Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ratna Column: Commoners apprehensive about aggressive govts

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A democratically elected government naturally cares for the public who gave them a chance to rule. Any political party will show this gratitude, particularly during its first stint.

The first term naturally ends on a happy note. But at the fag end of the first stint, rulers may link their continuation in power with development. They claim that they are seeking power not for their own good but for empowering the poor.

Surprisingly, the attitude of rulers change when there is a possibility of retaining power. They do not bother about the State’s financial condition and try to take loans. The policy of taking loans indiscriminately at high rates of interest will increase the debt burden, erode purchasing capacity and ultimately ruin the State.

No ruler can fully repay the loans he has taken. His priority will be to pay interest and service the debts contracted earlier. Taking loans indiscriminately will create a bad impression about the administration as well as the State’s finances. But rulers are least bothered about this.

The collecting of the public’s personal data by staff hired by the government is making people apprehensive. They do not know for what purpose the government is asking them for personal details. For example, a voter was asked about his marital status and the reason for remaining unmarried. What is the government going to do with the marital status of a person? People who tried to dig out purely personal info claiming to be government officials left the scene after being questioned by that individual. Although the government is denying this kind of incidents they are certainly taking place.

The revision of voters’ lists is causing concern in both Telugu states and many people fear that their names might be excluded. The Form–7 prescribed by the Election Commission of India has become a weapon in the hands of people who have been appointed to update voters’ lists.

Those who are in power want to ensure that no one votes against them. In AP, a Minister asked his men to ensure a positive vote bank everywhere and told them that if they notice voters who are likely to vote against the government to get them removed from the voters’ list using Form-7.

This shocked people across the State but no action has been taken against the Minister. People want the EC to act against the Minister as he blatantly violated norms.

Voters who want to exercise their democratic rights in a free and fair manner want to ensure that their names are on the voters’ lists. Tomorrow, there can be a situation where people may not get an opportunity to check the ‘revised’ list of voters. People do not know the state of their votes till the last minute, that is, till they reach the polling station.

A ruler who is democratic in his first term may become autocratic in the next. At the end of his first stint, he may simply ask people to give him one more chance to rule boasting that people are benefitting from his welfare schemes.

In Andhra Pradesh, YSR Congress President Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is trying to retain power and is desperately asking his cadres to help him achieve his objective.

Without taking into consideration the poor fiscal health of the state, he borrowed lakhs of crores and distributed Rs 2.20 lakh crore to the people via welfare schemes.

The gigantic task of executing the Polavaram project has taken a back seat. Despite being declared a national project it has not been followed up to ensure speedy completion.

Jagan had to make statements about altered dates (from 2021 to 2025) on the floor of the Assembly. He indirectly expressed his strong desire to retain power while announcing the altered date of 2025 as his first term is going to end by June 2024.

Actually, the Polavaram project should have been completed by 2021 itself and it would have been a jewel in AP’s crown. The huge spend of Rs 2.20 lakh crore may be politically useful for the ruling party but not for the state as the creation of permanent assets should be the government’s prime objective.

In Telangana, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is now a few steps ahead of his opponents after the announcement of BRS candidates for the next Assembly elections scheduled for December 2023. Despite having a debt burden of Rs 5 lakh crore, he is pumping money into the bank accounts of welfare scheme beneficiaries.

After spearheading the movement for a separate TS State, KCR took the reigns of TS and completed one decade in power. He cleverly avoided polls for the Lok Sabha and the Assembly as he was wary of the popularity of Prime Minister Modi.

KCR is now confident about his third victory as he has satisfied almost all sections. Loans amounting to thousands of crores have been waived benefitting farmers. A dole of Rs 3,000 is being given to unemployed youth. How did the revenue surplus state of TS contract a debt of Rs 5 lakh crore? Why didn’t the government implement the Dalit Bandhu scheme providing Rs 10 lakh for all Dalit families?

Despite all this KCR is eagerly trying for a third consecutive win. If he succeeds he will make history as nobody has so far succeeded in achieving a third consecutive win.

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