Tarun Reflex

November 27, 2008

Bad economics paves way for good politics

It may not sound like a poll slogan, but several BJP leaders have coined a term, 3i, to be used during the ongoing campaign in six states. While seeking a mandate for this crucial round of Assembly polls just ahead of the next year’s general elections, BJP top guns have explained that 3i stands for inflation, internal security and incompetence of the UPA-led Central government.
No wonder, the principal Opposition party at the Centre took a conscious decision at 11, Ashoka Road, the party headquarters in New Delhi , that it would go offensive against the Central government rather than getting itself limited to local statelevel issues, which usually dominate assembly polls in India.
After all, the party is ruling in three important poll-going states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan — which forces it to avoid local agenda to buck anti-incumbency trends.
That simple logic has made the BJP resorting to a few select economic issues, including price rise, global recession and finally the anti-employee postures adopted by a few corporate houses.
“I have been telling the masses here in Madhya Pradesh that if the Congress had three big economists, Prime Minister himself, finance minister and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, why could not they foresee that such a big economic crisis was round the corner.
They could have made an effort to insulate our country from the rest of the world. Let the people know that India was ill-prepared to face any eventuality,” says BJP president Rajnath Singh.
The Congress, however, refutes the charges levelled against it. The party, which just runs Delhi, or in other words one out of the five poll-going states, excluding J&K , has been desperately making an effort to evoke anti-incumbency feelings among local constituents.
The strategy is simple — ride on state-level anti-incumbency factors but don’t allow the same sentiment against the Centre to prevail upon the local masses. And that has made the Congress going truly defensive so far as economic issues are concerned. The direction is straight and simple, hit upon all local agenda in BJP-run states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Says senior Congress leader and Union minister of science and technology Kapil Sibal, “Inflation has been coming down over the last few weeks, and it’s no longer an issue. Even the Opposition has stopped raking it up as prices of commodities have come down. I have been campaigning in Delhi, and recently attended poll meetings in Rajasthan. The mood is very much in favour of the Congress.”
Sibal further says that no economic issue, that the world has been debating post-Lehman Brothers episode in mid-September , can make any impact on state-level elections. The Centre has, however, been repeatedly asking India Inc not to lay off employees as it could turn out to be a major issue in favour of the Opposition.
Some experts even term finance minister P Chidambaram’s recent appeal to the corporate India to resort to price cuts as a conscious attempt to generate a feel-good atmosphere among the 400-million strong Indian middle class.
The government has already given a festival bonanza to 55 lakh Central government employees by raising their pay. What has followed the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission is a liberal hike of salaries of PSU (public sector undertaking) employees as well.
Senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, feels that the UPA government won’t be able to cover up its inability to tackle global economic onslaught. “They (Congress) were talking about creating jobs till recently.
Now, people have begun to lose jobs. What the Centre is doing? Virtually nothing. In addition to the 3i slogan, we have had a slogan for Delhi — ceiling, billing and killing. The electricity bills have risen four times during the last few years, which is a big burden for the common people,” he says.
Yet, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who is seeking a mandate for the third time in a row, has not been haunted by old episodes of onion prices going up to Rs 40 and beyond!

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