The country recently watched Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh for the election results. Though the Himachal Pradesh elections were held in the first week of November, the results in the two States were announced simultaneously on 20 December so that the Gujarat elections are not affected. The results are not surprising. In Gujarat, though Keshubhai Patel broke off from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it was widely expected that Narendra Modi would win. However his lead is the same tally of seats as in the previous election, in fact two seats less. So more or less, Gujarat has maintained its Government and the Congress there is not even a serious challenger. As far as Himachal Pradesh is concerned, they have stuck to their pattern of changing the incumbent Government every five years. The BJP was very hopeful that they will retain Himachal Pradesh because of the bad Congress image. But the fact is that the image of Virbhadra Singh as an individual — he has been the Chief Minister three times earlier — is so good that he proved a point that he was still popular among the people. I hope the Congress will make him Chief Minister because if they don’t then there will be trouble in the party that will be detrimental to its further prospects. However these two elections are absolutely no indication of the things to come in 2014. State elections and Central elections issues are different. In Himachal Pradesh, because there are only two parties, the Congress won. If there was a third alternative, the Congress would not have done so well. Similarly in Gujarat, Keshubhai breaking away from BJP dented BJP a little bit but also cut into the anti Narendra Modi vote. If Keshubhai Patel and the Congress could have come to an understanding, there would have been trouble for Narendra Modi. This is a pattern throughout the country. Fragmented opposition votes are there, it goes in favour of one pole or the other pole. But as I have been saying in the last columns, now only one and a half years are left for the next elections. It is high time that the leading parties, the Congress and the BJP put their act together to bring democracy back on the rails. As we saw in the last few days of the Parliament session, all legislations were passed with the consent of both the Congress and the BJP, which shows that on economic policy both the parties see eye to eye. There are no serious differences between them. They are of course very shrill in abusing each other and calling each other names. But it is a serious point for a Third Front to emerge because if this joint policy of the Congress and the BJP is followed, the richer will become richer and the poor class will be crushed. The cash transfer scheme which is in discussion is no answer. And just now the cash transfer is only envisaged for ‘universality’, which is hardly an issue because there is not much fake identity or complaints at that level. The real issues are the need of the people in the villages and if that can be done through an Aadhar card or proper identity, that will be of help to the poor man. But the very risky thing is that cash transfer in other countries has not worked. In UK it has failed. New techniques and Aadhar card looks very fancy but the Government must be very careful about what they are doing. Several States will do better because the local administration is better but in other States, especially Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, things will be difficult. There is a danger that good money will be frittered away without any benefit to the poor. Whatever Government experiments they carry out, they should do it carefully and truthfully and only from the lessons they learn should they should proceed further. It is tax payer’s money, Government’s money. It will be a good thing to help the poor but the money should reach the poor, which has not happened so far. It is high time that serious introspection is done on matters which really affect the poor.
- Threat to Food and Democracy : THE SEED EMERGENCY
- The Gujarat Elections : SOME IMPORTANT LESSONS