Congress spin doctors are at work, but their optimism has little basis in political reality
Ajay Singh | September 10, 2012
Having seriously bungled the Indian growth story, spin doctors of the Congress have invented a new narrative of a shining rural economy to keep up their optimism. This new story of buoyancy in rural economy is culled out from the data given by the National Sample Survey which depicts infusion of loans in rural India.
There is no doubt that the story has an element of truth in it. The agriculture ministry has been pressurizing banks to enhance their share of agriculture credit which has gone up substantially from the previous year. While this shows better absorption capacity of credit in the rural areas, banks’ willingness to lend more in villages is an indication of shift of the growth story from urban to rural regions.
Similarly the country’s poorest geographical areas, which were bypassed by the green revolution, have been posting excellent growth in agriculture. The prediction of 30 percent agriculture growth in Bihar is not a story in isolation. In the regions contiguous to Bihar, like eastern Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, buoyancy in agriculture is all too evident. In Odisha, the rural regions have witnessed impressive growth.
Now, if these spin doctors are to be believed, the Congress will sail through the current political turbulence arising out of the endless series of scams by riding on this rural growth story. They have been touting a theory that about 45 percent of people who thrive on agriculture would not be bothered by the allegations of corruptions in 2G or coal allocation as their life is the least influenced by these scandals. Actually, they feel such issues have a limited influence even in urban India.
One must credit politicians for their ostrich-like ingenuity to discover new contours of political India based on their assumption of the rural-urban divide. They tend to ignore harsh facts that the institutional credit in rural regions accounts for less than 25 percent of the total credit. Landless peasants and marginal farmers largely resort to loan sharks known as Sahukars and Mahajans for credit and get trapped in an endless exploitative cycle of usury. This is why suicides of farmers continue unabated in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, a veritable fiefdom of union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
On the other hand, in backward states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, institutional rural credit often meets less than 10 percent of the target. This only proves that though there is buoyancy in rural areas, much of the economic benefits are cornered by a new tribe of the rural elite. Such a scenario of economic disparity is bound to generate social discontent at a serious level in rural areas and its implication on politics cannot be undermined.
Going by the history of Indian politics, it is patently incongruous to infer that the political conduct of the rural and urban constituencies would be distinctly different on corruption issues. In the seventies, the imposition of emergency was the culmination of a series of charges of corruption and misconduct against the Indira Gandhi regime. Similarly the Bofors pay-off and resultant politics saw decimation of Rajiv Gandhi, a process in which rural masses were as vehemently against corruption as their urban counterparts. Apparently, the discernible corruption at the top could not segmented into politics of identity.
But a section of the Congress leadership has been keeping its hopes alive by touting the UPA government’s success in the rural sector, mostly in agriculture. However, the implicit assumption here is that the party leadership has lost its will to fight corruption charges and come clean. What appears interesting is the attempt to paint its adversaries black with the same corruption charges. This is evident in the manner in which central ministers have been laying blame at the doors of non-Congress chief ministers for irregularities in allocation of coal blocks.
The obvious strategy of the Congress is to blur differences among political parties on the issue of corruption. In casual conversation, senior ministers say that if the Congress loses, the subsequent regime would be only worse. The conduct of the opposition has not dispelled this notion either. The manner in which a close aide of the BJP president is dragged into the coal block allocation only lends credence to such fear. Such a volatile political scenario leaves much scope for Congress leaders to spin more and more imaginative political theories based half-truth, presumption and falsehood until they are effectively countered.
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