What are the issues that are before the Indian people as election season is now in full force? Is it about how Moti Lal Nehru was a good host to Mahatma Gandhi in the last century or what was taught by Indira Gandhi to her young grandson?
Or is it about the issues that affect the day to day life of common man and aspirations of a predominantly young nation? Is it about reviving fears along communal lines or is it about uniting again on common goals in this century? If this election is primarily about electing a government that can build a bright future for India, then first consider some issues that have an important bearing on that future.
India has witnessed the worst inflation, since independence, in the last decade. Food inflation, which has the maximum impact on the poor and the middle class, has been consistently in double digits for the last few years.
As per official data, the number of jobs created during the period 1999-2000 to 2004-05 was 60.7 million. This dropped dramatically to just 2.7 million in the next five year period, 2004-05 to 2009-10.
Despite some states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh achieving stellar double digit growth rates in agriculture, the nation as a whole has been facing acute agricultural crisis. Farmer suicides in states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have continued unabated.
Corruption has been institutionalised in India unlike never before. Transparency International ranks India at 94th position in a survey of 177 countries on corruption perception index. India is ranked below such countries as Saudi Arabia and China. Cases of crime have seen a rise nationally with women being the worst sufferers. As per NCRB, a girl is raped every 22 minutes in India, while India’s national capital has acquired the dubious distinction of being also the rape capital.
The deluge of scams will perhaps be the only reason why the last 10 year rule of UPA government will find any mention in history books. Perhaps, the UPA period will also be remembered for one more contribution – for creating an alphabet of scams. A for Adarsh scam, B for Bofors probe fraud, C for Commonwealth games scam and so on. These six issues – jobs, inflation, agriculture crisis, corruption, crime and scams – among them encapsulate the entire performance of the Congress led UPA government in the last ten years. In contrast, BJP led state governments have given much better performance, in some cases dramatically different, in each of these sectors.
As per the latest Ministry of Labour survey, the unemployment rate in Gujarat is below 1% which is the lowest unemployment rate in large states and much below national average. Food inflation, through efficient use of Public Distribution System, has been much better controlled in states like Chhattisgarh as compared to other states. Madhya Pradesh, which was once derisively lumped in the BIMARU category, has recorded over 18% growth rate in agriculture, more than four times the national average. Gujarat has consistently recorded over double digit growth rate in agriculture during the last decade.
In Economic Freedom Rankings of Indian states in 2011, Gujarat has been ranked the number one state. Big ticket corruption is largely a product of misuse of discretionary powers vested with government. As this ranking demonstrates, institutionalized corruption is the least in Gujarat.
In crimes against women, states like Gujarat fare much better than states like Delhi, Haryana, Kerala or Assam. As per NCRB data of 2012, cases of rape per lakh population in Gujarat is 0.8 compared to 2.9 in Kerala, 3.7 in Delhi and 5.5 in Assam.
Of course in scams it is even futile to offer a contrast. It is not surprising then that the BJP has chosen to build the first part of its election campaign for 2014 on these six themes. Each of these six issues are those that unite the common man in their quest for better life. None of these six issues relate to identity issues that have divided the common man in the past.
In that sense, 2014 elections are really unique. Rahul Gandhi is leading the charge from Congress party by talking about Moti Lal Nehru and what may or may not have happened during the freedom struggle, some seventy-eighty years ago. Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party is leaving a trail of chaos and FIRs, by Election Commission, in every state he visits. The issues of today and the aspirations of tomorrow – that only Narendra Modi of the BJP seems to be focusing on, both in his speeches and in his campaign themes. The electorate sees this and it would not be surprising they add their voice to the rising chorus of Abki Baar Modi Sarkar.
Akhilesh Mishra is an experienced marketing professional, having worked in many multinational companies. He is also a volunteer for the BJP's 2014 election campaign. He tweets at @amishra77. All views are personal.