In India elections always kaleidoscopic to viewers. It is obvious that in Gujarat the Congress Party accepted the defeat before contesting the elections. Because they knew that they were not in touch/in communication with the electorate after 2017’s impressive performance of being a runner-up. The Congress party leaders at the top, like leaders of the western democracies, often take leave and go on holidays to relax in unknown destinations.
They resurface only when there are elections. They neither care about their electorate nor their cadre in between. To the big bosses of the Congress, they are all immaterial and their personal pleasures are paramount. Contrast this with that of the BJP’s relentless work.
Coming to Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra that emphasizes on the ideological perspective has no takers. It is a failed bid. Nowadays, old loyalties and ideologies are fading all over the world. New definitions and strategies are emerging. The Left-liberal ideology which Rahul Gandhi envisages is at peril in many countries. In India it has been overplayed for generations. Therefore, it has been worn out. When the Congress was in power, the party used the liberal ideology more in breach than in observance.
To the delight of keen observers of the electoral process, Gujarat once again proved as an invincible fort of the BJP. The BJP broke all records (even the earlier Congress’s C.M. Madhav Singh Solanki’s record margin of 149) in this 2022- election to gain maximum percentage of vote share (52.8%) and seats (156/182). When prime minister Modi started campaigns, many political pandits questioned—‘why is he doing so, if not the BJP is doubtful of winning Gujarat’?
Now, with this victory, it is proved that the prime minister campaigned only for winning at this magnitude! The Congress micro-level-campaign in Gujarat led to a Nano-level outcome. The only saving grace for the Congress is the Himachal Pradesh. Victory in that hill-state is in no way ideological. The Congress party in its desperation to win, promised voters of Himachal, the revocation of Compensatory Pension Scheme (CPS) and bringing the Old Pension Scheme (OPS).
Similarly, repeal of Agnipath for the recruitment of the army. These two promises coupled with dissidence in the state BJP unit helped the Congress win. Himachal Pradesh is a small hill state. Many people in the state are either working in state government departments or are in the army. Already (with the win of the congress) the state government employees have started celebrating and calculating their monetary benefits!
Let’s see what these pension schemes are. It is the Congress party that has brought-in (through an enactment in 2013) the great reform of the National Pension System. In the UPA-government, under the aegis of Sonia Gandhi, there was a National Advisory Committee (NAC) that proposed this change in pension. The advisory body stated that the retired employees’ pensions were a huge burden on the governments both in states and at the Centre. The Old Pension Scheme (OPS) was started in the British Era by the British ruling for the retired employees during that time. Now, in Britain, it is no longer followed.
At that time, when the British ruled, the average life-expectancy was less. If a person lived up to sixty-years, people used to celebrate his sixtieth-birthday with fanfare. Now sixty is a new-forty. With the medical advancement, with new life saving drugs in place, the life-span has increased tremendously. Since the retired employees get handsome pensions commensurate with their service, they are able to afford health-care properly and are able to live longer. The longer they live, the longer they get pension.
For instance, in the state of Telangana, there are two lakhs of state government employees and one-half lakh retired-employees. Put together, for three-half lakh employees, the state pays through its exchequer. Hence, the two-lakh productive employees (employees that are doing job/work) are generating money to pay the one-half lakh pensioners (of course, the government also gets money through direct and indirect taxes).
In the new Compensatory Pension Scheme (CPS)) the employee, while doing service, every year has to contribute some amount towards pension/provident fund, the matching amount is borne by the government and is linked to an insurance company or so. This way, the government need not waste what is generated by the young productive employees. Thus saved amounts could be utilized for state/nation-building measures. Recently, Greece (a country in the European Union) went into an economic recession. The reason being, it has many aged-people who needed to be given pensions and very few youngsters that could work and generate money.
In Europe the birth-rate is low, unlike in India. In India there is a young population. Thus we have demographic -dividend. So, the Compensatory Pension Scheme (CPS) lessens the burden of the government to move forward to progress. In fact CPS is enacted by the Congress. It applies to those employees that have joined service in 2004 and thereafter. The Congress party now wants to go back on pension scheme only for electoral-benefit.
Agnipath is also a progressive reform. But the opposition is opposing and misleading the youth. The BJP needs to educate people on these fronts. Especially the OPS that has a higher bearing across all states wherever elections are to be held. In the whole scenario of elections, AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) is a minor player that is punching above its weight. The party’s influence is mainly restricted to Delhi and the neighboring Punjab.
Apart from Arvind Kejriwal, the party has no known-face or leader in other states. Whether this tiny-puny party with no proper ideology continues or fizzles out in future no one knows. However, the Congress’s weakness, right now, is the AAP’s strength. Although the Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD) result is encouraging to the AAP— would an NGO-like party— could it become a pan- India-party— is a big question. In any case, it seems right that the BJP and prime minister Modi are in an unassailable position right now and could easily win in the 2024 general election.