Indian economy made easy -- for politicians

Updated on Apr 03, 2004 02:04 PM IST

Indian politicians are taking a crash course in economy and sociology - the first in many years - ahead of parliamentary polls.

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PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, New Delhi

Indian politicians are taking a crash course in economy and sociology - the first in many years - ahead of parliamentary polls.

Usually high on slogan shouting, high-decibel diatribe and personal attacks, political leaders and candidates are brushing up their jargon -- be it "gross domestic product (GDP)", "fiscal deficit", "forex" or "development index".

The theme of "India Shining" adopted by the ruling BJP after its spectacular December election victories in three states has willy-nilly forced all parties to talk about socio-economic development more than corruption, religion or caste.

While in local politics, the caste factor and individuals continue to play a decisive role, whether or not India is really shining is concerning parties at the national level.

In response to the BJP's ad blitz about a feel-good factor pervading India, the main opposition Congress and the left parties have engaged think tanks on countering the effect, with their own notions of the common man feeling bad.

A five-phase parliamentary poll will be held in India from April 20 to May 10 involving around 650 million voters - and it's they and their families that are the subject of the debate.

The Congress has alleged that corruption during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's five years in office cost the country a whopping Rs 500 billion, but his party misled Indians about economic growth when in fact the gross domestic product (GDP) was going down.

The Congress has asked its candidates to be fully prepared with facts and figures cited in each allegation against the BJP-led coalition while reaching out to voters.

"Our talking points, prepared by in-house experts, are ready and candidates will stress these points when they campaign in the constituencies," a Congress leader said.

The party's department of economic affairs is still knitting its brows over the next round of allegations to counter the BJP's "India Shining" boast.

The Congress has also asked its functionaries to stress more on positive campaigning and issues than launching attacks against personalities.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is also in the process of churning out 12 publications highlighting what is ailing each sector, thus trying to answer its broad question - "is India really shining?"

A group of experts, including students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, is poring over books, statistics and reports to bring out these publications.

"These are entirely our efforts, unlike the BJP that thinks nothing of squandering public money in blowing their own trumpet," said CPI-M politburo member Ramachandran Pillai.

Pillai said doctors, lawyers, trade leaders and economists were all putting their heads together to gather data for a larger debate on policy and to place "facts" before the citizen.

"We have always focused on economic issues in every election, but this is the first time almost every party is doing it," he noted.

And a surprise example of this shift is Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav, who is speaking the language of development for once and wooing voters with promises of roads and power.

The former Bihar chief minister, known for his irrepressible wit, will also appear in campaign posters bare-bodied and armed with a stick to convey the message that there is no shine for the mass of the poor in his state.

Of course, the BJP doesn't agree and it says the people of India will also not agree with its critics.

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