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati desisting from embarrassing the UPA government by voting with the BJP particularly, the Prime Minister is certain to secure comfortable number of votes on rule 184 debate in the Lok Sabha. Anyway, Government is not affected in anyway even if it fails to muster up the requisite numbers in the debate under rule 184, which provides for voting. (IPA Service)

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