What is ideology? The Dictonary says that it is a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.
This is the only thought which comes to mind when we saw the Congress manifesto last week and today, the BJP manifesto.
Both are such Utopian documents, targeting farmers, the poor and distressed and yes, nationalism too. They were both on expected lines, with no surprises, no out-of-the-box thoughts. And we have seen so many such documents in the past that we know – the manifesto’s and the reality have no connection whatsoever.
We have to be aware of the poor and we need a mix of socialism and capitalism. But when everything is about giving away, we could not help but wonder, what about people like us, stuck in the middle class rut? We live day-to-day, fearing that one slip and we will come down the economic ladder, into the lower or poor class.
Take a look at the broad highlights of the manifesto; it reads like a Miss World beauty pageant speech- predictable, with nothing new, mouthing all the expected promises. Oh it all sounds so good! Like some Utopian world….
The BJP's election manifesto “Sankalp Patra Lok Sabha 2019” is all about rural development, with farmer issues at the fore, keeping in mind PM Modi’s vision to double farm incomes by 2022.
The promises made in the manifesto:
- The BJP will invest Rs. 25 lakh crore on rural development to improve the productivity of farm sector.
- To provide pension to the marginal farmers after the age of 60, known as PM-Kisan, promising an income support of Rs.6000.
- To give pension to the small shopkeepers after 60 years of age.
- To give interest free short term new farm loans for up to Rs 1 lakh for five years on the condition of prompt payment of principal amount.
- Set a target of doubling farmers income by 2022.
- Promise of a Uniform Civil Code
- Ram Mandir was back on the manifesto and the BJP promised to facilitate expeditious construction of the temple.
- To speed up the purchases of outstanding defense-related equipments and weapons.
- To ensure pucca houses for families either living in kuchha houses or without access to housing by 2022.
- To legislate a bill to prohibit and eliminate practices such as Triple Talaq and Nikah Halala.
- To do away with Article 370, annul Article 35A
- Enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution.
- Committed to 33% reservation in parliament and state assemblies through a constitutional amendment.
- 75 new medical colleges and postgraduate colleges will be established.
- To open another 200 Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidayalas schools by 2024.
- To set up 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres under Ayushman Bharat.
- Establish at least one Atal Tinkering Lab in every block.
- 100% electrification of all railway tracks by 2022.
- To develop smart railway stations across India.
- Complete the dedicated freight corridor project by 2022.
- To deplete poverty over next 5 years to single digit and then gradually eliminate it.
The manifesto has said all the right things that we want to hear. But the question is – was this driven by Congress’s manifesto, which made the promise of Rs.72,000 minimum income to 20% of the population?
The saving grace - the BJP manifesto is at least talking about giving pension to the farmers past the age of 60 yrs and not make young people lazy and unproductive with the promise of an unrealistic dole.
The other good point is the promise of zero-interest loan. This is 100-times better than promising loan waivers, which puts a burden on the entire banking system and makes farmers into deliberate defaulters. But this will also undoubtedly put more stress on the already stressed banks.
So why could the BJP not be different from the Congress and promise us schemes to improve agricultural productivity? The BJP fell into the trap set up by the Congress and instead of talking about increasing farmer income, is promising direct cash to aged farmers. Farmer distress is on account of low farm income, that cannot be substituted with doles.
Yet, how will all this be pulled off, who will pay for all these pensions and loans and that too, these are not one-time payouts, these are recurring and with time, only go up? The burden on the fiscal is already threatening to pull us all down. Mergers of PSUs, arm twisting PSUs to give out hefty dividends and other forms of raising monies – all money raised goes to fund welfare schemes; what about spending money for building infrastructure and improving the quality of life for city dwellers?
There is no talk on water, air pollution. Environmental issues are no issues at all though global warming is one of the culprits of farm distress.
And most important of all – there is nothing concrete about solving the huge crisis of unemployment.
Frankly, both the manifesto’s are similar in vein – populistic promises which burden the fiscal, giving weightage to freebies to win votes, eroding everything that represents good economics.