Visions and Promises
Is a vision document binding to the political party once the reins of power are in its hands? As the ruling Congress pours scorn upon the BJP’s vision document for Assam, a debate is sought to be created how such a document stacks up against a party manifesto chock-full with promises. While releasing the vision document on Friday, senior BJP leader and Union Fince minister Arun Jaitley called it ‘the result of a participatory method’ wherein suggestions sought from citizens were incorporated on a range of issues like agriculture, industry, infrastructure, employment generation, poverty alleviation and security concerns. Asserting that the document would spell out the priorities and set the agenda for political representatives, Jaitley promised that ‘every word in the document would be implemented by the BJP if voted to power’. To be spread over nine years up to 2025, the BJP’s vision document has set targets of creating 25 lakh jobs, setting up over 100 BPOs in the State and skilling every youth, along with at least one engineering college and 3 polytechnics in every subdivision. Surely, this will be a very tall order to meet even if the sub-divisiol target is diluted to district level. There can be no two opinions about the urgency of skill development in Assam, with most of its youth lacking employable skills in a highly competitive market. But the market also must be large enough to take in large numbers engineers and technicians projected to be churned out year after year. Considering the push the NDA government is giving to infrastructure, the BJP is on a stronger wicket when it sets targets like five bridges each over the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers and pucca roads to every village. But 24x7 power supply, clean drinking water and LPG connection to every household will raise questions about where the requisite power will come from in the backdrop of mega dam controversy and woeful water treatment facilities. And unless the State generates sufficient power, how will low cost godowns and cold storages be set up in every subdivision as targeted in the vision document? Any government that solves this problem will give great succor to our farmers, forced to sell their perishable products to middlemen at un-remunerative prices in the absence of administrative support.
When not even 5 percent of cultivable land in Assam is under irrigation after six decades, it will be a miracle if any government in the State mages to raise the irrigation cover to 100 percent, as the vision document has targeted. If it materializes, that government will also take a giant step towards ‘zero tolerance’ to corruption, with the State Irrigation department having become a byword for bottomless graft and inefficiency. However, making Guwahati a hub for medical tourism will sound plausible only after the NDA government comes clear about where its proposal for an AIIMS-like institution for Assam stands presently. Rooting out all suspected residents from an updated NRC, guaranteeing constitutiol safeguards for indigenous people, ST status for six ethnic communities and dredging the Brahmaputra and Barak riverbeds for mitigating floods are huge promises that are not lightly made. Expectedly scoffing at the BJP’s vision document, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has commented that it shows the saffron party has ‘no promises to make to the people of Assam’. Since the BJP has refrained from making any commitments by bringing out a manifesto that shows what the party intends to do in five years, it has left the road clear to make U-turns — thus spoke Gogoi. Though he may seek to make a virtue out of his vice, Chief Minister Gogoi sounded strange indeed when he brought out yet more promises in the Congress manifesto released recently. A party that has ruled Assam for 15 years straight now promises to seal the Indo-Bangla border and set up inspection committees in each district to detect illegal migrants! All this would have been laughable, had not the consequences of unmet promises proved so tragic for Assam. Most of its socio-economic development indices are down, showing a State drifting aimlessly somewhere near the bottom, with its various communities co-existing uneasily in a fractured polity. The people of Assam are yearning for a concrete vision to be sincerely implemented, they have been looking vainly for a government that seriously takes its promises and goes all out to keep them. What they do not need are visions and promises made for electoral consumption, which are nothing but cruel jokes rubbing more salt into their wounds.