The defeat of three incumbent BJP governments in state legislative assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, signals growing disenchantment with the BJP that less than 20 months ago, swept the country’s most populous Hindi heartland state of Uttar Pradesh (pop.220 million) after winning General Election 2014 hands down.
Although political pundits and commentators who dominate op-ed pages have attributed the stunning electoral reverse of the high-flying BJP on the eve of General Election 2019 to the party leadership’s several acts of omission and commission — demonetisation, clumsy implementation of GST (goods and services tax), tacit endorsement of Hindu majoritarian bigotry and rising lawlessness across the country — the consensus attributes the dramatic reversal in the BJP’s electoral fortunes to rising unemployment and unaddressed agrarian distress. But while this diagnosis is substantially accurate, the prescriptions advanced by the BJP leadership are the same old recycled solutions which have failed to work for the past 70 years.
Rising joblessness and unemployment within the Indian economy is the natural outcome of the ruinous decision taken over half a century ago to cabin, crib and confine India’s high-potential private sector industry which had funded the freedom movement and was poised to conquer Asian and perhaps even world markets, after World War II. Instead, public savings and tax revenue were canalised into giant public sector enterprises (PSEs) managed by business-illiterate government bureaucrats and clerks. Inevitably the country’s 300-plus Central government and an equivalent number of state government PSEs failed to generate profits/surpluses for building rural infrastructure and schools, which would have boosted farm incomes and rural prosperity.
Simultaneously, following the classic Stalin/Mao model, farm produce prices were suppressed to keep food prices low to feed and keep the urban proletariat in good humour even as a new class of middlemen, mainly kith and kin of the neta-babu governing class became adept at buying agri-produce cheap and selling it dear in urban India. This exploitative combination has also ensured that although 60 percent of the population is engaged in farming and allied activities, the country lacks a viable agri-produce warehousing and food processing industry which would ensure reasonable farm-gate prices and eliminate distress sales.
These egregious mistakes of the establishment were compounded by the failure to provide acceptable quality primary education in rural India. Despite a mountain of evidence testifying that universal elementary education is imperative for national development, annual expenditure on public education has averaged 3.5 percent of GDP against the global average of 5-6 percent. The outcome is that per hectare yields in rural India are half of China and one-third of USA and Europe. Hence the electorate’s rejection of the BJP.