Make jobs the centre of political discourse
Welfare is good. But parties must compete on who creates more jobsUpdated: Jul 02, 2020 20:05 IST
While extending the provision of free ration to 800 million citizens — a move that this newspaper has welcomed — Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the festival season, and mentioned Chhath, a key festival of Bihar. The fact that elections are due in Bihar at the end of the year, and the scheme is getting extended till the end of November, prompted many to suggest that political motivations drove the decision. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, too, said that her government will provide free ration till June, 2021. It is not a coincidence that elections are due in West Bengal next year.
In democracies, the poor and marginalised have one key leverage — the power of the vote. This forces governing elites to come up with welfare schemes to address the distress of the poor. Such schemes, be it the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the case of the Congress or the provision of gas cylinders, housing, toilets and income transfer to farmers in the case of the Bharatiya Janata Party, have helped parties win elections. This is how it should be — you deliver to the poor, you get rewarded. But while welfare is laudable, it is essential that Indian political discourse moves to the one big challenge in current times — employment creation. The pandemic has exacerbated the crisis of employment, particularly in urban areas. It is time for political parties to compete not just on the basis of who has provided better welfare schemes, but also who has created jobs. Leaders will invest in sound economic management only when they realise that not doing so will lead to adverse electoral outcomes.