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Future Approach

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Government’s ‘capitulation’ before the farmers has encouraged many other interest groups to believe they can obtain the concessions they have been demanding against the reform process in other sectors. Hope has been expressed, for instance, that the bank unions – presently on a two-day strike – will ‘do a farmer’ on the government. Opposition parties, too, are greatly energised in Parliament on issues they believe could pay electoral dividends. This will go on till such time the next round of assembly elections gets over. It will then be time to assess how much these tactics have worked.

While many economists have given up hope that agriculture sector reforms will become possible in the near future, there are many ways of achieving these once the immediate pressure of elections is over. The same goes for other reforms, but a positive people’s mandate will prove greatly helpful. Prime Minister Modi, through his mega projects, is seeking to communicate the message that the nation’s progress should be the first priority. There has to be a cake before everybody’s share can be handed out. On the other hand, the opposition parties, in various ways, are focusing on areas where divisions exist, projecting India as a divided and failing nation. The Congress, under Rahul Gandhi, is taking an extreme Left turn, coming out against ‘capitalists’ and economic reform. This message was very much present in the usual garbled manner in Rahul’s speech at his Dehradun rally on Thursday.

The problem with many of the old political parties is that they no longer have a grassroots presence. As a result, there is no cadre feedback on ground reality. Leaders have to depend on ‘professional agencies’ to obtain the data they need. This not only lacks the personal touch but also the intuitive understanding of the local political activist. If there actually was a connect, there would be some real appreciation of how the people, especially the young, have changed, as have their circumstances. True, there are many still practicing the old politics of the street, trade and students’ unions, but the transformative element is equally strong. Caste and community play a role, but the much derided ‘nationalism’ has also made considerable strides. It is in this context that many lessons will need to be learned by all concerned post the assembly elections.