“Now that the elections are over and a government is firmly in place, political parties should return to the path of civility in public discourse, rise above partisan considerations, and work collectively to fulfill people’s aspirations.”
Making this appeal at a media conference, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said that perhaps in the heat of the no-holds-barred and bitter electioneering, most political parties and politicians indulged in character assassination in mutual mud-slinging unbecoming of their stature. “Genuine differences among political parties are natural in a democracy. One should learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Politics is all about reconciling conflicting interests.”
The Lok Satta President, who attended the swearing in of Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy as Chief Minister, regretted that top leaders of the Opposition parties chose to keep away from the function. “Whether we like it or not, Dr. YSR is the Chief Minister for the entire State and not merely for Congress people who elected his party to power.” The Government too did not cover itself with glory by allowing over-enthusiastic ruling party people to turn the solemn swearing-in ceremony into a party affair. The ruling party must realize that the government belongs to all people, and must treat all sections equally without favour or malice. The healthy tradition of opposition leaders participating in all state functions and swearing-in ceremonies at the national level should be followed in the state.
Commenting on the election results, Dr. JP said that the Lok Satta had failed to convert the unparalleled support it enjoyed into votes. “We accept the verdict in all humility and refuse to look for alibis or blame others for our performance. We pledge ourselves to strengthen the party and engender confidence among the public that together we can transform society.”
He added, “The perception is widespread that the year 2014 belongs to the Lok Satta, not because it is powerful but because it is articulating people’s aspirations, and emerged as on authentic platform for citizen’s Political parties participation”.
Dr. JP said the 2009 elections were marked by unprecedented vote buying, liquor distribution on a large scale, intense caste polarization and the vicious propaganda that a vote to an ethical party like the Lok Satta would be a wasted vote.” Yet the people by and large displayed extraordinary maturity by not succumbing to caste Talibans, lucrative and irresistible freebies and money and liquor.
Listing out the challenges before the Government, Dr. JP said it had to focus on providing basic amenities to citizens on a war footing. They included supply of safe drinking water, drainage and uninterrupted power supply, road and public transport facilities to every habitation. The Government had to focus on providing livelihood skills and jobs to lakhs of educated and semi-educated young people. Instead of coming up with short-term palliatives, the Government had to work out a comprehensive medium and long-term strategy to eradicate poverty.
Pointing out that the innovative solutions were available to mitigate poverty, he instanced how with the introduction of solar LED lamps to light up homes, the Government could save over Rs.20,000 crore annually on kerosene subsidy all over the country. The country could save precious foreign exchange, save people from health hazards and prevent environmental pollution if LED lamps were distributed free of cost to every BPL family.
Dr. JP underlined the need for eliminating waste and corruption at a time the State is going through an economic slowdown. The conditions will worsen in the months to go as the Government’s expenditure commitments grossly exceed the State Government’s anticipated tax and non-tax receipts and devolution of resources from the Government of India. “High cost and low impact projects like the Pranahita-Chevella lift irrigation scheme have to give way to low cost and high impact projects. People of Telangana can be served far better at a lower cost, by taking up alternative, low cost projects”.
On corruption, Dr. JP said the ruling party and its captains should set an example by pursuing a path of rectitude. “The Ganga cannot remain pure and sacred if the Gangotri itself is polluted, to quote Mr. A. B. Vajpayee.” He commented that Andhra Pradesh had some of the finest officers and employees if political leaders inspired them by example, the State could turn a new leaf in its history.”
Dr. JP wanted the Government to empower people without further delay through decentralization of powers, resources and personnel. In addition, the Government should make available a per capita grant of Rs.1000 to every panchayat and municipality/corporation since they alone are competent to identify and fulfill people’s compelling needs. “Citizens cannot be treated as mere vote banks. People’s participation between elections is the essence of democracy. Only when citizens are empowered and all governance institutions revolve around people can fulfill our potential”, Dr. JP asserted.
Referring to a proposal to collect a higher cess on liquor to partly fund ‘Arogyasri’, Dr. JP regretted that the Government was oblivious to the apparent contradiction. The Government was solely responsible for the impairment of livelihood and health of lakhs of people poor in that it encouraged unbridled liquor consumption to maximize State revenue. “As if to salve its conscience, it promotes ‘Agogyasri’ in the name of going to the rescue of the same poor people.” The Lok Satta would like the Government to abandon its policy of auctioning liquor shops to the highest bidder. A liquor dealer who obtains the liquor outlet license at astronomical cost will try to boost his sales by promoting belt shops. Instead, the Government itself should run a limited number of liquor shops as in Delhi with a view to curbing burgeoning liquor consumption. “Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of being among the top liquor consuming States in the country.”