It was about a year ago that the BJP won the general election in a spectacular manner. The slogan at that time was “Congress-mukt Bharat” — a country free of the Congress. The Congress in that slogan stood for a particular political culture that has come to be identified with the politics that the 100-year-old party practised.
The BJP wanted the country to be rid of that political culture, the hallmark of which has been corruption, nepotism, lack of public accountability, skewed economic thinking that made political capital of poverty and freebies the purchasing power for votes, dubious secularism and disregard for national security and integrity. The so-called Congress culture has brought unprecedented hardship, misery and despondency to India and its people and finally they revolted, using the time-tested weapon of the vote.
In the BJP and Narendra Modi, people didn’t see just an alternative to the Congress and its leadership; they rather looked at them with hope for an alternative political culture. One year down the line, the real test for us was whether we had succeeded in giving that confidence to the people of the country.
Winning elections is an important part of the life of a political party. In the last year, the BJP has faced elections in eight states, lost one and formed governments in the remaining seven. Two of these elections have become much talked about — Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
Politics sometimes presents us with difficult choices — difficulty, but choice too. A pragmatic politician should look at the choices also, which we did in J&K. Contrary to propaganda in some sections, we didn’t compromise even an inch on national or state interest, while exploring options to serve the people of the state for which an overwhelming mandate was given to us. “Compromise is to politics what devotion is to friendship,” said John Morley in his book, On Compromise. But we proved in J&K that not compromise, but conviction is what drives our politics.
In victory or alliance or defeat, our distinct politics has played an important role. We lost where we failed to uphold that distinction and won where we did. A cadre-based party like the BJP can afford to lose elections, but not the faith of the cadre. In victory and defeat, this is the lesson we have learnt.
People saw in Modi a leader with integrity and honesty. One year down the line, people are not disappointed. We have not only run a clean government but also demonstrated our commitment to transparency and accountability in public life. We are giving a great push to e-governance and digital India programmes that will ensure greater transparency in governance.
The biggest asset for this government in its fight against corruption has been the incorruptible leadership of the prime minister himself. Former PM P.V. Narasimha Rao had once said during his regime that corruption should be eradicated from the top. It is not enough to catch hold of a small-time corrupt official in a local office and pretend that we are fighting against corruption. It has to be removed from the top, so that the process can percolate downwards. Under Modi, we have achieved that.
Development is inspired by the spirit of “Antyodaya” — the welfare of the last man is an article of faith for this government. For the Congress, the poor — like the minorities — are just a vote bank. Perpetuating poverty, not ending it, has been their politics. As long as there are poor people, there will be the Congress brand of politics of the poor, where you only have to invent a new slogan every now and then. How else can we explain the dismal situation that, after six decades of independence and so much cacophony about garibi hatao, etc, our BPL population is 45 per cent and 60 per cent of our rural women don’t have access to toilets? Who is responsible for a situation where 20 million youngsters join the workforce every year while we add not even two million jobs, leaving close to 18 million jobless every year?
For the BJP, not just alleviating but completely annihilating poverty is the target. We are not the merchants of the poor like the Congress; we are a death-knell for poverty. The Modi government has launched several programmes like the Jan Dhan Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, irrigation schemes, etc to wage war on poverty. Its skills development and Make in India campaigns are aimed at generating employment for millions of able youngsters.
Infrastructure is key to development and prosperity. Infrastructure development has great potential for employment generation, too. Thanks to decades of misrule, our infrastructure is in a pathetic condition. The Modi government has accorded the highest priority to this core sector. To that end, a responsible and humane amendment is sought by this government to land acquisition. For over a century, we struggled with an obsolete and anti-farmer Land Acquisition Act,1894. In 2013, the UPA government introduced some amendments to it that swung the pendulum to the other extreme, harming the cause of landowners as well as infrastructure developers, including the government.
In order to achieve a balance, the Modi government has introduced the fair compensation and rehabilitation act of 2014, which seeks to ensure the highest levels of compensation to farmers while assuring
infrastructure development that is much needed to kickstart our stagnant economy. One of the main reasons for poverty in our country is that almost 55 per cent of our population — the majority being young — is forced to depend on agriculture, which produces 15-20 per cent output. In China, only 15 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture. In order to make agriculture profitable, we need to find alternative means of employment for underemployed rural youth through manufacturing, big industry, infrastructure, etc. Our demographic dividend is not going to last for more than a decade or so. Already our birth rates are stagnating. If we miss exploiting that dividend now, we will not get the chance after a decade.
The reforms to the land acquisition act and the push given to development in infra-related areas like mining should be seen from this perspective. They are not meant to help corporations. Instead, they are going to be a boon for the poor and underdeveloped sections of our society. Short-sighted criticism and campaigns by opposition parties to stall these progressive reforms will only hurt the poor. Our government is committed to going ahead with the reforms, so that we can win a decisive war on poverty in the next 10 years.
In 2003, while cruising on the Shanghai river and looking at the Chinese economic miracle, then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had commented that India had lost 20 years. In the early 1980s, India and China were at the same economic level. Modi is determined that we will not lose another 20 years.
Negative politics may serve the opposition in the short term. But Modi is a leader with a long-term vision. People have faith in him and under his leadership, our government will take the country to new heights.
The writer is national general secretary of the BJP
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