Politics

BMS, BKS Wary of Modi Government Getting Anti-Poor Image

Sangh Parivar’s fraternal organisations are worried that some of the Narendra Modi government’s recent decisions might add ammunition to claims of it being pro big-business made by its political rivals.

PM Narendra Modi addressing his Parivartan Maharally in Mahoba. Credit: PTI

PM Narendra Modi addressing his Parivartan Maharally in Mahoba. Credit: PTI

The Sangh Parivar’s fraternal organisations, particularly those working among workers and farmers, are worried that some of the Narendra Modi government’s recent decisions might add ammunition to claims by its political rivals that the current government in Delhi was anti-poor and pro big business.

Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) have in conversations with the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership and ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), flagged the potential damage to the Modi government’s image because of recent decisions — strategic sale and divesting management control in over two dozen public sector undertakings (PSUs), commercialisation of genetically modified mustard and failure to respond appropriately to agrarian distress.

BKS, while principally against such steps as farm loan waiver, also conveyed to the BJP leadership that promises by rival political parties of debt waiver in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab might be getting resonance.

BKS and BMS have largely been supportive of the Modi government. BMS didn’t take part in the countrywide trade union strike in September. It has maintained that the Modi government has been responsive to the needs of workers by increasing bonus and implementing the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations. BKS lauded the PM’s crop insurance scheme.

But the two outfits also have their support bases to protect and both want the government to do a course correction. These issues came up during private discussions at the RSS annual meeting in Hyderabad in the third week of October, which BJP president, Amit Shah, also attended.

The two, as well as the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, had opposed the government’s land Bill in 2015. The government had then dropped its plans to push the Bill. The PM had soon after recast the government’s message from being reform-oriented to one that is pro-poor, pro-farmers and pro-workers. He reiterated that line at the BJP’s Kozhikode national council meet in end-September.

BKS and BMS leaders, however, have told the BJP leadership that it was staring at a build-up of anti-government propaganda in the run-up to polls in five states. BKS leaders have suggested the BJP manifesto for UP needed to respond more proactively to agrarian distress, where the Congress has promised a debt waiver to farmers.

The BMS leadership is scheduled to meet in December to discuss its strategy on disinvestment and strategic sale of PSUs, but is unlikely to train its guns on the political leadership. “The NITI Aayog bureaucracy is misleading the government on the issue. They are pushing for strategic sale of even the profit-making PSUs,” BMS organising secretary, Pawan Kumar said. He said the bureaucracy’s agenda was obvious — to sell expensive real estate of these PSUs to private players.

While BKS is principally opposed to debt waivers, it has asked the BJP leadership to be mindful of Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi’s advocacy of debt waiver. “Loan waivers do more harm than good. Our experience is that farmers who have once benefitted from such measures stop repaying their loans in future,” a senior BKS activist said.
He said that schemes like loan waiver, or even the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), have set bad precedents by “devaluing hard work and promoting greed”. Instead, BKS favours providing interest-free loans to farmers, increasing minimum support price and paying subsidies on fertilisers directly to farmers instead of fertiliser companies. “But there is no denying that sops like loan waiver are attractive to farmers” and have the potential to net votes, the leader said.

BMS is unlikely to launch any agitation against divestment of PSUs. Kumar said MPs and legislators needed to take a leaf out of how the Gorakhpur unit of Fertiliser Corporation of India was revived after local BJP MP Yogi Adityanath took the Prime Minister to the area.

“The PM saw the possibilities first-hand and pushed the bureaucracy for its revival. All MPs and legislators need to raise their voice against closing down of PSUs,” he said.

This article was originally published in the Business Standard.