In the latest of its “pro-people” measures, the government is likely to accept the Pay Commission’s recommendations to fatten the wallets of government employees who cut across different sections of the population: the top echelons of the bureaucracy and armed forces, the vast swathe of middle class babudom and the lower grade employees, including SCs and STs. The total number of beneficiaries is expected to be over four million.
The Congress-led UPA has once again begun harping on the aam aadmi — the common man who leaves the confines of his home and office not only to man polling booths but also cast his vote.
The electoral impulse of the pay panel’s report for the government is likely to get an impetus, coming as it does on the eve of a string of assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections thereafter.
The sops had begun rolling out with the populist Railway Budget, a politician’s delight of a Union Budget and a Rs 60,000-crore farm loan waiver that stunned the Opposition and raised the hopes of four crore farmers.
It is a similar reaction again this time.
Whether it is the CPI-M or BJP, there is not a single voice of protest at the money doled out to government employees. “It was long overdue,’’ said the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury though the CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta warned it would result in more unemployment. The BJP called for early implementation of the recommendations. And Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi denied the move was linked either to elections or politics.
But between the farm waiver and pay panel’s proposals, the UPA came out with administrative and legislative measures that touched the lives of different sections of the population, including raising the I-T exemption bar, bringing more workers in the bonus fold and large subsidies on oil, fertiliser and foodgains. Their impact would begin unfolding in a couple of months — and closer to year-end assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and MP and the Lok Sabha polls slated for 2009.
The question is whether the moves will help the Congress reach out to the buregeoning middle class or win back its traditional voters, who had crossed over to other parties, particularly the BSP, which is busy replicating the Congress’s erstwhile success story of providing an umbrella to Dalits, Muslims and Brahmins in the Hindi speaking areas as well as in states like Maharashtra and Karnataka.