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Employment generation for farm sector is priority for BJP

Saturday, January 13, 2018
By Prakash Bal Joshi

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has won the Gujarat state legislative assembly with comfortable but reduced majority sending an alert to the central leadership of the party to take note of simmering discontent among rural voters.

Despite demonetisation and GST hurdles, the party has been able to retain its hold over urban centres while there has been little slide as compared to the results registered during general elections held in year 2014. No wonder, minute analysis of the results has been carried out and lots of brain storming session have been held to find out causes and remedies to retain party’s hold over voters in view of coming general elections scheduled in year 2019.

It appears that the government has taken few corrective measures based on its experience during the Gujarat elections and conclusions drawn after its impact. No one within the party knows that people can wait for long to experience “Achhe Din” promised on the eve of the last general elections. No one will down play some of landmark decisions taken in the field of economy and governance since the NDA government came to power but such promises of future will not be sufficient to retain support of floating voters. Those who are committed would continue to support and those politically opposed will be casting votes against but the large sections of non-committed voters are the key to win and defeat.

So, unless and until certain decisions, may be popular are taken and people get some direct relief from the hardships, it will be most difficult for the NDA to secure continued support from large sections.

Underemployement in urban areas is key concern
With the majority of voters being in age group of below 35, unemployment in rural areas and underemployment in urban areas is the main concern for the ruling party. With three and half years already over, very little has been achieved in this area of main concern. Creation of jobs and creating self-employment opportunities will be main focus of the government since the creation of jobs was one of the major promise which attracted large number of youths in rural as well as urban India towards BJP ditching the Congress and its allies due to large scale alleged corruptions in many cases. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley is handling herculean task of maintaining fiscal discipline and aggressive disinvestment. The recent decision to disinvest Air India is one such decision where direct foreign investment will be allowed up to 49 per cent.  

These measures being technical with great social impact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi first consulted top leaders of the party and later held a marathon meeting with bureaucrats and economic experts to seek solutions for creation of jobs by boosting service and manufacturing sectors in the country. Several measures were discussed and debated basically to boost farm income, manufacturing and exports to ensure massive generation of employment in organised as well as unorganised sectors. The government wants to put the economy on high growth so that more jobs could be generated by introducing short term as well as long term measures.

The BJP is harnessing new ideas to be inducted as a PM’s vision for New India 2022 which could also be included in shaping up the budget estimates for coming budget session of the Parliament.  Though it is not yet clear what kind of suggestion were made and accepted, the general emphasis was on giving more priority to the agriculture sector and measures for increasing the size and scale of manufacturing and exports. The government will have no alternative but to boost service sector and labour-intensive sectors to create more jobs at ground level. With industry pushing in for more labour reforms, there is also caution sounded against making them harsh against the welfare of labour and need to improve conditions of contractual labours. Conducive atmosphere and not clash of interest will lead to better production and improved labour relations.

The BJP has also become aware of drastic conditions of farm economy and discontent among farmers in general. The government has shifted its focus from pressurising for optimum production to development of mechanism where producers of agriculture products will get better returns without affecting consumers in urban and semi urban areas.

Sporadic positive reports about Indian economy by international organisations like the World Bank, S&P and Moody’s help the ruling front to counter attacks on the government by the Congress and other opposition parties. The recent report projecting over 7 per cent GDP growth for the next three years (2018-20) has been greeted by the BJP and its allies knowing fully well that these reports are good for social media wars, but unless and until its impact are felt on ground, these reports are useless as far as managing elections are concerned. In a major move, the government has approved 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in single-brand retail and construction through the automatic route. This is part of a move assure  ease of doing better business and generate more jobs  route. The existing policy on Single Brand Retail Trading (SBRT) allows 49 per cent FDI under automatic route, and FDI beyond 49 per cent and up to 100 per cent through government approval route.

Move is double-edged weapon
This move has proved a double-edged weapon. The Congress has criticised the government move saying that as an opposition party, the BJP had opposed it for safeguarding interests of local players.  The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) objected to the government’s move to allow 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail, saying the decision would lead to an easy entry for multi-national companies and harm domestic trade. Ironically, it is going to hit trading community which is by and large has been supporting the BJP. As expected the CPI(M) has opposed the move to allow foreign players to invest in Air India hurting national pride and security aspects. The Congress questions the talk of “make in India” and how the new policy will make things available made abroad hurting manufacturing sector in the country. There is also some opposition within BJP allies who wants to protect local traders and oppose FDI without ensuring transfer of technologies from the MNCs to Indian partners.

The government is also bound to use the opportunity for taking such populist measures at the time of presenting annual budget. In a bid to appease middle class and urban elites, the government may increase the exemption limit of income tax and give relief to large sections of society. Without hurting the economy, even the income tax structure may be revised to make it heavy top but lighter at the lower slabs.

Apart from taking these major policy initiatives, the political mangers will also give attention to changing political scenario. In Gujarat, the Congress was seen more aggressive and adopted engaging leaders who were carrying out movements for specific demands. That has led to cast conflicts and Maharashtra saw sporadic violence and caste conflicts. The BJP would be weary about such caste conflicts as they tend to divide their pro Hindutva votes which gets divided. The politics as we have seen for last two decades, apart from the talk of development, when it becomes difficult the political parties adopt tactics to divert attention of voters from real issues and rake up emotional issues. The next general elections are bound to be mix of both.

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