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India Total Debt of Punjab - Whopping Rs 70,000 Crore???

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by rajneesh madhok, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. rajneesh madhok

    rajneesh madhok India
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    The Shiromani Akali Dal, with all its recent efforts to broaden
    the support base in urban Punjab by building infrastructure,
    increasing road and air connectivity and tackling the endemic
    power crisis, cannot simply afford to annoy its core
    constituency: the Jat Sikh peasantry
    Punjab: Traditional vs elite politics
    Ashutosh Kumar
    THE removal of Manpreet Singh Badal from the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Cabinet
    as Finance Minister of Punjab on the charges of "persistent acts of indiscipline and
    opposing the publicly endorsed pro-people policies of the party and the government",
    ostensibly at the behest of Deputy Chief Minister and party president Sukhbir Badal,
    has brought the Akali rebel to the
    centre stage of Punjab politics at the
    moment.
    Has it been merely the culmination of
    a long-term tussle between the
    siblings for being the 'natural inheritor'
    of an ageing Badal senior a la Thakre
    family in Maharashtra or Karunanidhi
    family in Tamil Nadu, or are there
    substantive issues involved also in this
    still unfolding political saga having
    long-term ramifications for the party
    and the beleaguered state? What does
    the event tell us about the way
    electoral politics operates in the state? How to make sense of the contrasting mode
    of politics and leadership style of the two main protagonists engaged in a battle that
    has really just begun?
    Without going much into details, let us refer to the contentious 'issue related to
    Punjab finances' that led Manpreet Badal, a 'born Akali' in his own words to put his
    'entire political career at stake' to serve the 'best interests of Punjab and Punjabis'.
    What Manpreet Badal is saying or has been saying for long is fairly known and whose
    veracity cannot be denied even by his detractors. That Punjab, once considered the
    'model state' of India for long thanks to the success of capital intensive/technology
    driven Green Revolution, has for considerable period now been experiencing
    deceleration in terms of economic growth is a irrefutable fact.
    Symptomatic of the economic malaise that has gradually set in the state irrespective
    of political regimes, the state has over the years accumulated a staggering debt
    Manpreet Badal: The
    challenger
    Sukhbir Badal: Chief
    Minister-in-waiting
    burden is also known even if only the 'fully informed' citizens may be knowing till
    recently that the total debt at the moment stands at a whopping Rs 70,000 crore and
    the state government is paying around Rs 8,000 crore as interest only. It goes
    without saying that if it does not mend its ways by raising resources and cutting its
    expenses, the state is likely to default on its repayment in the near future.
    The ruling political class explains the predicament of Punjab, especially its everincreasing
    debt, by putting forth three oft-repeated 'explanations': first, the state
    paid a heavy economic price on account of its more than a decade-old fight against
    militancy as it not only became debt-ridden as a result but also experienced a flight
    of capital from the borderland state. The fight was for national unity and integrity
    and for the nation's security.
    Secondly, investments that dried up during the conflict period have not picked up till
    date as the neighbouring hill states have been doling out incentives to potential
    investors thanks to the special category status accorded to them by the Centre.
    Thirdly, the debt has also accumulated due to the heavy subsidies being given to
    farmers who, in turn, have contributed to the nation's cause by replenishing its food
    grains stocks year after year ensuring food security.
    Ironically, when finally the Centre reportedly did offer to bail out the state from the
    crisis by agreeing to adjust part of the debt due to the persistent efforts of the now
    sacked Finance Minister, the Akali Dal rather than lapping up the offer has gone into
    ferment. Why?
    It is not only because, as has been insinuated, that if the 'deal' would have been
    clinched then the credit would have gone entirely to the leadership of Manpreet
    Badal, the 'challenger' in the mould of custodian of 'Punjabi pride', adding to his
    already high-profile stature of a leader with 'saintly idiom' to the detriment of the
    leadership aspirations of his Chief Minister-in-waiting cousin, a quintessential Punjabi
    politician, known and grudgingly appreciated even by his detractors for his 'rough
    and ready' but effective mode of organisational politics.
    If it would have been so, then why should the known Sukhbir Badal's baiters like
    Amarinder Singh or Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, both top leaders of the rival Congress
    waiting in the wings for the impending 2012 elections, would vehemently criticise
    Manpreet Badal, the 'lone ranger'? Allegations of being 'anti-party'/'anti-people' have
    essentially been in response to Manpreet Badal's uncritical support to the economic
    reforms measures being suggested by the Centre as 'pre-conditions' in lieu of the
    proposed economic package. The measures, aimed at diminishing the state's
    expenditure and raising additional resources include a reduction in the power
    subsidies, privatisation of the loss-making PSUs, bringing the local bodies under
    audit by CAG, raising the transportation charges and finally a check on the
    withdrawal of sums from the provident fund.
    A four-time MLA and long-term member of the political affairs committee, Manpreet
    Badal would be critically aware that the fragmented nature of Punjab electoral
    politics has made it imperative for the leaders who shape the form and content of
    their party agenda/manifesto, tenor of election campaigns and also decide about
    important matters of alliance building and modes of distribution of patronage, to
    prioritise the party's electoral survival while contemplating policy options even at the
    cost of the perceived long-term gains for the state.
    The Akali Dal, like its rival Congress, has been emphasising its unambiguous
    commitment to economic reforms in its election manifesto, however, fearful of the
    backlash of the numerically strong and land-owning Jat Sikh peasantry -- its core
    constituency -- has simply been unable to roll back the huge anti-reform subsidies in
    the form of free water and electricity being doled out in the name of common good.
    Moreover, the Akali Dal, unlike the rival Congress, has a limited social support base
    that has made an electoral alliance with the BJP a matter of compulsion for the
    party, howsoever an 'unnatural' alliance it is. The Sukhbir Badal-led Akali Dal with all
    its recent efforts to broaden the support base in urban Punjab by building urban
    infrastructure, increasing road and air connectivity and tackling the endemic power
    crisis, cannot simply afford to annoy its core constituency, especially at this stage in
    a state where religion, caste, region and leadership factors combine differently in
    different elections ensuring the change of power in every elections held in the post-
    1966 Punjab.
    Notwithstanding the rhetoric about a shift in the electoral agenda from identity to
    development and good governance, the Akali Dal would thus be contented to stay
    with the 'mass politics' based on ethnic populism devoid of programmatic efforts for
    the sake of electoral mobilisation and gains.
    An unusual leader like Manpreet Badal, who no longer seems willing to tread the
    beaten path and has come out as an unabashed reformist/moderniser, is essentially
    catering to 'elite politics' addressing the deep concerns of the bourgeoning educated
    urban middle class citizenry as well the entrepreneurial class in the state who read
    English language newspapers, watch informed debates on TV and have an access to
    the internet and Facebook and yearn for the 'game changer'.
    Do these 'new' classes have a wider socio-political and economic policy impact than
    what their actual size suggests in contemporary Punjab? Does the heat and dust of
    mass politics that defines the elections in Punjab encourage such a significant
    departure even at the present moment of a grave crisis? How would the powerful Jat
    Sikh landed peasantry react? Whether the 'new' youthful leader would succeed in
    actually affecting a discernable shift in the political and economic agenda of Punjab
    or simply walk into political oblivion, no one can say at the moment.
    The writer is a Professor, Department of Political Science, Panjab University,
    Chandigarh.
    http://www.lokniti.org/pdfs_dataunit/publications2010/the_tribune_doc_ashutosh_kumar.pdf
    Rajneesh Madhok
     
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