Saturday, April 19, 2014

India Votes

India’s elections promise business as usual for the country’s wealthy and ongoing grinding poverty for its most poor of poor.

 As of 2010, some 68.8 per cent of the population lived on less than $2 per day and 32.7 per cent lived on less than $1.25 per day. That amounts to nearly 400 million people still living below the World Bank’s poverty line. To put that figure in perspective, it’s a third of the whole World’s extremely poor.  This poverty persists despite the fact that India registered an average annual GDP growth rate of 6.5 per cent from 1990 to 2010. As in many Western countries over the last 20 years, is that a disproportionate share of the gains from this economic growth has gone to the very wealthiest. Just 100 of the richest Indians are worth a staggering US$ 250 billion.

In the 2009 general election, the Left Front – comprised of the two main Communist parties and a number of smaller left of center parties – had its worst performance since independence in 1947. From an average of 45 seats in the Parliament over the previous 13 general elections, in 2009 it obtained only 24. In 2010, the country’s last two explicitly left-wing state governments, in Kerala and West Bengal, fell. Pre-election polls suggest it is unlikely that the left will reverse the decline in the present elections.  Their mantle has been taken over by the other parties making up the Third Front. They include the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), known for its anti-corruption stance; the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the lower caste party of Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh; and the Trinamool Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIDMK), the regional parties of Mamata Banarjee in West Bengal and Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu respectively. These parties do not, individually or collectively, have a coherent policy agenda that would address India’s need for inequality-reducing economic development. Even the AAP, more a party of the upwardly mobile middle class than of the poor, hardly promises to challenge the growing privatisation of India’s public wealth.

The long-accepted wisdom that in the long run economic growth decreased inequality is now discredited. There is no reason to expect that inequality will decline simply as a result of market forces.

taken from here

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