Poll-prompted discounts are good!text_fields
The central government's decision to reduce the price of cooking gas cylinders by Rs 200, when elections to five state assemblies are approaching, is a big relief for the common people. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries who are currently getting a subsidy of Rs 200 will get a total benefit of Rs 400. With this 33 crore cooking gas customers will benefit from the discount, which came into effect on August 30. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur has stated that the number of Ujjwala beneficiaries will increase to 10.35 lakh by providing 75 lakh new cooking gas connections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Ministers have described the decision as a gift to the people on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan-Onam celebrations. They explain that this is part of doing everything possible to improve the quality of life of the poor and middle-class people. But it is not difficult to see that this philanthropic measure is being rushed in a situation where the government, which has started to switch to election mode, has been unable to take into account the sentiments of the people who are suffering from price hikes.
According to the latest report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), 50% of rural households and 90% of urban households depend on LPG as their primary source of energy. In the last two years, public sector refineries have increased cooking gas prices 13 times. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, oil prices fell from over $100 a barrel to $80, but the effect was not felt by ordinary consumers. The rise in oil and cooking gas prices fueled inflation, which hit a 15-month high of 7.44% in July. With this, the prices of essential commodities have increased exponentially. The decision to reduce the price is also proof that the ruling BJP at the centre, while preparing for the elections, realises the fact that people's lives are difficult. Along with this, it can be said that some contextual strategies of the opposition have put pressure on the Centre. The Congress had announced that if it comes to power in Madhya Pradesh, it will reduce the price of cooking gas to Rs 500 per cylinder. In Rajasthan, cylinders were made available to the poor at Rs 500. Apart from these two, the states of Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram are also heading for assembly elections this year-end. The Centre has woken up now knowing that the announcement of the results from these states will also be a wake-up call for the next general election. In Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has also come forward with promises of cooking gas for Rs 450, Rs 1000 each to the account of poor women without income tax limit, and another Rs 250 as a rakhi gift. The new decision to pay heed to the people's problems formed when the fact report started to be received in the party meetings that the bulldozers of Muslim hatred alone were not enough to keep the power. They also realise that lower-class women are angry due to the declining standard of living.
All this time, the BJP administration has been working on increasing the intensity of the politics of hate, propelled by frenzied nationalism. The BJP did not bother to ponder how the Manipur-Haryana-UP model of 'crushing bulldozer rule' which marginalised a section of the people and crushed them physically, economically, and socially, would affect the economy of the country and thus the life of the common people. The realisation that the party is now receiving from the grassroots is that nothing can be done to remove the suffering of the people with the celebration of the G-20 summit in India, which has hosted many summits in the past, or because of Chandrayaan's success and subsequent naming rituals. Therefore, this price reduction decision should be seen as a good sign. It will be beneficial for the country and the people if the opposition can change the electoral politics from a competition based on hatred that is destroying India to an opportunity to measure and weigh the governing capacity of the rulers, as they did in Karnataka. It is to be hoped that such steps will inspire a change in the course of political debate in India moving on from the Sangh Parivar agenda of hatred to a democratic agenda of vital issues.