Since general elections are to begin soon, political parties understandably are busy choosing candidates first before drafting the election manifestos. Before the document is finalised this reporter hopes, parties particularly the NDA would pay due importance to the state of agriculture in India and provide in its manifesto measures to meet the challenge of agriculture because enhanced farm production is one of the surest ways of providing gainful employment for the farmers and non-farming communities in the rural areas.
During the NDA'srule its Finance Minister introduced the concept of the Kisan Credit Card which is still functioning despite five years of UPA rule and the system of agriculture information on telephone service all 365 days of the year too is still in vogue. The result was that the NDA rule had ended with a record food grains output of 213.16 million tonnes (MT) which remains unbroken for three years during UPA rule.
However, as an agricultural correspondent, in the analysis for the case of the defeat of the NDA I had found that one of the reasons for the failure of the party, apart from misplaced hopes, was the timing of the elections. The NDA still had six months to rule before the next general elections were due only in September 2004.
In the months of April and May, the entire scenario is bleak. The field are bereft of any crops, the rivers, tanks and canals are mostly dry, and even the trees do not provide sufficient shades for the tired campaigners.
In contrast, during September-October, the weather is cool, rivers, canals and tanks are full of water, there is greenery all round with paddy fields offering a pleasant sight to tired canvassers.
Belying all expectations, the NDA lost the elections. The margin of defeat was minimal, but defeat it was. How much was the weather responsible for the defeat.?
One will recall that the general elections for the Lok Sabha from the first general elections in 1951-52 used to be completed by March. This went on till the Garibi Hatao poll of 1971. The untimely poll of 1979 was held in the winter month of December. The 1984 poll too was held in December. So was the 1989 polls. However the 1991 polls had to be held during the summer months. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi had further delayed the polls. The next general elections were held in summer months during which the Congress party was reduced to a minority The BJP remained in power for 13 days and the Deve Gowda and Gujral Governments had fallen by the road side. The 1998 polls were in favour of the BJP-led combination but Jayalalithaa and Giridhar Gomango had seen the end of this Government. Then came the NDA government with a clear mandate, the elections for which were held during the salubrious month of September. They could have waited for another six months before calling the general elections in April 2004 which resulted in disastrous consequences.
Purely from agricultural angle the situation in the country as a whole in 2009 is similar to that in 2004.The UPA won the polls and formed the government but 2004 had proved to be a drought year. Rainfall was 11 per cent less than the long period average The production of foodgrains had come down from 213.2 million tonnes on 2003-04 to 198.4 million tonnes in 04-05, a loss of 15 million tones in one year.
In the interest of the country, one ardently feels that this phenomenon will not be repeated in 2008-09 but the official announcement (second advance estimate) says that production will come down to 227.88 million tones compared to 230.78 million tones in 07-08.
This is not a happy estimate for the country, elections or no elections.