Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why we should fear the Samajwadi Party's manifesto

Why we should fear the Samajwadi Party's manifesto

T V R Shenoy | April 14, 2009 | 16:08 IST

Hours from now as I write various parts of India shall be celebrating
Vishu, Baisakhi, Rangoli Bihu, Naba Barsha, and so forth. Call it what
you will, it is essentially the same festival under different names,
the day traditionally marked as the first day of the Hindu solar
calendar.
But which year shall we be inaugurating? More to the point, if we look
at the considered opinions of the Samajwadi Party boss we can
justifiably ask not which year but which century we are entering.

Here are some of the gems from Mulayam Singh Yadav as he lifted the
veil off his party's manifesto. 'The use of computers in offices is
creating unemployment problems. Our party feels that if work can be
done by a person using hands there is no need to deploy machines.'

The Samajwadi Party's hatred of machinery is not limited to offices.

'A harvesting season brings employment for the labour class for at
least six months but these harvesters will snatch their earnings.'

Did you hear that, you farmers of Punjab, by next Baisakhi you will be
expected to offer more employment to the unemployed of Uttar Pradesh
and Bihar.

But why, one might ask, are so many people fleeing the haven of
Mulayam Singh Yadav's Uttar Pradesh to reap the harvest in Punjab? Or
to paint houses in Delhi? Or to sell vegetables in Mumbai? Why can't
they find gainful employment in their own state?

Could it be because of the employment policies espoused by the likes
of the Samajwadi Party? 'The salaries provided by private firms should
be in sync with the minimum wages that have been set by the
government.' In other words, the Samajwadi Party is bent upon pulling
down salaries in the private sector as far as possible rather than try
to raise the income of the poor.

I pass with a wince over the Samajwadi Party's apparent antipathy
towards the English language. Desperately back-pedalling in an attempt
at damage control, Samajwadi Party campaigner Sanjay Dutt said the
manifesto merely spoke of the 'need to put an end to expensive English
medium schools.'

I wonder if that description includes the likes of the staunchly
Anglophone academy in Dholpur, Rajasthan -- where Mulayam Singh Yadav
enrolled his only son, Akhilesh Yadav. The heir apparent of the
Samajwadi Party then went on to earn a bachelor's degree from the
University of Mysore before leaving for the University of Sydney, both
of which use English as the chosen medium.

It is easy enough to go through the salient points of the Samajwadi
Party's manifesto, mocking the sillier promises along the way. But at
the end of it all I was not disgusted but depressed.

Think about it for a minute, this is an election manifesto put out by
the fourth largest party in the current Lok Sabha. In the last general
election the Samajwadi Party won 35 of Uttar Pradesh's 80 Lok Sabha
seats, the largest party by far in the state. (The Bahujan Samaj
Party's tally was 19 seats, the BJP won just 10 seats, and everyone
else was in single digits.)

Given the disarray in the ranks and their lacklustre performance in
the Vidhan Sabha polls of 2007, it is safe to assume that neither the
BJP nor the Congress shall do markedly better. But even if the BSP,
now the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, doubles its tally, that might
still leave Mulayam Singh Yadav with a score of MPs in the next Lok
Sabha -- which could be crucial.

Election manifestos, please remember, are documents explicitly
designed to attract voters. That is what I find so depressing.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, a seasoned political operator and a successful
one, thinks the best way to woo Uttar Pradesh is with promises to curb
the use of English, to restrain use of information technology, to cap
salaries by government fiat, and even to halt the use of mechanisation
in agriculture. If he is correct then India's largest state is going
to be a very large stone around India's collective throat for years to
come.

We have walked down this ruinous path earlier. The Left Front tried to
promote Bengali by removing English from primary schools when it came
to power in West Bengal 30 years ago. The result is a wasted
generation, one that finds chances of employment outside the state
significantly reduced. And of course those poor people were forced to
look outside West Bengal because the Left Front's economic policies
crushed employment generation.

Now here is Mulayam Singh Yadav trying the same tactics on a far
larger scale. It is doubly depressing because it was just recently
that the Mayawati government, in a significant if generally ignored
announcement, said English would be taught in Uttar Pradesh from Class
One on.

It is not just the prospect of all those millions of unemployed --
possibly unemployable -- people from Uttar Pradesh that is so scary.

There is also a national security angle because of the Samajwadi
Party's views on foreign policy. Mulayam Singh Yadav says he will try
to ensure stronger ties with Pakistan and Bangladesh. 'The basic cause
of terrorism lies in regional differences. The forums across the world
which deal with the issue of terrorism work at the behest of America.'

In other words, the threat of Pakistan-based terrorism shall be played
down just as the United States begins to take that threat seriously.

Mulayam Singh Yadav could well be in a position to carry out at least
some of his promises in the next Lok Sabha if neither the BJP nor the
Congress is in a position to lead the government. I am sure the
Communist Party of India-Marxist will be only too happy to join the
Samajwadi Party in an anti-American tirade. Or, for that matter, in
placing salary caps or raising taxes to promote their version of
'social justice'.

Could that happen? Why not? Mulayam Singh Yadav, unlike Lalu Prasad
Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, has consistently refused to back the idea
of a second stint for the Manmohan Singh ministry. (The cynic in me
says that both the leaders from Bihar would consider backing even L K
Advani if the BJP weren't allied with Nitish Kumar!) A Third Front
government would be preferred by both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Prakash
Karat.

Where would that take India? A single sentence on the Samajwadi
Party's Web site -- apparently hatred of computers goes only so far!
-- sums up everything behind that wretched manifesto. 'Samajwadi Party
is a party primarily based in Uttar Pradesh, where it bases its
support largely on OBCs (Other Backward Castes) and Muslims,
particularly Mulayam Singh Yadav's own Yadav caste.'

It would be a monstrous tragedy if all of India were left hostage to
small sections of Uttar Pradesh. But it could well happen.

I want to wish all my readers a happy new year to come but the thought
of a CPI-M-Samajwadi Party dominated Union Cabinet freezes any such
thoughts.




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