GUJARAT RESULT IS A RUDE JOLT TO BJP
By Arun Srivastava
There is one common element in the peoples’ mandates of Bihar and Gujarat. In Bihar elections were for the assembly while in Gujarat it was electing the peoples’ representatives for the local bodies and municipalities. The common element in both the elections was the rural people decisively rejected Narendra Modi and his government. After its battering in Bihar, BJP’s loss in rural local bodies in Gujarat comes a year after Narendra Modi, who ruled the state for 12 years, shifted to Delhi.
The rural Gujarat rejecting Modi is most glaring as he had been systematically boasting for launching the Gujarat model of growth. In Bihar elections Modi initially had juxtaposed his model to Nitish’s Bihar model and claimed that it was inclusive and superior. Intriguingly the rural poor of Gujarat outright rejected his model. The verdict made it explicit that the model simply helped the junkers and kulaks of the state. The backwards and dalits of the state were not willing to accept the model which was more based on the principles of reforms and neo liberal policies. The Gujarat model miserably failed to entice the rural poor people.
Just 18 months after the BJP swept all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, the party has now been able to just manage to retain its urban sway, losing the rural Gujarat to the Congress, according to the final results to 323 local government bodies. In fact leaving aside the rich, elite and middle class dominated areas in the cities and towns the poor people residing on the peripheries and quasi urban areas voted against him.
The BJP bagged the 72-member Rajkot Corporation but managed only 38 seats as against 34 of the Congress. In 2010, the BJP won 49 and the Congress got 10 in the then house of 59. In all, out of the total 572 corporation seats, the Congress won 175 seats in 2015, up from 103 in 2010. Within cities, the BJP bagged 42 municipalities and the Congress 10, out of a total of 56 municipalities, leaving four for others. This is also five less than the earlier figure of 47. The BJP lost its grip in the rural and semi-urban areas.
Gujarat’s social indicators contrast starkly with its growth rate. Gujarat has slipped in the human development index from 10th in 1999-2000 to 11th in 2011. The primary reason for this has been the failure of the Gujarat government to boost the agriculture production. The rural people nurse the impression that the government was uncaring. Gujarat’s farmers are selling their cotton for Rs 820 per 20 kg, much lower than the Rs 900 MSP that the Gujarat government has asked the central government for.
The fact is the Gujarat model never appealed to the common people who have been its casualties for years. The government has failed to ameliorate the condition of three groups: Adivasis (15 per cent), Dalits (7 per cent) and Muslims (9 per cent). Earlier the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has reproached the state government for failing to ensure that the development funds allocated to Adivasis and Dalits were in proportion to their population. An indication of the socio-economic backwardness of Adivasis and Dalits in Gujarat is their indebtedness. While the proportion of indebted rural households has increased from 35.7 per cent in 1999-2000 to 56 per cent in 2004-05, it has risen from 44.80 per cent to 62.95 per cent among Dalits, and 32.9 per cent to 60.1 per cent among Adivasis.
Though the BJP nominated a significant number of Muslims as its candidates in the elections, it failed to move the community. Muslims in Gujarat face specific problems. According to the Sachar Committee report, they are under-represented in most state government departments. Twenty-four per cent of urban Muslims in the state lived below the poverty line, against 17 per cent of SCs/ STs, 18 per cent of OBCs and 3 per cent of other urban-dwellers.
The process of creation of neo middle class is comparatively not well defined. The government has failed to create enough jobs. If the social indicators are any pointer the state may soon witness a Raj Thackeray type movement. Already a feeling is creeping in amongst the youths that they are being deprived of proper job avenues and scope.
Farmers have been aggrieved and highly critical of the government approach to the agriculture. More than the Patidar effect it is the fall in the prices of cotton and non availability of irrigation water that has hit most the BJP. Gujarat’s farmers are selling their cotton for Rs 820 per 20 kg, much lower than the Rs 900 MSP that the Gujarat government has asked the central government for. The state government’s passive attitude towards the need of irrigation water has angered the farmers.
The farmers are hard hit by erratic weather and sliding prices for the cotton, soybean and rubber they produce. But it is irony that the government did not try to mitigate their sufferings notwithstanding the fact that Modi has been projecting his Gujarat model as the ultimate solution to the agrarian crisis. It’s not just the weather gods and capricious markets that are to be blamed a shift in government spending ordered by Modi has also hit rural economy.
The Gujarat farmers are also conscious of the fact that the policies pursued by Modi have simply helped the urban middle class and corporate sector. Since they have been getting a poor return on their returns their spending abilities have also declined. As a result of this the rural Gujarat has been witnessing a comparative slowdown. Trends show a striking divergence between town and country sales of two-wheelers: motorcycles – more popular in the countryside – fell 3.5 per cent in December while scooters, ridden mainly by city dwellers, leapt 24 per cent from a year earlier, industry figures show. The government’s ability to ramp up spending on roads, railways and irrigation projects that would benefit rural India is, meanwhile, hobbled by budget constraints.
One thing is absolutely clear that with more 80 per cent of India’s 1.26 billion people living in villages the Modi government would have to redraw its priorities. Instead of listening to the dictates of Sangh and its leaders he has to evolve a new mechanism to fulfill the aspirations and needs of the rural poor. Simply showcasing the strong stance at World Trade Organization in Geneva is not sufficient. The government has to strive to safeguard the interest of the rural India. (IPA Service)