As the Modi Juggernaut chugs along and nears its 2019 rendezvous with the people of Bharat when the general elections are scheduled to be held, economic sluggishness, unemployment and fuel hike are major challenges confronting this government and seek immediate redressal.
As the BJP’s national executive gets together to pontificate and deliberate on the precarious situation of the economy, some immediate remedial measures need to be taken by the economic experts in the government to salvage the situation amidst rising discontent among the middle and lower middle class.
The demonetization exercise saw the whole country rally behind the Prime Minister with the citizens forgetting their personal hardships – waiting in long queues for days together to withdraw money from banks – in the interest of the country.
It was the poor, lower middle & middle class which bore the brunt of this inconvenience, and along with the GST it is the small businessman who is trying to come to terms with the new economic order. However, this middle class which has been a traditional vote bank for the BJP is feeling bewildered and confused in the wake of the economic slowdown coupled with the fuel price increase which is pinching the pockets of the common man.
The fuel price increase is already threatening to snowball into a major national issue giving the opposition the much needed ammunition to corner the government as they sense the unease among the masses. The electorate of this country is baffled at having to pay upto 80 rupees for a litre of petrol when the international crude prices are bottoming at 53 dollars a barrel as against more than 100 dollars a barrel in 2014 when the NDA government took over.
Thus, while the crude rate has plummeted the common Bharatiya continues to shell out a higher rate for a commodity which is a necessity and no longer a luxury. While the government’s intentions are noble and cannot be doubted as the brimming oil pool account is being used to fund pro-poor schemes and loan waiver schemes for our farmers, the comparitive neglect of one segment of the populace – in this case the middle class – at the expense of benefiting the other could have serious repercussions and ramifications in the crucial lead up to the 2019 general elections.
The middle class and the lower middle class of roughly 300-600 million constitute a large chunk of the country’s population and no government can afford to ignore this segment.
The constitution of the Economic Advisory Council by the Prime Minister reemphasizes the point that alarm bells are ringing in the corridors of power with regard to the economic lethargy and the spiraling effect it is having on unemployment and the industrial growth rate which has also tanked by almost 30%.
The pro poor initiatives of the government – the latest being free power connections to the poor as announced by the Prime Minister at the party’s national executive – are laudable and praiseworthy but they should not come by pinching the pockets of the middle class who are feeling the heat of the fuel price spike and the resulting increase in the price of essential commodities.
The present government came to power with an unprecedented mandate with corruption, price rise and unemployment being the major poll planks. While the government’s performance on corruption is unblemished, the spike in petrol and diesel rates coupled with rising unemployment numbers are a cause for serious concern and could effect its performance at the hustings.
The formation of the Economic Advisory Council by the PM is a crucial – this body has its work cut out with just 18 months to go before the next general elections. The EAC will have to work overtime to bring the economy back on rails and provide the much needed relief to the common man.
To start with, a roll back on the fuel prices by reducing the central excise- which has been increased by almost 250℅ since 2014 – would be appreciated by the people of this country.
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