The stage is finally set with the Election Commission announcing the poll schedule for Karnataka.

Karnataka will have three-phased assembly elections on May 10, 16 and 22… Counting of votes in the elections to the 224-member House would take place on May 25…A total of 4,00,77,666 electors would be eligible to vote

While Offstumped has been debating the merits of a populist parochial agenda, the Congress meanwhile has decided to make stability its main plank. The obvious reference is to the short lived nature of the two coalition experiments lead by the Congress and the BJP with the JD-S playing a prosmicuous partner, and a hard to please one at that.

Much has been made of the stability plank by the Congress with S.M. Krishna back at its helm. Offstumped takes a critical at the performance of the erstwhile S.M. Krishna led Congress regime to highlight the fallacy of the “Stability” plank.

For the purpose of this analysis let us turn to the Below Poverty Line Census of 2002 which reveals that Belgaum and Gulbarga have the highest number of poor households.  Remember this data was from when S.M. Krishna was firmly in the saddle in Karnataka running a “stable” government.

First Belgaum which had 1.6 lakh BPL households. A block-wise break up reveals an interesting statistic – in a majority of the 10 blocks that make up Belgaum, there were more poor from forward castes or other social groups when compared to the SC, ST or OBC groups. The monthly income reveals that amongst the poorest of poor (monthly income less than 250) once again other social groups outnumbered the traditional backward communities. What is also surprising is that the poorest of the poor (incomes 500 or less) outnumbered the better off amongst the poor almost 3 to 1.

However the wages of “stability” are best appreciated when we look at the means of livelihood – Casual labor and not agriculture is the biggest source of employment with nearly half of all BPL families across social groups relying on it. The literacy figures say it all with nearly half or more than half of BPL families across social groups being illiterate.

So what exactly has been the delivery from a full term stable Congress rule ?

 The BPL census data on the type of assistance desired by the BPL families is revealing in that for every family desirous of targeted entitlements there is a family desirous of being empowered to be self employed. In fact more families want to be self employed than be dependent on government dole

This is telling a lot.

Offstumped Bottomline: Stability is no cure to the ills of rural poverty. Its about Governance that creates opportunities and empowers individuals and families to chart out their own destiny. While the Congress harps on its stability plank, the BJP must go beyond its populist rhetoric and accusations of betrayal to articulate a vision of Governance that empowers the rural poor with the tools to be gainfully self employed.

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Offstumped is written by Yossarin from the Indian National Interest

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