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The Hindu Editorial: June 05, 2024

1. The verdict points to the importance of economic issues

Topic: GS2 – Governance  GS3 – Indian Economy – Issues relating to development and employment
Context
The recent Lok Sabha election results, defying exit polls, highlight voter concerns about social justice and economic issues such as unemployment and rising prices.The opposition coalition’s focus on these areas resonated with the electorate, emphasising the need for a shift in policy towards human rights and federalism.

Overview of Lok Sabha Election Results

  • The results of the Lok Sabha elections were unexpected, defying the exit polls that predicted a different outcome.
  • Exit polls, which seemed to align with the dominant narrative, were proven incorrect.
  • Pundits who supported these predictions are now offering explanations for the actual results.

Explanations for the Election Outcome

  • The focus on social justice and the caste census played a significant role.
  • Strategic coalition-building and candidate selection based on caste dynamics were critical factors.
  • The emphasis on social justice and constitutional preservation resonated with voters.
  • Local factors in different States also influenced the election results.

Economic Issues as a Key Message

  • Economic issues, such as unemployment, low wages, inadequate livelihoods, and rising prices, were central concerns for voters.
  • The previous government was perceived to have ignored these issues in both policy actions and campaign rhetoric.
  • The election results underscore that economic issues remain pivotal for the majority of the population.

Promises by the Winning Coalition

  • The INDIA coalition, particularly the leading party, focused on livelihood and employment issues alongside social justice.
  • Their campaign promises, which resonated with voters, highlighted the need for a shift in economic policy.
  • The emphasis was on human rights, especially social and economic rights, rather than treating public goods and services as state or leader-provided “gifts.”

Required Changes in Economic Policy Framework

Ensuring Basic Social and Economic Rights

  1. Right to Work:
    1. Improve funding and flexibility of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
    1. Introduce an urban employment guarantee scheme.
  2. Right to Food:
    1. Address inadequacies in the current system, which fails to reach at least 100 million Indians.
  3. Right to Education:
    1. Emphasize public delivery of education rather than reliance on expensive and exclusionary private institutions.
  4. Right to Social Security:
    1. Provide universal pensions at half the minimum wage for the elderly and those unable to work.
  5. Right to Health:
    1. Ensure health services through public delivery systems.

Creating Jobs to Address Youth Aspirations

  • Job creation must be a primary economic goal.
  • Expand public employment by filling vacancies and regularising “scheme” workers.
  • Support micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with a comprehensive package:
    • Credit facilities.
    • Access to new technologies and training.
    • Infrastructure provision.
    • Marketing assistance.
  • Address the ongoing crisis in farming by considering the demands of the farmers’ movement.
  • Pay special attention to the impacts of climate change and higher temperatures.

Reevaluating the Current Welfarism

  • The current approach to welfarism has been characterised as “new branding around welfarism.”
  • Many of its welfare schemes are continuations or expansions of old schemes, not entirely new initiatives.
  • Welfare provisions should be seen as fulfilling citizens’ rights rather than as gifts from the government.
  • For instance, the free food ration under the Public Distribution System, introduced by the National Food Security Act of 2013, was already heavily subsidised, making the new offerings not significantly different.
  • A shift is needed from presenting welfare as “gifts” to reaffirming it as citizens’ rights.

Revival of Federalism

  • The election results indicate a potential revival of federalism, moving away from the centralization seen over the past decade.
  • State governments, responsible for most public service delivery, need autonomy to function effectively.
  • It is crucial for state governments to operate without interference, control, and partisanship from the central government.

Conclusion

  • The Lok Sabha election results have sent a clear message about the electorate’s priorities.
  • Economic issues, social justice, and the need for a shift in policy focus are crucial.
  • Future governance must recognize and address these needs to fulfil the electorate’s expectations.
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the recent Lok Sabha election results in highlighting voter priorities regarding social justice and economic concerns. Evaluate the potential implications for policymaking, emphasising the need for a shift towards a rights-based approach and revival of federalism. (250 Words /15 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 11)

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