Millennium Post

Congress gears up for 2014

It seems to have suddenly dawned on the Congress-led-UPA that its election mandate in 2009, when it did hold on to its majority in the Parliament, included a variety of programmes and schemes to uplift rural and urban poor, the aam aadmi, that huge section of the population who seemed to have fallen by the wayside in India’s so-called rush to become an economic powerhouse. The Congress is to review its welfare schemes in a high-profile conclave on Saturday in which it is likely to take decisions about the possibility of introducing more welfare schemes in the line of the more successful ones like NREGA. In fact one must note that since the UPA-I came to power, the very idea of an economic powerhouse is under a cloud of doubt and globally, economists and policy-makers are fearing that the global economic downturn that began in the last decade, is to have much more prolonged impact than estimated, something enshrined in the forthcoming challenges to the newly re-elected US President Barack Obama. Under such circumstances, the Congress may not want to be seen as only pulling the wrong horse, in trying to fetishise economic reforms, the impact and influence of which has surely dwindled over the years since it came to power in 2004, when reforms used to be the  buzzword. Still the Congress, as has been recently witnessed, has gone for an aggressive reform drive after years of policy paralysis. Now that it has signalled a return to reform-based policy-making, it wants to sound out the ‘other’ India, the India on which reforms have shown very little impact but the India which decides the fate of politicians every five years.

Of course the Congress argument is that if the government can monetise its resources and put a check on the subsidies, it can fund more welfare schemes, without having to empty the nation’s pocket more than ever. This argument does have its economic logic but what the Congress has to do is to take the logic to its end. If it at all wants to face the nation with its reform-based development model two years from now, it has to, by all means, show definite investments and impact in social welfare schemes. And that is where the conclave on Saturday, to be attended by the Congress a-list and the entire cabinet of ministers is important. Egged on by Rahul Gandhi, the Congress wants to be seen with its feet firmly placed in both the boats, one of economic reforms, the other of the welfare model. This is a calculated strategy to not alienate any part of the electorate and clearly
signals how the Congress is already gearing up for the next elections.
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