Of late, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not talking just of economic growth but of inclusive growth and the need to close aspiration gap between people. He also asks to tone up the delivery system.
In recent days, he has called for building a ‘new India, a caring India’ and advised captains of industry to share the benefits of economic growth with the poor, and resist paying excessive remuneration to senior executives.
This is not the first time the Prime Minister — or Congress president Sonia Gandhi — has spoken of inclusive growth to give substance to the UPA’s National Common Minimum Programme. But in the backdrop of problems like price rice and inflation accompanying high economic growth rate, non-political experts see a pattern in Singh’s recent enunciations.
Many of them link it with the jolt the Congress got — after electoral setbacks in Punjab and Uttaranchal — when Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati re-invented the party’s dalit-uppercaste-muslim combination to notch up an impressive victory in Uttar Pradesh.
The jolt was seen as particularly severe because the party, which had made the ‘common man’ the central theme of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
“The UP elections has instilled some fear in the Congress that its equation with the marginalised sections has been disturbed,” said Amitabh Kundu, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
According to him, the Congress’s apprehensions are borne out by the findings of the 61st round of National Sample Survey (NSS) which showed, for instance, that while there has been some improvement in the rate of employment, unemployment too has gone up, specially where women are concerned. He added that the PM’s remarks hint of a “mid-course correction”.
“The BJP thought the India Shining campaign would work for the NDA. But it didn’t,” said Bidyut Chakraborty, professor of political science and Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences at Delhi University. “Similarly, the Congress is getting to realise that growth rate will not translate into votes unless the benefits of it percolate down to the people that hasn’t happened so far.”
According to him, Mayawati’s success in working out a ‘rainbow coalition’ that was once the Congress’s trademark could have disturbed the Congress and prompted it to once again focus on it.
His Delhi University colleague Dr Saroj Giri saw the UPA working on a parallel, but lopsided, approach. `The government is pursuing anti-people policies by pursuing globalisation and liberalisation on the one hand and, on the other, trying to back it with pro-poor and pro-people policies. But the larger policy thrust is definitely against the interests of a large majority of people,’’ he said.
Giri added that if the UPA came out with the national rural employment guarantee programme for the poor, it also sought to take away the land of these people (to set up special economic zones) to generate resources that it claimed will be ploughed back for the welfare of the marginalised.
Social activist Vandana Shiva summed it up: “The Government is realising that it is not the World Bank but the public that votes for them.”
The Prime Minister’s exercise, she felt, was aimed at the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.