A Common Minimum Programme (CMP) for India in the making?

By ZRG | Updated: Jan 30, 2014, 19:58 PM IST

Zee Research Group/Delhi

As purists lament the ever falling public discourse level in the run up to the general elections, here comes the good news of emerging consensus across mainline political parties on curbing crime against women, reigning inflation, taming corruption and improving job climate for youth.

Although the road to achieve these goals varies yet the pitch ahead of polls by parties so far focuses excessively on core issues.

The decoding of speeches and public pronouncements by political parties during the last about a month or more shows it is not the personality clash that is driving the campaign. The urge to reach out to the common man is paramount post the spectacular debut of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Although the onus on the new government will be to reverse the economic free-fall yet the upcoming elections look like will be fought on core issues like women empowerment, health, education, corruption, inflation, unemployment, agriculture et al. That is why these issues as of now form the cornerstone of political content.

Better health demand is a key preoccupation. BJP on January 18 at its national council meeting discussed the issue of ‘Right to Health’ for all Indians. Congress leadership echoed the sentiment a day earlier.

AAP manifesto cites health as a part of its most important agenda: government health care facilities would be improved so that all citizens of Delhi have access to high quality health care.

Likewise on education issue, Narendra Modi at the BJP’s national council meeting earlier this month said that there is a need to expand higher education. Modi also stated that every state should have one Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), one Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and one All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Reiterating the importance of education, the Congress vice president, Rahul Gandhi on January 17 vowed to open up the education system and said that the education sector will also be reformed greatly. A month ago, during a lecture at Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), he stressed that the Indian education system needs to be re-invented with a connect drawn between higher education and the needs of the industry.

Further, AAP is also committed to improve the standard of government schools, so that all citizens of Delhi would have access to high quality of education.

Referring to the unemployment issue, Modi in the recently concluded national council meeting said that if BJP forms the government then it will address India’s huge unemployment problem by setting up centres of excellence that will provide skill development opportunities for the youth.

Even, Congress is committed to empower youth. It announced to create 10 million jobs for youth every year and skilling young Indians to take in these jobs. AAP manifesto suggests that young entrepreneurs should be provided loans at low interest rates. The party also has a view on contractual labour. As per the manifesto, for increasing employment AAP shall fill all vacant government posts, and provide better facilities to industrial areas.

Talking about the Women’s security & empowerment issue, Modi said women should be seen as "nation builders". He added that the BJP would launch a programme to save the girl child and educate them.

On his part Gandhi termed every woman as an asset for the country. He said that it is the Congress party`s first preference to enact the women`s reservation bill giving 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and assemblies.

AAP manifesto states creation of a women commando force as also swift dispensing of justice in case of crimes against women by establishing special fast track courts.

With regards to corruption issue, Modi and Gandhi expressed an action plan. Modi said “if need be, we will amend the law and also set up a task force for bringing back (black) money” stashed in foreign banks. Gandhi pitched for passing six anti-corruption Bills in Parliament. AAP is moving fast on passing Jan Lokpal Bill which was promised as part of its manifesto. It is committed to bring back money held abroad in Swiss bank accounts.

In order to curb inflation issue, Modi suggested setting up a “Price Stabilisation Fund” to help the common man which would neutralise the effect of rising prices. Gandhi told FICCI that there was a need to look for more models of action on the ground.

Freebies on offer from AAP reinforce its desire to ease pressure on the common man apart from its vocal call for action against hoarders.

Agriculture push is another consensus area: Modi wants to set up “National Agricultural Market” to ensure farmers are not exploited. BJP aims to bring farm-income insurance scheme while Congress has reiterated its stand to increase agricultural growth rate by 4 per cent every year.