What are the 2019 Polls Going to be Contested On?

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Navodita, our Associate Editor, examines the possible issues that would lead up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in the weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.

2019 polls are not too far and all political parties are trying to make the best of it and pose themselves as ‘well-wishers’ of the citizens. As for wooing, lobbying goes on by the two main national parties, the BJP and the Congress-I, even the regional parties are not too far behind, with the Shiv Sena already announcing its breakaway with the BJP in Maharashtra and Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana creating havoc over ‘principles’.

Alliances are very crucial for wartime. Although the Bharatiya Janata Party does not depend on the numerical strength of any alliance partner for its survival in government at the Centre, it could well need all the help it can get in 2019 for the next Lok Sabha election. So what are going to be the main issues of the forthcoming polls in 2019? Are these going to be pretty much the same as those being brought up in the state assembly polls in Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya – unemployment being the main issue among them all?

Employment and Unemployment Survey (EUS) conducted every five years by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) are by far the most reliable source of labour statistics in India. The identification of workers from non-workers has been debated for a long time in the history of EUS. Minimising such inaccuracies would be possible by recruiting proper staff. The training component, should not only emphasise on the identification of the usual activity status of an individual and recognize a worker from a non-worker, but also in recording/enumeration of the associated information collected in the schedule/questionnaire in a precise manner. Census figures also suggest that one must consider women, for example, between 15 and 39 doing domestic work to account for 80% of female unemployment. The government should focus on working such discrepancies in the system and work more towards thinking for the benefit of workers and people from the working class. While the underemployment among women engaged in domestic work is an ongoing part of NSS unemployment studies, it has been left to the census, with its relatively crude methodology, to uncover the extent of the latent Indian youth labour force.

Other than unemployment, is the BJP really going to bring up ‘Hindutva’ and Ram Mandir as issues or will it dwell on ‘triple talaq’, promotion of minorities, and wooing Muslim women in their foray? The bill to criminalise triple talaq was tabled in Parliament on 28th December 2017 in much haste. While the Bharatiya Janata Party wants the Bill to be passed in the Rajya Sabha so as to claim credit for granting Muslim women their rights, the opposition parties have protested the penal provision in it, arguing that triple talaq is a civil matter and should not be made a criminal offence. The government, through this move, is intending to override a well-established norm that laws for minorities must be enacted after holding dialogue with minority communities, their leaders/representatives, legal experts and other stakeholders. The logic of stringent law as a deterrent is deeply flawed according to some intellectuals. It was found that most Muslim men who pronounce ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ usually do so after a history of violence, which many Muslim women have reported to Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) but are unable to report in courts due to lack of resources, etc. How then are Muslim women expected to move courts for such a criminal offence if ‘triple talaq’ becomes an Act? Women still find it easier to approach their informal community-based mechanisms more than simply courts. So the government here should have a rethink on how it actually empowers Muslim women.

Second is the issue around ‘Hindutva’ and Ram Mandir. India changed as a nation with the destruction of the Babri Masjid on 6th December 1992. The events of the day have not only permeated the social and political fabric of the country, they unfurled a series of events that have led to the creation of a new normal. In the most recent statement on that under a bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra, it was decided that the motive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute will be settled as any other land dispute based on evidence on record. The Bench said, “Whatever be the case, it is, after all, a land dispute. There are appeals and cross-appeals from both sides. We will take into account the evidence on record after hearing both sides.”

Dismissing any communal overtones on the matter, it will be deciding the land dispute as a matter of ownership of 2.77-acre core site. Does this mean that the BJP is in for sidelining the communal agenda and instead target ‘development’ whether of the majority or even the minority communities at stake? Which way will the election fever tilt be up to the governments and the opposition?

©Navodita Pande

Photos from the Internet

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