By any objective yardstick India is facing the gravest crisis since independence. One would have thought that prime ministerial candidates would focus on some of the key issues confronting the nation and inform voters how precisely they intend to tackle them. As yet neIther candidate has addressed even the fringe of the national crisis. Does either candidate have any policies or ideas about how to meet the challenge? ~ RAJINDER PURI
Early on in the poll campaign under way, the big corporate owned media had predicted that the 2014 general election would be like a presidential contest between Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Rahul Gandhi. This wish reinforced the long held view that to become a mature and stable democracy, India too like America and Britain should evolve into a two-party system. Sure enough, developments thus far seem to confirm the prediction. The contest has developed into a blistering exchange between the two aspirants for Prime Minister. This has furthered the hope of some elitists that India is indeed evolving into a mature two-party democracy. Is India evolving into a two-party system? Given the influence of the corporate lobby the possibility cannot be ruled out. Just consider the unprecedented and enormous support in human and financial resources from abroad that is reaching out in this current election campaign. Is India evolving into a mature democracy? Perish the thought. The level of debate between both contending leaders is like the farcical caricature of a soap opera.
Apart from one-liners, personal jibes, personal anecdotes, stale platitudes, and promised goals there is no worthwhile content in any of the speeches of either candidate. This is unlike electoral debates in America and Britain. Indian media dutifully goes to town with the contrived controversy created by trivial and frivolous exchanges. Who is or is not a prince, and who does or does not care for his immediate family is not the stuff of serious debate. And never before in the history of independent India has there been such dire need for serious debate to address the gravest crises that confront the nation. Therefore, both candidates and their advisors are earnestly requested to abjure the silly gossip and chatter they are presently indulging in and get down to identifying not merely problems the nation faces and goals it needs to reach, but offer some concrete policies that address these. They should stop entertaining the public and start educating it. India needs to know what should be done to set things right. In pursuance of this request just a few of the many burning problems confronting the nation that need to be addressed is listed with the hope that the aspirants offer the public some concrete policy instead of empty polemic.
Consider corruption. Apart from numerous specific cases of corruption that have been exposed while the culprits are entirely or virtually unpunished, there is the systemic failure exposing total lack of accountability in our system of governance. Neither prime ministerial candidate has opened his mouth to address this cancerous political ailment. Does either prime ministerial candidate have any clear policy to address this problem?
Consider national security. Terrorism continues to flourish. China despite enlarging trade continues with its belligerent border policy laying claim to large populated Indian territory . It continues to augment Pakistan&’s nuclear and missile strength directed against India. Pakistan continues to violate the border, encourage cross-border terrorism and refuse to curb anti-Indian fundamentalists spreading hatred against India inside Pakistan. Does either prime ministerial candidate have a clear policy to address these problems?
Consider the Kashmir dispute that lies at the heart of our problems with Pakistan. Does either prime ministerial candidate have any clear policy to address this problem?
Consider the current Telangana demand, the desirability or otherwise to create smaller states, the need to introduce genuine federalism in our sub-continental nation by rationalising the division of power between the Centre, the states and the local bodies. Does either prime ministerial candidate have any clear policy to address these problems?
Consider the huge gaps in the working of our Constitution which have wrecked federalism, ruined governance and removed all accountability from our political system. Note the several key Articles of the Constitution and some key Directives of State Policy that have never been implemented. The Constitution needs review. Does either prime ministerial candidate have any clear policy to address this issue?
The form and substance of affirmative action to introduce social justice in our nation have left huge segments of our population aggrieved and angry and at the same time created bitter divisiveness between many castes and communities. This is tearing the nation apart. Does either prime ministerial candidate have any clear policy to address this problem?
The economy is sinking. Corruption is rampant. Prices are soaring. Unemployment particularly in rural India is mounting. Our foreign trade policy has all but crippled our manufacturing sector of industry. Does either prime ministerial candidate have any clear policy to address these problems?
One can go on. The list of very serious problems that are threatening the stability and integrity of our system is long. By any objective yardstick India is facing the gravest crisis since independence. One would have thought that prime ministerial candidates would focus on some of the key issues confronting the nation and inform voters how precisely they intend to tackle them. As yet neither candidate has addressed even the fringe of the national crisis. Does either candidate have any policies or ideas about how to meet the challenge? Or is it that the big corporate powers that back both of them will decide these issues? In that event the next Prime Minister at best will offer merely more efficient implementation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh&’s approach. It may at best lead to marginally improved status quo.
Is that all that India needs and wants? After Mr Modi&’s Patna rally and the bomb blasts, a BJP victory appears unassailable. Is that not all the more reason for Mr Modi to stop targeting his opponent and start focusing on serious policy issues?
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist. He blogs at www.rajinderpuri.wordpress.com