April 25, 2018, 9:46 pm IST
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What about Development?

What about Development?

Observer, Apr 14, 2018

Suddenly no one is talking about Development with the same passion and commitment these days.  An odd speech here and there may mention the subject in passing.  But the leaders now are mainly focusing on caste and communal issues, whipping up emotions. One can get a feeling that the coming elections to state assemblies and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls may see highly surcharged communal and caste appeals bordering on hate.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party used to claim (read boast) that Narendra Modi wins elections with his developmental agenda and alleged that was an area in which in the last 70 years nothing much has been done by successive governments. Claims on development of the country as well as promises of development of the regions where elections are scheduled do figure in the campaigns, but the focus has clearly shifted. The Congress too is no exception.  What began as soft Hindutva by Rahul Gandhi through his symbolic temple visits and sporting of an over-sized red tilak, while appearing on campaign platforms, have now become fully bloomed communal appeals.

It all began with Karnataka where the chief minister, Siddaramaiah, took to communal and caste campaigns well in advance blunting the normal campaign focus of the BJP.  His campaign for treating the Lingayat community as a separate religion, a separate flag for Karnataka and schemes for promotion of Kannada language well in advance was not anticipated by the BJP chief, Amit Shah.  Some analysts have commented that this has given an edge to the Congress, though over-exposure of Rahul Gandhi in the state well in advance of the election is now giving negative signals.

But one finds that the communal appeals for consolidation of the majority have begun in the Hindi belt states, which some interpret as an indication of early elections. During Ram Navami clashes took place in Bihar which was led by the son of a union minister.  Though the Nitish government earlier ignored the violent incidents finally it was forced to act as continued inaction would have led to violence spreading throughout the state.

Ram Navami saw violent incidents in West Bengal too. Many felt that these incidents were political moves to consolidate the communal votes. It is no secret that the BJP in the state is trying to win over the votes of the majority community while the Trinamul Congress is aiming at the minority votes.

Recently the Madhya Pradesh government gave five Hindu seers Minister of State status. The beneficiaries of the decision, Narmanand Maharaj, Harihaaranand Maharaj, Computer Baba, Bhayya Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant, are connected to various matts and ashrams.  They will get the perks of a minister and work as members of a committee set up for the conservation of the Narmada river.  With elections expected towards the end of the year the attempt is aimed at consolidation of the majority community votes.

There are other minor sops in various states with an eye on caste-communal votes. Even for local self government elections such tactics are being resorted unashamedly even by national parties in the country. Power for such political elements is clearly for distribution of patronage for caste and communal groups making a mockery of the democratic system.

Policies, programmes and ideologies have disappeared from campaigning decades ago. In the recent decades every party at least focused on development and good governance as part of its main agenda, or at least made a pretence of it.  But one finds that most political parties are now concentrating on caste and communal consolidation.  If major caste groups come together they can win elections as one saw in the recent by-elections in Uttar Pradesh.  Corruption, misuse of authority, deteriorating law and order do not matter for such people in power as they are only concerned about their preferred caste and communal groups and keeping them happy.  Some feel that the people lost trust in the promise of development and good governance as once in power, few bothered to take steps to fulfill the promises. Caste-communal political bonding is now a trend.  Some are already fanning the regional sentiments pointing to the economic discrimination.  All these do not portend well for the unity and integrity of the country. The least our leaders should do is to bring back the agenda of development replacing the caste-communal appeals.

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