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After Haryana and Maharashtra, will BJP play the stake alone in Punjab?

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File Photo.

By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh: After every few months, Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance undergoes a self-imposed test to check whether or not its political bond is strong.

In recent weeks, the ties between the allies have again undergone a reaffirming test from top leaders after actions and utterances of state leaders of both sides clearly pointed to differences.

File Photo.
File Photo.

The BJP leadership, by occasionally raking up differences, is certainly testing the political waters to check if it can go alone in the 2017 assembly polls. Leaders of both the parties know for sure that they cannot encroach on each other’s votebank as the Akali Dal is strong in the Sikh-dominated rural Punjab and the BJP has its hold on the Hindu-dominated urban areas.

Some bonhomie was witnessed this week in Amritsar with union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and union Urban Development Minister M. Venkiaih Naidu sharing the stage with Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal (of the Akali Dal) and other leaders of the two parties.

Badal senior and Jaitley had to even categorically say that the alliance was strong and would continue.

The chief minister, at a recent media interaction, was even more specific in stating that the allies would contest the assembly polls together.

But at periodical intervals, top leaders of both sides have to reaffirm that the alliance is strong enough and is likely to continue.

Having been in power in the frontier state of Punjab since 2007, including the alliance returning to power in the 2012 assembly polls, there have been occasions when their leaders have differed on certain issues.

A recent provocation was the Punjab government openly favouring Khalistan-linked activists and convicted terrorists and seeking that they be shifted to prisons in Punjab. The BJP, which has made its stand clear on dealing with terrorism and terrorists, was clearly upset.

Even on other state-level issues, differences have cropped up between ministers and legislators of both sides.

Industry Minister Madan Mohan Mittal, a BJP man, has made his displeasure known about the manner in which decisions regarding his key portfolio were being taken by Badal junior. These are especially related to policy issues, announcements and new plans.

Another BJP minister, Anil Joshi, has had run-ins with Akali Dal leaders and ministers in the past.

At times, leaders from both sides have taken a stand on issues and given vent to feelings through the media. But then, the senior leaders from both sides, after watching matters for some time, intervened to stop things from aggravating. Badal senior had to recently say that the relations between the two sides were not “strained”.

Even after the photo-ops and camaraderie of leaders of both sides, issues will keep cropping up at the state heads closer to the elections to the 117 assembly seats. The BJP, which has been the smaller partner to the Akali Dal so far, is likely to seek a bigger role or even decide to go it alone like it did in Maharashtra and Haryana last October.

(IANS)

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .