Will there ever be consensus among political parties over issues that matter to us?
As drought situation is worsening in the state, the Opposition parties have started putting pressure on the BJP-led state government to waive loans of farmers. Top leaders from the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have demanded complete waiver of farm loans. Even the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally in the government, has raised similar demands. A loan waiver will probably come as a relief for farmers in affected areas but the ruling BJP is wary of accepting the demand. It is either because the move would put additional burden on the government which has a debt of Rs 3.5 lakh crore or the government probably thinks that the time is not right to declare the waiver. (It has recently announced restructuring of the farm loans though). From pure financial angle, any kind of waiver or freebies would put more burden on the state government, which is already struggling for funds to spend on developmental schemes because of ever-increasing debt, huge establishment cost and a dip in the revenue. However, the decisions taken by the governments or stands taken by political parties depend on what is convenient for them or what makes sense politically. When the BJP was in the opposition it, too, was demanding loan waiver whenever farmers were in trouble because of natural or man-made problems. Now, the Congress and the NCP are doing the same. It is characteristic of our political parties. They take one stand while in the Opposition and change it in no time once they are in power.
Something similar is happening in Mumbai. As the Shiv Sena and the BJP are competing with each other to win control of the civic body in the civic polls early next year, they are targeting each other. The BJP held ally Sena responsible for stormwater desilting scam or the recent road scam. Both the parties were pointing fingers at each other while Deonar dumping ground was burning and choking the citizens in the eastern suburbs. Both are conveniently ignoring the fact that they have been ruling the civic body together for two decades. All these years, they didn’t utter a word about the nexus between contractors/builders, politicians and civic administration or didn’t find problems with the civic governance, which they have suddenly discovered. Meanwhile, we Mumbaikars were fed up of bad roads, water-logging in rains and illegal constructions across the city.
While time will tell who was responsible for giving greedy contractors and builders a free run in Mumbai, what we would prefer is consensus among political parties over the issues that affect our general well-being.
Why can’t political parties fix a minimum-common agenda for certain issues? At state level, they can build consensus over setting up proper infrastructure for farmers, sustainable initiatives such as water conservation and putting in place a system to ensure farmers are adequately compensated without burdening the exchequer every time they suffer losses because of heavy rain, hailstorm, deficient rainfall or fall in prices in the market. In cities such as Mumbai, it could be about giving minimum better governance to the people such as building good roads, ensuring environment-friendly solid-treatment plan and corruption-free governance at the basic level.
Will it be that difficult for political parties to keep some issues out of politics?
In the corridors of power, they point out how several contractors and builders are never affected by the changes in the ruling regimes. They have friends across the parties which is probably why one can see the same contractors bagging contracts even if probes find out irregularities in road construction in Mumbai or supply of nutritious food under the Integrated Child Development Scheme. We have never seen any political party running a campaign against contractors responsible for building sub-standard roads or supplying inferior quality food to poor children. If some contractors are lucky to remain unaffected by politics, why not some issues of public interest?