With the general elections to elect the 16th Lok Sabha fast approaching, the winds of change are blowing across the country. BJP which is riding high on the popularity of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the spectacular wins in assembly elections is heading for a north- west monsoon as analysts believe the party is expected to perform amazingly well in those regions. But for the party hoping to form the next government at center, importance of South and its 129 odd Lok Sabha seats cannot be ignored in the formation of stable government. In Southern states barring Karnataka, resonance to national issues has often been minimal and there has always been a parallel political narrative which influenced electoral patterns even in a national election. While electing a government on the issues of regionalism or sub nationalism isn’t wrong, the success of national party like BJP provides an impetus in bringing the common national agenda to the forefront. In this general election, where many Indians hoping to see not a mere government change but a Regime Change, how South responds to overall national narrative will be fascinating to observe.
Something interesting is happening in a southern state – Andhra Pradesh which makes it a difficult state to predict electorally – thanks to the sub regional politics dominating the maximum mind space and media space in the last 5 years. In an otherwise politically stable state where the battles for a very long time have been between regional player TDP and Congress, for the first time more than 4 players would be trying to make their mark in the state where the Vidhan Sabha elections are held along with the Lok Sabha elections. Among the southern states, Andhra Pradesh acquires the political significance and one of the reasons is 42 MPs it sends to the parliament and it’s not exaggeration to claim that it’s not possible to form a stable government at the center without the support of MPs from the state. The last three governments at the center prove the same theory. The role of BJP in the state has acquired greater political significance given its rising national stocks. As the party which is expected to form the next government in summer 2014, it has a crucial role to play and the actions of the party and NDA as a coalition government going to shape up the future of the state. BJP is not a new player in AP politics and its current numbers doesn’t actually convey the extent of its political relevance there.
Before focusing on BJP’s role in the development of state, let’s look at the political turmoil in the state to understand what is ailing there. Andhra Pradesh has been home to cynical caste politics over the last many years and the never ending bifurcation saga has put the spokes in the wheels of development. The state has been one of the traditional playgrounds of the Congress party where the changing CMs repeatedly and being remote controlled by the high command is nothing new. The script has been almost similar in the last 5 years as the state saw CMs being picked up by high command in a typical Congress style and the intra party political turmoil added to the overall instability of the state. Ever since the protests supporting and opposing bifurcation erupted across the state, Congress followed a hide and seek game and should be largely held accountable for the loss of property and innocent lives as a result of simmering tensions for prolonged time over the issue of Telangana.
Viewing the issue solely form the prism of elections by the party ensured various interested groups keeping the emotions high across the regions. And the hasty announcement of bifurcation without reaching the consensus on several crucial issues including water sharing arrangement, distribution of natural resources and ofcourse the most important issue, status of Hyderabad post bifurcation has led to the economic uncertainty. Several people are genuinely worried about their stability and the news of several industries looking for better cities isn’t good news for new grads and migrating youth from small towns and villages whose careers are at stake.
In an election year, comparisons between NDA and UPA are inevitable and on several fronts NDA outperforms UPA and the statistics – micro analysis have been performed numerous times by now which shows the same. But the less emphasized NDA achievement which stands in contrast to the abysmal failure of UPA government is the former’s political wisdom and statesmanship in achieving political consensus during the formation of 3 new states – Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal ( now Uttarakhand) and Jharkhand. Bringing various aggrieved parties on board and achieving the political consensus by bringing Lalu Prasad Yadav , who was threatening to commit suicide upon the formation of new state (Jharkhand ) Vajpayee and Advani as the leaders of the NDA have shown tremendous political will which is devoid of electoral calculations. Had they thought about electoral gains and petty seat calculations, the states would have been burning by now as the UPA government came to power in 2004 and we all can see its track record in delivering on promises made.
