It is natural for people belonging to different strata of society to have differing perceptions of their economic needs. Daily wagers obviously do not have the luxury of planning beyond a certain time horizon, while government employees take retirement and pensions for granted on the day of recruitment. Private sector employers and employees desire a pro-business environment but do not necessarily agree on sharing of the profits. And, as has been seen during the recent farmers’ protests, even necessary reforms are a contentious issue.
Anybody who is in relatively comfortable circumstances naturally favours the status quo, while the insecure want some ‘guarantees’ that can provide stability in their lives. All of these are part of society and it is a hard task to work out a consensus on the general direction to be taken. Any kind of dominance of one or the other group can create imbalances with long term consequences. This is why, in this particular age when a nature-linked subsistence economy is no longer possible, growth and progress are key factors in achieving desired outcomes. In the present challenging circumstances, globally, entire nations like Pakistan and Sri Lanka are on the verge of bankruptcy because of a failure to expand the economic base, with leaders focusing disproportionally on other issues.
So, it is important when choosing a government to take a close look at contending parties’ economic policies, as also their past performance. Caste and community interests may have relevance, but these should not be allowed to jeopardise the livelihood and future prospects of large sections of the people. Certain giveaways may be promised but care should be taken to see what is being taken away in exchange. If the future is being jeopardised to an extent that the generations to come would suffer, it is wise to be cautious.
In the past couple of hundred years, worldwide, political movements have identified as ‘capitalist’, ‘communist’, ‘socialist’, etc., and have a track record to show. Many nations have transformed from such ideological regimes into autocracies that have come to control every aspect of people’s lives, even their aspirations. Liberal democracies can falter if they too succumb to one or the other ‘ism’. In India, there is a long history of accommodating diversity – the effort should be to keep that going by making the right choices, rising above populism and vested interests.