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Raising Aspirations of Aam Aadmi
|by Dr. Jaipal Singh|
In the results declared on 10th February, 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Shri Arvind Kejriwal has a landslide victory. Winning sixty-seven seats (54.3% votes) out of the seventy assembly segments is no ordinary feat and the party convener, top leadership, candidates and supporters deserve full marks and appreciation for this unprecedented victory. In a parliamentary democracy, what really matters is the people’s mandate and people in Delhi have this time solidly rallied behind the AAP on their dream agenda of good governance and better life for citizens. Irrespective of any difference in opinion or party affiliation, people’s mandate and faith in AAP must be endorsed and respected.
It may be remembered on the last occasion in 2013, the AAP formed a government with the support of the Congress Party and the government lasted only for 49 days. The period was characterized by retreating from the hasty decisions, freebies to common public putting undue stress on the exchequer, confrontation within the Legislative Assembly, Dharna and agitation against the federal government before quitting within the short period. This was followed by another fiasco in General Elections at the national level where the Party fought against the maximum seats all over the country and miserably lost. Ever since Shri Kejriwal, often branded as the runaway Chief Minister, and the AAP have been constantly apolizing and pleading before the Delhi public that they could not deliver last time because of fragmented mandate given to them and will now meet all promises made if the Party is given another chance with full mandate. Commensurate with the sky high raised aspirations, the common public has now given them another chance with a thumping majority with hardly any opposition left and now it will be an acid test for the Party to deliver on the promises made.
Losers, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) need to do some soul searching now. While BJP has some face saving by winning three seats with vote share dipped by only about one percent to 32.2 as compared to previous assembly elections about a year back, the Congress has to really worry with their complete rout and the vote bank shrinking to about 9.8% as compared to 24.55% in 2013 assembly elections. In other words, the major chunk of traditional Congress voters have switched over to the AAP that has ensured a landslide victory with virtually no opposition left.
Though the author has no affiliation, sympathy or aversion with any political party yet at the same time he has not been appreciative of the AAP particularly keeping in view what they did last time after winning the people’s mandate. But the outcome of this election and meteoric rise of the AAP has certainly compelled him, like many others too, to ponder as to what are the likely reasons behind this extra-ordinary feat. Obviously, the answers mainly lie in the AAP Manifesto and seventy-point Action Plan on which perhaps they have been able to successfully persuade and convince the Delhi electorate in their door-to-door campaigning and canvassing. Then BJP’s disproportionate and aggressive campaign with massive involvement and deployment of the Central leadership, manpower and material resources in a small state election and last minute change of the flag-bearer are perhaps negative factors having failed to convince the electorate. Of course, total disillusionment and alienation of the electorate with the Congress is another significant factor.
The salient points from the AAP Manifesto and Action Plan are briefly summarized here:
Stability and good governance are indeed key factors for the sustained and long term development and growth of any community, state or country. General public which actually constitutes electorate in a democratic set up must also learn that it is their bounden duty to pay at least for the cost of the service they receive, barring certain unprivileged sections of the society for whom the state must render partial or full support for a given period through subsidy etc. If a person is using electricity or water or cooking gas, he or she must be willing to pay for the reasonable cost of the same. India is a vast country of over 1250 million people and surely Delhi is better placed than the rest in terms of resource deployment, infrastructure development and civic amenities etc.
To provide any service - free or otherwise, to open any school or college, to augment health and sanitation, and for that matter for any other development, the government needs resources through an approved budget. In ordinary parlance, the budget is an estimate of all revenues and expenditure of the government for the given period which, at best, could be partially supplemented by certain miscellaneous mechanism such as borrowings, raising of treasury bonds etc. In the common Jargon, we call it the tax payer’s money and any government can spend only to the extent it has raised resources. If a government does not realize the cost of service and keeps taxation to naught or minimal, and resorts to freebies and subsidies as a populist measure, it remains questionable as to how it will augment resources to create housing, new schools and colleges, hospitals and healthcare, roads etc.
The massive infrastructure growth in India in the infrastructure sector like power, roads, communications etc, in the recent years have been achieved not by the government spending alone but largely through public-private participation which enabled heavy in-flows and investment in the sector. Such investment is not possible unless the government creates investor and developer friendly policies and reforms. After all, a private investor or developer company is not a charity organisation; they will be willing to invest and participate only if the commensurate recovery with a reasonable return is assured.
So today, if you are travelling through a hassle free drive on a four or six lane highway, you have to pay a premium at prescribed outlets. If you expect free or concessional amenities and services, oppose FDI and other private investment, and oppose levy of taxes and duties but, at the same time, heavily rely on such assurances made by any political party in the poll fray, you are bound for sure to learn bitter lessons in five years before making mind to go for another change. But sadly in the process, you will also be pushing back the state or country in terms of development and growth by the same period.
It is ironical and sad that many of us are not able to appreciate worth of a programme or scheme unless they perceive or actually receive some free material or financial gain. A case in point could be the Jan Dhan Yojana of the Central Government. Prime Minister Modi had formally launched this scheme on 30th August, 2014 declaring that the scheme was aimed at eradicating financial untouchability by providing bank accounts to the poor. The scheme was aimed at targeting about 7.5 crore people by January 26, 2015, who will be provided with zero-balance bank account, a RuPay debit card and the life insurance cover of Rs 30,000 besides an accidental insurance cover of Rs one lakh. It was also envisaged that each account holders will be provided an overdraft facility up to Rs 5,000 in due course.
By mid January, 2015, banks had opened about 11.50 crore accounts surpassing the target significantly with a cumulative deposit of about 9,188 crores covering more than 99% of the households that were outside the banking system. Of this, the share of women account holders is about 51% and 60% of the accounts are in rural areas. Here the case in point is that a large number of rural folk, women and illiterate people have been hesitant in the past to go to bank for opening of an account due to various hassles and tedious procedure involved. With the government initiative to facilitate it, most of them have successfully opened their accounts, are inculcating banking habits by saving money, with the accrued benefits of the stated life insurance and accidental insurance cover. But the critics and opposition parties still criticise it often by twisting facts by saying when will government fulfil its promise of depositing Rs 5,000 in their account.
Now the point is the NCT Delhi has elected its government on the most populist agenda under sky so far with virtually no opposition for the next five years. The next in the line comes the formation of government and implementation of the AAP Manifesto and Action Plan. This remains to be seen in the times ahead whether the party and government would revisit its Manifesto and Action Plan to fine-tune it realistically commensurate with their revenue resources or they will soon go on a warpath with the Central Government by demanding disproportionate share to meet their massive commitments and start passing buck and blame on the latter for every failure. Irony is that the political party raises the aspirations of people and bureaucracy is told to translate it to reality.
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