By Nitya Chakraborty
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has set the right tune at a programme in Delhi on Thursday when he said that the coming election is not going to be Opposition versus BJP-it is going to be the BJP versus the rest of the country. Kejriwal was in the stage along with the Congress leader Manish Tewari and the former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. The maverick CM who earlier strongly shunned the company of the Congress Party due to his objection to the GOP’s record of corruption said ‘the people are going to fight the 2019 elections. Parties will not fight. The battle is going to be between your(pointing to Sinha) leader, your big leader and the people”.
Arvind was in fact mirroring the changes that have taken place in the Indian polity in the last forty months of Narendra Modi regime.AAP and the Congress are sharing the stage along with the controversial BJP leader Yashwant Sinha who is in fact speaking for the disgruntled BJP masses. The emerging unity of these aggrieved masses due to the all round failure of the Modi government, is the sign of hope for the opposition. The anti-Modi masses will force them to take a joint position against the BJP and the saffron forces in the coming polls in both the states and the centre.
But this anti Government mood at the ground level at all levels of the population, can be taken advantage of only if the opposition parties recognize the realities and make all efforts to arrive at a common understanding to fight the main enemy. The Congress, being the largest political party and the only party which will be fighting the BJP in the coming electoral battle in most of the major states, has to share the big responsibility for forging such opposition unity- both for electoral battle as also for mass actions outside. There is need for massive joint actions by the opposition parties both for saving the secular values and the democratic ideals of the country as also making strong protests against the sharp rise in unemployment in the country due to the faulty economic policies of the Modi government. This movement m ust bring into its fold not only the mass organizations of the leading opposition political parties, but also the members of the civic society, the NGOs and all those including those in the BJP who have become vocal at the ground level at the anti-people policies of the NDA government.
Delhi chief minister has explained the atmosphere under the Modi regime when he said” you cannot imagine the atmosphere of fear that is pervading in the country- and I am not saying this fear is only among muslims and Christians-across the board, there is fear among traders, industrialists, stock market- everywhere there is fear. How can the country function like this?”.This is an emergency type situation without any official declaration of emergency and this requires the same out of the box response. Prime Minister, who is mainly responsible for the present social and economic mess of the country, is refusing to learn any lessons. He is parroting in the same way that the demonetisation has been a success when all the official data including those of Reserve Bank of India, are contradicting him. Demonetisation has triggered a long term trend of slowdown in the economy by adversely hitting the informal sector and the small and medium industries having maximum employment potential in the Indian economy.
According to a leading economist Dr. Arun Kumar, various private surveys were carried out during the period of severe impact from demonetisation and they reported a consistently dramatic decline of between 60 to 80 per cent in the unorganized sectors of the economy and a consequent increase in unemployment. This is significant since 93 per cent of the workforce is In this sector. All this led to a drastic fall in demand.RBI data says that capacity utilization in the organized industry was low and hovered between 70 and 75 percent during demo0netisation period. There is no data on capacity utilisation in unorganized industry. All this impacted investment adversely and that slows down growth of economy, way beyond the immediate period of currency note shortages. It is this slowdown in the unorganized sector that is manifesting itself in the economy. Dr. Kumar says that credit offtake declined to a historic 60 year low during demonetisation and further to negative growth in July and August 2017.This reflects the fall in production and investment. This near zero growth is the real cause of worry which the Modi government is not taking into account at all.
Rather, the Prime Minister is still misleading the public by quoting wrong figures, even contradicting the official RBI data, out of sheer arrogance. At his address at ICSI golden jubilee celebrations on October 4, Mr. Modi flayed his critics for spreading pessimism and gave figures to show his regime in a positive light.PM brushed off his detractors by saying that it is not the first time that the GDP had dipped to 5.7 per cent growth rate and that we should not be so critical of BJP’s handling of matters economic.PM mentioned a series of numbers and said that RBI has predicted 7.7 per cent growth in the coming quarters. But on both these counts, the facts are otherwise. Modi government changed the GDP methodology in 2015 and if that was applied , the UPA regime’s growth rate would have been 2 per cent more than estimated then and that is much more than 5.7 per cent. Prime Minister must be knowing this, but still he made this point which had no basis. Again RBI in its latest policy report revised the value added growth (GVA) at 6.7 per cent much less than what the PM mentioned.
For the Congress Party, this is the ideal opportunity to strike at the Modi Government and the BJP. The state assembly elections in Himachal and Gujarat are due in the next 2-3 months. Congress is the main party to fight the BJP in these two states. The outcome of the assembly elections in these two states, has crucial importance for the coming assembly elections in 2018 and finally on the Lok Sabha poll. Despite the Congress being the leading party of the opposition, Rahul has to mobilize the support of the other non-BJP parties in favour of the Congress and if possible, there can be some sharing of seats in both the states with other parties which have got substantial strength in the designated constituencies. In effect, Rahul has to take a flexible approach in the Congress election strategy so that the coming electoral battle can really be turned into a direct fight between the BJP and the anti BJP masses led by the Congress. This will be in line with what Arvind Kejriwal said at his address in Delhi on October 5.
The election manifesto of the Congress for the state assembly elections must be in preparation now. The major focus has to be on the economy covering in details the problems faced by each section of the people in their day to day living. Demonetisation and GST have affected a large population in both states of Himachal and Gujarat, The Congress vice president is just back from a successful tour of Gujarat and he is set to go on election campaign in Himachal. These two assembly elections are the golden opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to show his leadership and expertise in forging a viable opposition unity on the basis of a common minimum programme. Rahul should know that the masses are watching including those who voted for Narendra Modi and his Party in May 2014.Most of them have been pushed to the wall. Rahul can be the instrument of another change if he can inspire that confidence. (IPA Service)