Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Issues: Governance

After corruption and leadership, the third issue that will shape the 2014 General Elections is the question of governance and this is where India seems to be cut down vertically between the young and the old. Indeed, never before has the generation gap been so strong as in this election.

The older generation still looks upon governance as a system of handouts and patronage. A good party is one that gives freebies - the meaning of poverty alleviation is what Indira Gandhi gave it i.e., handing out food, water, money and much more to the poor. However, for the younger generation, governance has moved on into government becoming an enabler of economic activity and not the start and end of it. To that extent, the youth demand infrastructure that enables jobs.

The sad truth is that the last ten years has seen jobless growth for India, with stellar economic growth backed by the services sector, which brings in money but not jobs. At the same time, that money was either siphoned off into the numerous scams of the UPA regime or lay stagnant simply because all files in the Central Government refused to move because of fear among bureaucrats as well as ignominies such as the Jayanthi Tax. What's worse is that excessive largess not backed by strong economic growth led to the government borrowing more and thus pushing out the private sector and killing even more jobs.

Overall, governance has been a disaster and the alternatives presented by the candidates speak to different generations. The BJP has been aggressive in promising infrastructure and further liberalization, which is what makes it so popular with the young generation. The Congress meanwhile has chosen to stick to its welfare state ideas, although it is trying to give some concessions through something called a 'right to entrepreneurship,' whatever that is. The AAP seems to be caught somewhere in between, talking about doles and enabling private enterprise at the same time.

Clearly, this election represents different, even competing ideas of governance at play and political parties are struggling to make sense of it.  

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