By Pradyut Hande:
With the 2014 general elections fast approaching, the UPA-II Government led by the beleaguered Congress; is gradually swinging into overdrive. The realisation that it has been unable to achieve much of note during its embattled tenure thus far, coupled with flagging public confidence in the face of numerous scams that often appear to be brushed under the “political carpet” with precious little ado; may have finally stirred the Congress into some semblance of positive action. Further; plagued by gross mismanagement, ambivalent long term socio-economic planning and the well founded perception of its “policy stasis/paralysis” (choose your pick!) ways have cost the Congress dear; gradually eroding the carefully built goodwill during its previous tenure. Its inability to contain and counter rising inflation, unemployment, falling productivity and growth has seen the Congress meander precariously near the precipice of political disaster.
Set in this backdrop, the Congress has finally awakened from its “reformatory reverie”. After throwing caution to the wind by green lighting a slew of reforms which would finally open the floodgates to further FDI in the Retail, Aviation, Information and Broadcasting, Pension and Insurance sectors; earlier in September; the Congress is looking to consolidate on that promising front and consequently enhance public and investor confidence while keeping a firm view on a dogged opposition in the BJP. The recent major Cabinet reshuffle was undertaken to facilitate the Government’s policy execution and further augment its ties with critical allies in the coalition framework. Despite these recent positive developments, the Congress is well aware that it requires a major “game changer” if it wants to remain in power. The UPA-I Government bore the fruits of landmark initiatives such as the passing and execution of the Right to Information Act, 2006 and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2009. What was critical was that the Congress had judiciously timed the implementation of the aforementioned so that its resultant benefits could actually be experienced by the citizens by the time the general elections came around. Thus; for any Government, it is imperative that it gives its initiatives ample time to come to fruition. The idea is always to make the maximum positive impact and thus, sow the seeds of goodwill in the minds of voters that eventually germinate into a collective wave of favourable public sentiment.
This time around, the Congress has bet big on the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) facilitated “Aadhar” programme. Set up in 2009, the UIDAI is tasked with the unenviable responsibility of creating centralised database driven unique ID cards for India’s 1 billion plus population. The UIDAI has been able to allot Aadhar cards to 210 million Indians thus far. Given the immense investment of both monetary and non-monetary resources in the gargantuan project, the Aadhar is considered to be a major step towards the provision of social security, capable of changing the lives of scores. However, this is solely dependent on uniform execution and the Government’s flexibility with regards to extending the Aadhar’s mandate. Now, from being just a standalone nationally recognised piece of personal identification, the Aadhar would in time facilitate cash transfers, LPG and Kerosene subsidies to the tune of almost Rs. 200,000 crore in the future; empowering card holding citizens like never before. For this ambitious plan to actually translate into tangible trickle down benefits, the authorities need to address a few serious impediments that presently hamper the system from achieving its true potential. I shall throw more light upon those challenges in my subsequent article. My objective on this one was to highlight the need for the Congress to really step up to the plate and achieve something enduring that remains in the public consciousness by the time the next general elections come calling.
As of now, the Aadhar initiative and its developmental manifestation offers the Congress its best bet at making a real difference to its citizens. The other potential “game changers” in the Food Security and Land Acquisition Bills, presently remain submerged at various levels of drafting. The progress on these has been less than satisfying and the swifter the Government is able to pass them as major laws, the better it is for all stakeholders concerned. More also needs to be done by way of continuing with greater developmental reforms to breathe more life into a stagnating albeit steady economy. Instead of holding the bleak global economic scenario responsible, the policy makers ought to view this as a major opportunity to bank on the country’s consumptive strengths and accordingly stir the “development cauldron“.
At the end of the day, it would come down to choosing the right initiative to drive home widespread incremental impact at both the rural and urban level. One way to speed up the process, especially the registration for Aadhar, would be to mobilise greater numbers in Congress ruled states. Whether we the people are able to derive maximum benefit from Aadhar and consequently, whether the Congress is able to benefit from its long term success is all a matter of conjecture at this point in time.
However, one thing is for certain. Unless the UPA-II relegates lethargy and half hearted measures to the backburner, and focuses significantly on citizen welfare; it will find it hard to shake itself free from the shackles of negative sentiment harboured against it by a public whose patience and faith has been stretched to the limit; in the face of scam after multi-million dollar scam. Positive change may well be the Congress’ sole shot at redemption.
About the author: The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. Through his writing; he attempts to address myriad issues of both domestic and global consequence, ranging from Business and Economics to Geopolitics…from Sports to Arts and Culture. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen debater, munner, quizzer, painter and amateur freestyle rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship. For his latest postings,Â follow his blogÂ . To read his other posts,Â click here.