The mammoth rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the capital on April 21 became a major political event not only because of the huge mobilisation of the people from all walks of life, but also because it was one of the biggest-ever mass rallies against the central government in the past many years.
The frustration and anger of the poor people, their desire to express opposition to the Congress government’s policies that have made food inflation a permanent feature were evident in the massive turnout and the spontaneity of the teeming multitude to brave the Delhi mid-summer heat. That such a huge assembly was peaceful and did not create any kind of law and order problem—each person from the nook and corner of the country, such as remote Vanvasi hamlets came on valid tickets—usually associated with such political show of strength, other than choking most parts of the national capital region, is a matter of pride to the organisers. Also it was a scintillating display of the organisational strength, discipline and mass base of the main opposition party. This was the first major national campaign of the BJP under its youthful new president Nitin Gadkari.
The BJP president is right when he says that Congress regimes are synonymous with scarcity and unaffordable food price. How does the Congress achieve it? In fact, there is no mystery about it. In the pre-liberalisation era its fetish for control, and license-permit raj stunted the country’s economic growth and ensured poverty. The post-liberalisation Congress has unleashed a monstrous avalanche of market forces and so-called innovative finance market derivatives that make it impossible for the government to intervene and control price rise. In the derivatives market price rise in a commodity means maximum returns for the market players. Coupled with it, and fascinated by the indoctrination of IMF-World Bank economics, Indian agriculture, particularly food production was systematically discouraged with the plea that imported foot articles are cheaper and that the cost of production of food items in India is higher compared to the world average. In fact, these are fallacious arguments. What India has to ensure is self-sufficiency in food and proper storage facility for procured food articles. The government’s failure and indifference cannot be better explained than citing the rotting of 30,000 metric tones of food grains in Punjab last month for want of proper storage facility. Scarcity in food market is what both middlemen and politicians love. They make huge profit in the business of import and export of food and issuance of permission for the same. The recent sugar—in fact, every season after Sharad Pawar became food minister there was a scam— price scandal is too fresh in memory for anyone to forget.
That is why Nitin Gadkari said, during the Janata Party rule in the late seventies and the NDA rule from 1998 to 2004, there was price stability. There was a surplus in food availability.
Now, the Congress is attempting another fraud on the people in the name of Food Security Bill. Under this there is an orchestrated debate on the number of BPL families, which according to the Planning Commission are 8.14 crore and which if “Sonia Gandhi’s anxiety” is factored in will rise to nine crore plus. This exercise is meant to first destroy the existing public distribution system (PDS), reintroduce it with a Sonia tag and make the beneficiaries of food subsidy indebted to the Congress Party. Worse, the centre will save nearly Rs. 20,000 crore on food subsidy bill.
The Congress ploy is to profit from high food price on the one hand and create a loyal political constituency for itself, on the other, through Food Security Bill.
The BJP’s successful and timely initiative in taking the continuing food scarcity and rising prices to the people is a step in the right direction. For about a year now food inflation is hovering around 18 per cent. And the government was easily getting away repeating alibis. The massive turnout in the rally has also proved that still people can be mobilised on socio-economic issues.