Post-Gujarat, BJP must amplify its development message in the countryside
The India versus Bharat conundrum, often dismissed as a false binary by political parties when not in power, is possibly the single most important issue those in power have to grapple with once they have been elected and must deliver to get re-elected. For, how does one intensify a model of development that mainly urban India overwhelmingly welcomes while’ simultaneously ensuring the aspirations of an in the main semi-rural/ rural Bharat too are fulfilled, especially given the complex sociology and varied economic imperatives in play? The question assumes special significance which given the results of the Gujarat Assembly poll which saw citizens of what is inarguable one of the most developed States in the country vote overwhelmingly for the harbinger of that development, Narendra Modi, in urban areas while their citizens in rural parts, despite massive improvements in irrigation facilities, power and water supply, crop insurance/ fertilizer schemes and healthcare/education initiatives, did not display the same level of support. And it is no use arguing that the Opposition played virulent case politics, exaggerated genuine concerns of the countryside and offered pretty straightforward bribes in the form of sops to those groups/individuals willing to hitch their respective wagons to the anti-BJP bandwagon as a quid pro quo rather than come up with an alternative mode of development that is part of the game and is precisely what a Congress-led alliance will do in State after State to take on the BJP and damn the consequences for the nation or the effort being made to ensure prosperity for all Indians across class, caste and community and the urban-rural divide. Yes, such an effort does mean that in all likelihood those already. affluent may get richer and that’s not a crime. But it is certainly criminal to let India’s teeming millions go without in their daily lives and depend on government largess for even the basics, which is classic Stockholm Syndrome.
It is, in this respect important to make a distinction between Central governments in the pre-1991 economic reforms era and those which came after. The former existed in a different world of so called socialistic principles which was in essential an ideology-fueled cloud cuckoo land that had no resemblance to the real world. It is to the eternal credit of the the Narasimha Rao, A B Vajpayee and Narendra Modi led dispensation at the centre over the past two decades that they restricted the electoral temptation to create a divide between town and countryside. As it were, they also Quite rightly refused to take the easy option of following the gown and countryside model, to coin a phrase, that the Manmohan Singh regimes constructed where in an entitled urban elite and sundry privileged cronies from the countryside (or vice versa) dealt primarily in the currency of doles to the unwashed masses, passing off the entire process as ‘inclusive development’. But that’s all int he past. The BJP leadership today, looking to the future, must underscore the fact there’s no substitute tor a developmental agenda which is inclusive and that emphatically does not mean the woolly headed, disingenuous and frankly dangerous sop-based framework that the UPA promoted. Big ticket economic reforms that boost ,growth, improving delivery of services and creating more and ever-growing opportunities to make a living are the need of the hour to ensure prosperity becomes a lived experience for an aspirational citizenry. But these must go hand-in-hand with, as a BJP-leaning economist has suggested, cash transfers for the poorest 20 percent of the population which would eliminate both the humongous level of leakages and the costs imposed on the nation by a bloated bureaucracy which allegedly implements extant welfare schemes and negative income tax for the 20-25 percent chunk of citizens above them.