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A Time to Keep Promises

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  21 May 2016 12:00 AM GMT

The euphoria that has swept over Assam with the announcement of the Assembly election results on Thursday is tural and expected. People had indicated early on that a change was badly needed and that they could bring it about, and they worked sincerely for it by coming out in large numbers and voting at the polls—better than they had ever done before. The result was not just a record voter turnout for the State, but also the most classic case of anti-incumbency voting that the State or the country has ever witnessed. There was much that the people needed to vote out—a very high level of corruption, total inefficiency, too many broken promises and total fiscal indiscipline. But above all, they needed to vote against the worst forms of hoax. This was most prominently in evidence when day after day, and week after week people were fed the blatant lie that there was remarkable development in State, when there was none at all. And what was clearly proved to the hilt was that the chorus for change stemmed from the common people’s disgust with the high levels of corruption and inefficiency all around them coupled with an unwritten invitation to everyone in the government to make the most of siphoning out public money without any thought of right and wrong. The anti-incumbency ture of the voting pattern was perhaps most clearly visible in the large number of Tarun Gogoi’s senior cabinet ministers who were defeated because they were brazenly corrupt, inefficient and totally insensitive to the needs and aspirations of the people. In a word, they were ministers in a democratic set-up who were totally anti-people. No wonder the people were so determined about ushering in a radical change. And we have seen how the people combined to throw out a corrupt and inefficient Congress government and to hand over the reins of power to a BJP-led coalition. In fact, if the BJP had won just four more seats it would have achieved a bare majority all by itself. But now it is very comfortably in place with the support of the AGP (14 seats) and the BPF (12 seats). Even two years ago, such an electoral victory in Assam would have been deemed impossible for the BJP.

There are two important perceptions about this remarkable electoral adventure of the people of Assam. The first is one of trust. There is a deep underlying trust that the BJP will not only do much better for Assam, but also reverse many of the anti-people and retrograde measures inducted by the Congress during the last 15 years of the Tarun Gogoi government. The second is one of expectations. People generally expect that the BJP-led government will do much more for Assam than the Tarun Gogoi government has maged to in 15 years. This expectation is also buttressed by the promises that the BJP had made in respect of Assam. Some sections of the electorate believe that these promises could not have been fulfilled during the Congress rule of the State. They believe that now, with the BJP in power in Assam, most of these promises will be fulfilled. This impression arises partly from the image that rendra Modi has been projecting as a capable and concerned leader. The general impression is that what he has done for Gujarat and what he is doing for India, he can also do for Assam if the BJP is in power. So people have voted for the necessary change to eble the BJP to do what it had promised. The trouble, however, arises from the kind of promises made (some of them almost impossible to keep) and the ability and commitment of the BJP alliance to honour those very difficult promises. It may be a good idea to take a second look at the promises made. What the BJP had promised for Assam was: employment to 25 lakh youths; 24 x 7 power supply; water supply in every household; 100 per cent irrigation coverage in agricultural fields; a 100 per cent foreigner-free NRC; no oral interviews for 3rd and 4th category jobs; fencing the Indo-Bangladesh border and clearing xattras and forest lands of encroachment. It is clear that the first two promises are going to be extremely difficult to keep. Assam is the State with the highest unemployment rate in the country. Providing jobs to an additiol lot of 25 lakh youths would call for a very rapid creation of infrastructure for about one-twelfth of Assam’s total population without the requisite industrial activity for such a commitment. The power supply situation in Assam is well known to everyone. With a peak-hour demand of over 1,300 MW, we have power generation limited to about 200 MW. We do not have the power needed even for five new medium-sized industries. At present, many parts of Assam are without electricity for about 15 hours every day. Even the capital city does not have power for several hours a day. And with an Irrigation department that has failed the farmers almost totally for several years, it is going to be a Herculean task to provide 100 per cent irrigation coverage in our fields. These promises were rashly made, and the new BJP-led government should go back to people asking them for a little more time. But there are promises that the new government can keep without undue strain. They are: a totally foreigner-free NRC; the discontinuation of oral interviews for 3rd and 4th category jobs; fencing the Indo-Bangladesh border and clearing the xattra and forest lands of encroachment. The NRC must not only be foreigner-free but must also be accepted by the Election Commission of India as a valid document for the correction and revision of the electoral roll for Assam. The work of fencing the Indo-Bangladesh border must commence from the day the new BJP-led government takes charge. Likewise, clearing the xattras and forest land of encroachment must be at the top of the BJP agenda. The changes promised and desired by the people must come expeditiously. The last thing that the people expect of the new BJP-led government is that it should cite as precedents the corrupt and inefficient practices of the Congress government that we have had for 15 years.

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