Economic status is not a valid staging group, MJ Akbar nails it
There was a lot of brouhaha over the Supreme Courts recent “order” and “re-order” to the government to distribute rotting food grains to the poor. The Prime Minister promptly put the court in place for interfering in policy matters. The court in turn promptly slunk back into “we are happy with the government response”.
One might be tempted to think that this was a marvelous opportunity for the government to mop up some “poor” votes. It was a win-win proposition :
- If food handout were successful : Govt takes all credit. Its pro-poor action can be drummed up courtesy friendly media
- If food handout fails due to corruption, bad quality : Govt can claim it was simply implementing an SC order
So – one would fail to understand why the Prime Minister lashed out at the court.
MJ Akbar in todays piece might be closest to the truth, as he often is on contemporary issues :
The prime minister is a politician. Any suggestion to the contrary is promotion of a myth. Evidence suggests that his populism would be community-oriented rather than poverty-specific. He understands the nuances of the game better than some self-proclaimed professionals imagine. Community is the key; poverty is too amorphous an identity, whereas caste and religion are the truly powerful instruments of mobilisation. It is not accidental that Dr. Singh’s cabinet has scheduled a caste census for next year.
Running such a complex exercise of identifying and distributing goods to the really needy, i.e. poor – while maintaining the sanctity of the identification, is hard work. Really hard work.
In an ecosystem of narrow interests, if a benefit protector spends an inordinate amount of energy on big picture issues – he will be punished at the next round.
The Congress led government has the hundreds of sociologists working round the clock to devise devious ways to subvert even the definition of poor. Real staging units like religion and caste will be given points for identifying BPL (Below Poverty Level) families. The idea is, in the future, judgments like this can be easily implemented while keeping a straight face.
That would be a true win-win.
Unless a new conventional wisdom takes hold in the Indian public about the true nature of such divisive politics carried out by the Congress party in the name of inclusion.