By Nitya Chakraborty
With the last session of the 16th Lok Sabha ending on February 13, the stage is set for the holding of Lok Sabha elections in April/May 2019. The opposition parties have at last decided on drafting a common minimum programme for fighting the ruling NDA led by the BJP and the responsibility of drafting the CMP has been given to the Congress President Rahul Gandhi at the meeting of the senior leaders of the opposition on Wednesday night at NCP leader Sharad Pawar’s residence.
As the leader of the largest opposition party, Rahul will be drafting the CMP and this will be finalized as the manifesto of the opposition at the meeting of the senior leaders soon. There is little time left as the Election Commission is expected to announce the poll dates in the first part of March this year giving only five weeks for the first phase of polling to start.
The opposition parties are showing signs of maturity in dealing with the areas of differences in the states. While both the Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee have talked of pre poll alliance in the states, wherever possible, the best option is to ensure that maximum efforts are given to prevention of division of anti-BJP votes.There will be some mutual contests among the anti-BJP opposition parties in the states due to local compulsions, but the prime objective is to guarantee post poll alliance of these opposition parties against the BJP after the Lok Sabha elections.
The formulation of the right CMP has assumed special importance this time for the opposition parties because the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to hijack pro-people agenda to project BJP as working for the poor and te opposition CMP has to demarcate itself from the fake PM agenda and aggressively put forward a pro-people agenda which will focus on the real issues of the farmers and the new programmes for the generation of jobs for the unemployed youth.
Rahul Gandhi has a panel of the Congress Party for the preparation of the party manifesto. He has also before him the 1996 CMP of the opposition parties, supported by the Congress as also te manifesto of the Congress Party for 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Only recently the Congress prepared a pro people manifesto for the state assembly elections in Chhattisgarh. Rahul Gandhi has also articulated in recent days his proposal for a minimum income guarantee scheme for the poor.
All these ideas which will give a big push to the upgradation of the lives of the people below the poverty line as also the lower middle class, have to be given a vigorous push and the basic idea that should be the motivating force is that the economic policies have to benefit the majority and not few. The economic policies and the social programmes have to transform the society so that the inequalities are reduced. The growth process has to be based on equity and generation of more jobs not like the Modi model of jobless growth or even the Manmohan years in the second phase when the crony capitalists had a big sway on the government.
Within this broad framework of equity and social justice, two areas will have to be given maximum attention-distressed farmers and unemployed youth. Farmers have to be given a new deal comprising assured income, freedom from indebtedness and sustainable farm practices. A document titled Manifesto for Change drafted by some eminent civil society leaders led by lawyer activist Prashant Bhushan, has suggested statutory assurance for remunerative prices, at least 50 per cent on C2 cost of cultivation, one time comprehensive loan waiver along with the setting up of a National Debt Commission and extension of all benefits meant for farmers to tenant farmers, share croppers, women farmers, adivasi farmers, landless cultivators and livestock rearers.
There is need for universal basic services and social security for the underprivileged. especially ensuring good education for the poor and free healthcare for the poor in real terms. All the latest facilities have to be ensured to bring a transformation in the healthcare system in the rural and semi urban areas. Modi Government’s Ayushman Bharat scheme has many gaps and the senior citizens of te lower middle class are still being denied the free medical facilities though the health care costs have become prohibitive. The CMP of the opposition has to bring cheers to the senior citizens both in terms of social security and healthcare. The state should take the entire responsibility of health care of the senior citizens who cannot afford private health care facilities due to high costs.
Raul Gandhi has been continuously talking about the job crisis and this should be the core issue in the CMP to draw attention of the job seeking young people who were misled by the BJP and Narendra Modi before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. With the help of experts, Rahul has to prepare an ambitious job generation programme based on the speedy revival of the MSMEs and the informal sector of the rural economy. The Skill India Mission of the Modi regime is a disaster by now. It has to be rejuvenated and the start ups will have to be given new push in te right direction doing away with the hype without substance of the Modi regime.
The rejuvenation of the public sector undertakings is another area which has to be focused in the CMP. The opposition CMP has to declare its full confidence in the PSUs role in pepping up the Indian economy and all wrongdoings by the NDA regime including affecting adversely the prospects of the premier defence manufacturing company HAL, have to be corrected. A mega plan for the revival of public sector has to be worked out for giving a new direction in the economy.
Apart there are other areas for restoration of civil liberties, electoral reforms, police reforms for restoring the values of the Indian Republic. The CMP as to be the manifesto for a real change. Just a change of regime does not bring improvement in lives of te masses, it is the change in policies and its implementation that matter. Rahul Gandhi and the non-BJP opposition have to be the agent of change. If only the masses come to realize that the opposition parties really mean what they promise, they will be inspired and actively participate in bringing about the desired change in the elections. Rahul, Mamata and Sharad Pawar have to play that role of game changer in this crucial year of Indian polity.