Analyzing Andhra Pradesh’s performance under Congress government in the key sectors over the last decade shows how badly the state fell from its past glory. Andhra Pradesh is a mineral rich state and home to many resources. The state saw tremendous growth in periods of non- congress governments and became a power house in IT sector by 90’s. As an ally of TDP in the state, BJP led NDA heralded numerous economic reforms in the period of 1999-2004 which led to the stupendous development in the areas of infrastructure, job creation and making the state economic hub. BJP governments across states have presented growth models in the field of governance which include Power sector, Agriculture, Infrastructure development and skill development. When was the last time elections were fought on the same issues in Andhra Pradesh?
Congress’s failure in governing AP is evident in the lack of political will to initiate policies or reforms in any sector which are exemplary and worth emulating by other states. Despite being an economy primarily driven by agriculture, Congress government hasn’t been proactive in working for agricultural sector with emphasis on infrastructure which also indirectly increases the growth of the sector. On the other hand, BJP government in Gujarat has introduced various innovative agriculture developmental reforms and effectively pursued over the years and the state has been recording double digit growth which is very much higher than the national average. Gujarat efficiently managed ground water resources and turned barren land suitable for agriculture recording the highest growth in the last decade. Infrastructure development by Gujarat which itself is a huge success story also helped in the growth of agriculture sector.
Not only in agriculture, BJP government of Gujarat also scripted a turnaround story in power sector by introducing sweeping reforms which made the state a case study to understand how a power –deficit state can be transformed in to a power surplus state by right vision and political will. Whereas In AP power deficit increased form mere 1% in 2005-2006 to high 7% in 2011 -2012 and power-cuts have risen across several cities and districts of the state. Madhya Pradesh is another shining example where party with the vision can make the difference. BJP government in Madhya Pradesh which came to power in 2003 defeating Congress government has often been credited for pulling the state from the BIMARU status and pioneering incredible reforms in power, industrial and agriculture sectors. MP was reeling under massive power shortage and terrible transport system when BJP first came to power in 2003. Since then, its steady growth has surprised many and the growth model made even economists praise the chief minister Shri Shiv Raj Chouhan. MP recorded stupendous growth consistently surpassing the national average.
Congress government in AP which made populism as the theme of governance never brought any radical change/ idea in the distribution of resources which fixes the leakage and helps resources reach the targeted population. Chhattisgarh government which is also run by BJP has one of the best public distribution systems (PDS) in India and offers valuable lessons for others states in ensuring the food security of the people. Dr. Raman Singh initiated several rounds of reforms beginning from 2003 when he became CM of Chhattisgarh for the first time. The reforms included restructuring the ownership of private run PDS shops and allowing the gram panchayats and co-operatives to run the shops and increasing the reach of the food distribution scheme to the larger population and minimizing the leakages by ensuring that bogus BPL cards are sealed and increasing the level of subsidy. In a state which has maximum tribal and poor populations, these reforms led to the improved distribution of the resources and became a case study.
The common theme of BJP governments of these states is the vision to initiate and execute reforms. This has been confirmed by the thumping wins governments received in successive terms. Andhra Pradesh being a state with plenty of resources and man power, neither seen exemplary growth in any of the above neither mentioned fields nor stood as a model state in any sector. How long can the state reel under uncertainty and directionless? The state’s exchequer has been heavily damaged by the populist schemes of successive Congress governments. While populism mixed with governance and fixing the loop holes in the system is beneficial, Congress government has been trying to replace the governance with mindless populist schemes with electoral gains in sight. The closest resemblance in the model of governance to AP is previous government in Rajasthan, where Sonianomics received a drubbing in the hands of people in the assembly elections and who won the mandate of the people there? Again, a BJP government!
2014 elections present a great chance for the people of Andhra Pradesh to choose an alternative which can provide the people the vision and the way to execute the vision. BJP’s success in the state will be the success of the politics of governance and reforms. When India can see a Gujarat Model, Madhya Pradesh model or a Chhattisgarh Model of development, why can’t Andhra Pradesh have its growth model? The vote of the people in coming elections will decide the future of the state.