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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 24

Lessons of UP Assembly Elections

Saturday 2 June 2007, by K V S Rama Sarma


The much-awaited and suspense-ridden UP Assembly elections are over to everyone’s relief. As expected, the collapse of the Mulayam Singh Government, which achieved the unique distinction of being disliked by a broad cross-section of society, has some interesting and useful lessons for all political parties. The elections have shown that no amount of cosmetic touch like befriending film stars, capitalists and loud-mouthed Sancho Panzas would help cheer the public, much less gain their support. What is truly interesting is that his much-publicised secular credentials which Mulayam sought to establish by shouting pro-Muslim slogans have apparently backfired. This is more than proved by the poor show of the SP candidates in Muslim-majority areas. The problem is that Mulayam is not a bad man. He is secular, but is in bad company and with wrong ambitions of power.

The tragedy is that he copied rather clumsily the Congress polices and programmes while at the same time fighting the Congress. The people were aware of this and yet had given him an opportunity which he wasted and concentrated more on attacking the Congress party than caring for the people, tackling their problems and paying little or no attention to the social, educational and economic development of the State. The Mulayam experiment has conclusively shown that copying the Congress does not help. Of equal importance is that mere slogans would not bring the support of the people.

The Congress party too has some significant lessons to learn from these elections. The days are gone when an election manifesto used to impress the voters. They want concrete plans and action. This should be based on a realistic understanding of the local resources, problems and needs of the people. What are the problems of UP? The State has three distinct regions and each has its own problems and needs. The most important is the problem of unemployment. As Rahul Gandhi had said during his election campaign, the people from UP are doing well in other States and why should they not work for UP? They are doing well outside because they get opportunities there. Where are the opportunities in UP? The same is the story of Bihar. At least 10-15 per cent people working in IT, medical and engineering sectors in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai are from UP and Bihar. Only Rajiv Gandhi understood this and launched a number of programmes to exploit the modern needs of the people.

Why is there no multi-speciality hospital or heart clinic of same repute in the Hindi-speaking areas except Delhi? Why should IT be concentrated in the South only? Apparently no concrete steps have been taken to promote these and other essential services in UP and Bihar.

WHAT is important is that the Hindi-speaking areas should concentrate on what is not being done in the South. Why not promote the IT hardware sector in these States? Hardware has become a problem for the IT in the South. Similarly why not promote exploitation of raw materials available in these States, like cotton, herbals etc? Every political party talks of the cotton farmers’ suicide, but where are the right steps to stop this? What stops the cotton-growing States and others from setting up apparel parks taking a lesson from China? Cotton does not grow in most of the Western countries and they depend on imports. Even China imports its cotton needs. While promoting these exports, we must try to encourage value-added exports like cotton thread, clothing etc. Why should China alone, which imports cotton, flood the world markets with cotton goods? They are selling well because they are cheap and the demand for cotton fabrics is growing the world over. India can meet this challenge very easily, because its labour costs, like in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh, are very low. But what is missing here is the will.

The Himalayan herbal wealth is close by. But where are the efforts to exploit this nature’s bounty? With very limited herbal resources Kerala has emerged as the No 1 in natural health clinics. Even a Marxist Government in West Bengal is beginning to respond to the needs of the people, setting aside Marxist principles, because what matters in the end, as Deng Xiaoping said, is the welfare of the people. Our Ministers, politicians and experts visit China and come back hailing that country’s policies and programmes, but apparently learning nothing. The suicide of cotton growers is an eloquent example of this. One section of the country’s political spectrum is talking of religion and another opposing it. These do not take the nation anywhere. The time has come to abandon this easy pastime and get down to concrete action.

The author is the Managing Editor of Congress Sandesh; the views expressed in the article are his own.

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