It took just two hours for Chief Minister Kamal Nath to implement the promise made by the Congress party to the voters of Madhya Pradesh that farm loans would be waived. It didn’t take him two days or two years after taking charge of the State government – it took just two hours.
Promises Made, Promises Kept. That is so obviously a wonderful slogan and a winning formula for any political party seeking votes in any election campaign.
Yet why is it that governments so often fail to implement their promises? They promise the moon just to woo the voters. They paint a rosy picture of good governance and prosperous times and achhe din. But after coming to power by arousing the hopes of the electorate, they renege on their policy pledges.
They come out with excuses and justifications. There was not enough money in the kitty, they say. We are setting up an expert committee to examine the matter and to recommend the best way to implement the measure without upsetting the fiscal balance or annoying other sections of the population.
Promises made in an Election Manifesto are sacred. They have to be fulfilled. Failure to do so is tantamount to betrayal. It amounts to cheating the masses and committing a fraud on the people.
If the promise is too difficult to fulfill, then you should not have included it in your Manifesto without qualifying clauses. You should have said - we will try to do this if we feel like it; we will think seriously about it after we occupy the ministerial chairs and move into the ministerial bungalows; we will look at the account books and see whether there are sufficient funds and also whether there are other things that are of higher priority that have to be done.
When asked by the media about the financial implications of waiving farm loans, the new Chief Minister shot back: “When you waive off mammoth debts owed by big industrialists, it doesn’t bother you. But when it’s about farmers, then you get a stomach ache?”
Kamal Nath has not taken recourse to any of these time-tested excuses. Two hours after taking the oath as the new Chief Minister, he signed the executive order waiving farm loans.
He did not even wait for the ten days which his party Manifesto had provided for. In all his campaign speeches, the party president Rahul Gandhi had repeatedly said: If elected farm loans will be waived within ten days.
According to official data, the total amount of unpaid dues that have been written off is around Rs. 70,000 crore and the beneficiaries will include about 33 lakh farmers in the State. The technical details are that the loan waiver will cost approximately Rs. 50,000 crore and according to an official in the chief minister's office, loans up to Rs. 2 lakh will be waived from nationalised and co-operative banks till March 3.
Critics are getting ready to express outrage. Where will the money come from? What will happen to other projects? This is nothing but reckless populism.
The answer is simple. There is nothing wrong in living up to promises. We made the promise. We got elected to power. We are keeping our word. Promsies made. Promises kept.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who attended Kamal Nath's swearing-in, was quick to acknowledge and greet the new Chief Minister’s announcement. He tweeted: "1 done, 2 to go." He was referring to similar promises in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
In fact, loan waivers were an important issue in the recent state elections. Analysts say the Shivraj Singh government, which had ruled Madhya Pradesh for 15 years, suffered electoral reverses the most in parts of the State where rural and farm distress was greater. Significantly, Rahul Gandhi had launched his party's campaign in Mandsaur, the epicenter of farmer anger and protests, and promised loan waiver.
When asked by the media about the financial implications of waiving farm loans, the new Chief Minister shot back: "When you waive off mammoth debts owed by big industrialists, it doesn't bother you. But when it's about farmers, then you get a stomach ache?"