WHEN GOVERNANCE SUFFERS

Holding elections & letting people exercise their franchise is a fundamental duty & obligation of the government. But can there be a system, a guarantee that governance wouldn’t suffer in the interregnum?

BY DANFES

2019 Lok Sabha polls are going to be a watershed event in our political history. It is no ordinary election. The landscape has so dramatically changed from one of a Pro-Modi to ‘WHO’ next. Such is the diverse, coming of age, of our electorate that there is seen no wave, no sure anti-incumbency, no clear winners anticipated & no overwhelming sentiment for or against anyone, anywhere. While there is palpable unease about something that people can’t fully comprehend, there is some frustration too about how this government has slipped from its unassailable status to one of an equal contestant in a span of months. Regardless, governance takes at hit in the prelude to an election & the common man suffers the ignominy of having to wait for an expectant incumbent before he hit the road running.

Quite like most of the governments, Modi government too has been on an overdrive in the election year. It wouldn’t be an understatement though that they have in fact been in election gear & fatigue from the day they were elected. The reason for such an impression taking centre stage is the extremely pro-active involvement of our Prime Minister in one state election after the other. BJP & it’s think tank have been so dependent on their ‘Man Friday’ that one could hardly hazard a guess on his whereabouts anytime one wished to. But that is when the real duty towards effective governance becomes a casualty. So it is natural for the Government to let its hair loose & not bother too much about its performance etc as the elections draw nearer.

It is then that you see a barrage of its rainy day arsenal, a backup plan, unleashed in the form of sops, schemes & unrealistic promises, all in the hope of retuning to power. We continue to expect some more rabbits out of the bag before the election code of conduct come into play. Typical of an election year, it is the political one-upmanship that takes centre-stage over any other business including the legislative business. The problems begin from here. When the reformist agenda gives way to a populist alternative, the narrative changes from one of a continuum in growth to a pause mode; In fact the momentum that may have been achieved in the months before tends to weaken & there is a shift in people oriented, nation centric policy & program to one of tending to vote bank politics.

So while the Government brought in the 10% quote for forward castes on the penultimate day of the winter session, it was a clear indication of their intent. To appease the upper caste Hindus along with a miniscule other minorities, with an eye on the general elections; it was Mr. Modi who had voiced his serious reservations about earmarking such quota when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister in 2013. Back then & now the spectre of jobless growth continues to haunt India. Despite being touted as the world’s fastest growing major economy, India’s employment rate declined from 43.5% in January 2016 to 40.6% in March 2018, a recent report by the credit ratings agency CARE states. Even though the pool of employed people has increased in absolute terms, the growth rate has tapered. In financial year 2018, for instance, employment grew at a mere 3.8%, compared with 4.2% in the previous fiscal. This does not bode well for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had led BJP to a resounding victory in the 2014 general election on the promise of bringing more jobs. Now that his tenure is about to end, we are yet to see the promise of 10 million jobs a year reaching fruition. That is the problem with election promises.

Even when Modi had embarked upon large scale structural reforms including those of Demonetisation & GST, these were not without risk however. These become more pertinent issues in the international context of growing US protectionism, when strengthening of dollar could further weaken the rupee, putting pressure on the current account deficit and leading to slightly higher inflation. Demo was an economic disaster just like public sector banks were allowed to slip into recess with rigid credit policy & reforms.
The opposition parties also do not let the Government any easy ride deciding to send most of the bills to select committees when they are taken up in the Rajya Sabha. Landmark reform bills like Aadhar amendment bill that seeks to amend the Telegraph Act and the Prevention of money laundering act to make its use voluntary are a cause of concern for the ruling party.

There is low optimism that governance shall not be impacted during the election time. While we cannot be out rightly critical of the incumbent dispensation for seeking a fresh mandate, we should have a system in place that ensures delivery to the common masses. It is natural to see frenzy & cacophony play out in the time preceding an election, but it is equally important that the agenda of governance stays its course & that no government should hold back from carrying on with fulfilling its obligation to the very electorate they go back to. Instead of pandering to vote bank politics, parties would be better served if they cater to much larger common man’s issues of efficient service turnarounds, creation of jobs, improving healthcare, reducing corruption, bringing in accountability & reforming the corporate sector.

The hope of winning under the subterfuge of a less convincing yet compelling agenda encompassing Triple Talaq, quota, Ram Mandir shall be a disservice to the mandate you have had got in the first place.
The people by & large can see through these shenanigans which reek of a corrupt ideology aimed at reaching out to the potential voter base.
Creating base for votes is no substitute for taking the bull by the horns & answering questions on core issues like Rafale, fake data, farmer distress & cronyism. Real governance is rewarded, faking this is punished.