A Clear Choice for Indian Voters
By: Chaitanya Davé
The Elections-2014 have finally arrived in India. In next few weeks, hundreds of millions of Indians will go to the polls. The fate of India is in their hands.
The stakes could not be higher. The choice could not be starker. The two parties, one of which will hold the reigns of the country on May 16, 2014 are the old Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). One can discount the amateurish Aam Admi party for this election. They have a long way to go.
On the one hand, India has the old Congress Party which has ruled the country for most of its independence period. Since after Nehru, the party has been headed by his family. The country is ruled most of the time by the member of Nehru family. The Congress party today is a family run business-empire similar to the Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis. Mind you, these others are private business-empires but the Nehru-Indira dynasty-run Congress runs the country, a peoples’ democracy.
Custodians of power for most of the time of India’s independence, the ruling Congress Party has miserably failed its people. The record speaks for itself.
As Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and his disciple Jean Dreze–two finest minds in development economics–point out in their book “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions”, the details and numbers are shocking. At the outset, they state that “The achievement of high growth must ultimately be judged in terms of the impact of that economic growth on the lives and freedoms of the people.” Further, they point out that “the societal reach of the economic progress in India has been remarkably limited.” Again, Sen writes: “Development is equal to freedom is equal to social justice. The great Indian growth story is a biased text, making the country look more and more like islands of California in a sea of sub-Saharan Africa…something must have gone terribly wrong in the last six decades of Indian democracy, for our record in the social sector—be it healthcare, education or gender justice—is dismal; we are even worse than Bangladesh in living standards.” Indeed a truthful and scathing attack on main custodian of Indian governance, Congress. Look at some comparisons based on statistics:
Though India has significantly caught up with China in terms of GDP growth, its progress has been much slower than China’s in areas such as longevity, literacy, child undernourishment and maternal mortality.
Much poorer Bangladesh has caught up with and overtaken India in life expectancy, infant mortality, immunization of children, child undernourishment and girl’s schooling.
Even Nepal is catching up. In spite of its GDP about one third of India’s, it has caught up in many social indicators with India.
Whereas some 20 years ago, India had second-best social indicators among the six South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan), it now stands second worst (ahead only of the failed state of Pakistan). Finally, Sen points out: “The Indian failure in social infrastructure is not a democratic failure. It is a failure of politics, policies and priorities of governance.”
India has been climbing up the ladder of per capita income while sliding down the slope of social indicators which matter the most to poor people. India shamefully has 40% of its children under five years of age undernourished. This is comparable to Sub-Saharan Africa; what good it is to have more billionaires in our country when 22% of its population is below poverty line? Some 300 million Indians don’t have electricity. In the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI), India ranks a poor 136, below Iraq (131), Gautemala or Ghana. China ranks 101, USA is no. 3 and Norway is no.1. This is after 67 years of independence! What has Congress done all these years besides clinging to power; and that also by one family-run dynasty most of the time?
Under Congress’s watch for last 10 years, gargantuan corruption has taken place and billions of dollars are stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. Today, more than one trillion dollars are deposited in foreign banks; money stolen from Indian people.
In the 2014 election starting in April, the Indian voters have a choice. It is between the crown prince Rahul Gandhi or the humble chaiwala Narendra Modi. While one man claims the ‘gadi’ (throne) for the reason of his birth in the Nehru/Gandhi family–whose party now consists of hundreds of sycophants obediently serving the family–with no significant achievements to his credit while the other man, coming from humble lower middle-class background—chai-seller at the railway station–rising through the ranks of a party with sheer force of hard work, loyalty, honesty, sincerity, and the willingness to devote his entire life for the country he loves and with a laudable-proven record as a Chief Minister of a state for which he worked ceaselessly hard and brought it up to the envy of the rest of the world. According to the records, Mr. Modi takes only around Rs. 12,550 per month as his salary—less than a government peon’s–though average Chief Minister’s salary is Rs. 500,000 per month in India. Average Chief Minister in India keeps a personal staff of around 22 assistants, Mr. Modi keeps a personal staff of 3 people. The choice for the Indian voters could not be clearer as per who Narendra Modi is and what he will do for India.
This is a pivotal moment for India and its people. They can either seize the moment and elect the dynamic man from a humble background with proven record or they can vote for the family-run business-empire serving the interests of a single family which practices ‘vote-bank politics’ to stay in power and which believes in status quo…business as usual. They can vote for a party which democratically elects a chaiwala as its prime ministerial candidate or they can vote for a crown prince chosen for his birth in the family with no creditable record of any achievement.
One just hopes that Indian voters who are very smart will make the right choice in this historic election.
The author Chaitanya Davé is an author of two books and lives in southern California with his family. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org