The country has had a tumultuous few weeks of politics, be it escalating Indo-Pak tensions after the Pulwama attack and subsequent Balakot air strike, or an alleged bribery scandal etched in Yeddyurappa’s diary. But, with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections right around the corner, India is showing no signs of slowing down.
Political parties have begun forming their alliances and making their stance on key issues known. They’ve started taking to social media, televised appearances, rallies, and official campaign events to speak to their supporters about the changes they want to make if elected.
But has this information reached the ears of all voters uniformly?
With less than a month until the first batch of states head to polls, let’s go through some of this election’s key issues and see where major parties and alliances stand.
Congress’s promise for power
The plight of Indian farmers is an issue that has long plagued Indian politics. This election season, both the BJP and Congress have put forth their own versions of a minimum income scheme for the poorest demographic.
Earlier in March, Congress President Rahul Gandhi promised to implement a minimum income scheme if the UPA came to power.
Under this scheme, low-income Indian households will be eligible for financial support from the government. Only families that fall below a certain threshold will qualify for additional financial help.
Gandhi did not specify if Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Muslims, farmers, and labourers, who have limited access to income and employment than privileged sections, will be included in this scheme. He also did not clarify if families will be given equitable amounts or a standard sum.
The BJP proposed a similar scheme, targeting farmers specifically.
BJP’s sops for farmers
Announcing the Budget for 2019, the BJP said it will establish the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) programme to transfer Rs 6,000 directly to farmers who own more than two hectares of cultivable land.
The NDA government has also assured the public that it will increase the loan amount for farmers to Rs 11.68 lakh and provide updated irrigation, fertilisers, and cattle-herding facilities.
The alliance also said it will increase the minimum support price (MSP) for certain crops by more than half their current value.
Farmers have been protesting for an MSP all over the country—Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Gujarat—because they have not been receiving fair prices for their crops. They also say the MSP does not take into account land rent.
Farmers have also collectively agitated for loan waivers, arguing that the waiver amount is the accrued arrears, because the government didn’t implement previous welfare schemes, such as the Swaminathan Commission.
Although many of these protests were peaceful, some turned violent, like in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district; others, however, were thwarted right from the get go, like in Telangana.
National security and Pakistan
The deadly Pulwama attack and souring of Indo-Pak relations has brought terrorism and national security to the forefront of the election debate.
Responding to Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which took responsibility for the attack, with airstrikes across the Line of Control, the BJP opened up dialogue on the use of military and border security.
However, the media’s emotional, politicised, and sometimes sensationalist coverage left minorities—particularly Kashmiris and Muslims—open to discrimination.
While the BJP has not openly chided minorities, it has definitely been vocal about the danger of Islamic terrorism and the need to show aggression to groups that threaten India’s security.
The Congress and its alliances, on the other hand, have focused more of the successes of the Indian armed forces in this ordeal rather than the concept of terrorism, particularly originating from Pakistan.
Moreover, the NDA government focused on trying to project Indian strength and asked the country to rally around PM Modi, even though he did not publicly address the country or call an all-party meeting during this time.
The Opposition, on the other hand, urged restraint and tempered action; 21 parties signed a joint statement outlining support for the armed forces, but expressing deep concern over BJP’s handling of the situation.
The Congress also recruited retired Lieutenant General D S Hooda to help the party formulate its national security policy moving forward.
This year, the Supreme Court addressed the long-standing and extremely divisive Babri Masjid issue. It has ordered the petitioners to resolve the dispute through mediation, because not doing so has dangerous communal consequences.
In the past, as CM of Gujarat, Modi had voiced support for a Ram temple on the site the mosque once stood. However, Congress leaders Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor have called for no temple in its place.
Another religious issue is the controversial Triple Talaq Bill. A BJP majority Lok Sabha passed the Bill, but Congress MPs have said the legislation violates the Constitution.
The BJP claims that its party does not discriminate on the basis of caste or religion, but its leaders and allies, like the RSS, publicly endorse a Hindu vision for the country.
So, the minority vote will be an important one this election season, especially because violence against Muslims and Dalits has jumped ever since Modi took over.
Corruption, economy, and employment
Most recently, the scandal surrounding the Yeddyurappa diary has been a cause for concern about corruption among high-level officials.
A signed diary that BJP leader and former CM of Karnataka B S Yeddyurappa maintained provides evidence of bribes worth hundreds of crores that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and other party leaders accepted.
The BJP rubbished the claims saying the diary was fake. The Income Tax department also said that while Yeddyurappa’s handwriting and signatures seemed authentic, it couldn’t confirm whether or not the documents were real.
However, the Congress said there is enough information for the newly formed Lokpal to conduct an investigation.
The Rafale deal is also considered a baggage in this election. The Opposition has accused the BJP of financial irregularities in the aviation deal that the UPA had, apparently, negotiated for cheaper.
Employment is also a contentious issue because the BJP is accused of “burying” a jobs report that shows unemployment at an all-time high.
The buried report shows that in the aftermath of demonetisation, the rate of unemployment spiked and was the highest since 1972-73. The 2% unemployment rate of the UPA was lower than NDA’s 6%.
Development and job creation is one of BJP’s pillar campaign promises. So the high unemployment levels, particularly among the youth, are a bad sign moving forward.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.
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