Oppn politics & Bharat Bandh
Congress and other opposition parties organised a Bharat Bandh (all-India strike) on Monday to protest the rising fuel prices and depreciation of the rupee. Though the strike had little or no effect in most part of the country, several opposition parties including Congress took out the protest march and put up blockades to disrupt road traffic. Political parties including SP, BSP, TMC, DMK, and RJD supported the call for strike while five Left Front parties separately organised protest march over hike in fuel prices, the problem of farmers and unemployment. Launching an attack on the NDA government, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, "PM Modi has failed to deliver on the promises made to the country. The Rupee value has never been this weak in the past 70 years." The BJP hit back at the Congress and called the strike a flop show. It also said the government has no control over the fuel price hike. The Monday's all-India strike is the latest example of the opposition's growing restlessness over rising fuel prices and falling Indian rupee. As is expected, the constant rise in fuel prices would reflect in the prices of essential commodities, making the poor feel the pinch of rising prices. For the opposition parties, however, this is a perfect opportunity to pull up the Centre for doing nothing when fuel prices are becoming dearer with each passing day and a falling Indian rupee ensures that the overall oil bill is much higher than the government's initial estimates. The opposition is on the lookout for issues that they can raise against the Narendra Modi government and the rising fuel price with all the implications that it can have on the Indian economy is an important issue. As such, the Centre does not have much to talk about its achievements and if it is set to win the next round of Lok Sabha election, it's because of the fact that the opposition is in a disarray. Congress under the leadership of a youthful Rahul Gandhi has been raking up the issues of Rafale deal and the large-scale unemployment in the country but BJP simply refuses to be engaged in any discussion on these issues. As far as the economic condition of the country is concerned, it's stable and poised for a decent growth. But this is the result of the economic policies pursued by various governments in the last decades. Besides a decent economic growth, the Narendra Modi government was expected to initiate policies that would spur job creation. But that has not happened. Nor has the opposition been able to make it an important issue. Besides, the government was expected to keep the price of essential commodities under check so that the poor do not feel the heat of the price hike. But with oil prices rising, the transportation cost is also rising, leading to a rise in overall prices. As the government has ruled out any intervention, the trend is likely to continue. This can spell disaster for the government in a year when crucial Assembly and Lok Sabha elections are lined up. But to exploit these issues for political advantage, the opposition needs to have an edge over the institutional and organisational strength of BJP. As of now, the opposition parties do not have a national character; they are most visible in their respective areas of influence. It is the Congress which is raising the issues at the national level but many of the regional parties do not like to associate with Congress as it may lead to discomfort in the home turf. Given this character of the opposition, BJP's electoral campaign at least for the Lok Sabha election is likely to proceed without much trouble. But if Congress wins the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it will be no mean achievement either for the grand old party which is struggling to find its feet in the national politics after the NDA handed it one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of Independent India. So, even if there is not much response to its call for Bharat Bandh, Congress needs to remain active in street politics.
If the present government has not introduced any great plan to rev up the economy, it has not taken any ill-advised decisions either. The economy has been performing on the expected lines, riding on favourable monsoon and lower oil prices. But there are external factors that can have serious implications on the economy that needs to be tackled effectively and expeditiously. The constant fall of the Indian rupee has made imports expensive and the current account deficit has risen to 2.4 per cent of the GDP in June quarter compared to 1.19 per cent in the previous quarter. Any further fall in Indian rupee can upset fiscal estimates badly and therefore, the Indian rupee needs to be strengthened.