On the eve of the results, irrespective of who wins, what are the top five priorities for the incoming government?
900 Million voters, 59 major political parties and 543 seats up for grabs, the Indian General Election is nothing short of a democratic spectacle. After seven phases of intense campaigning and voting, the world’s largest Democracy is on the eve of electing a new government.
All participating parties have fought tooth and nail, campaigned hard and the people have displayed the strength of a true democracy over trials and tribulations.
The media is rife with predictions, but irrespective of who wins the elections, what are the priorities for the next government?
Perhaps the area which is in the most need for reforms. India’s environmental track record has taken a beating over the past five years with allegations of letting companies take over pristine tracts of forests for mining operations. The threat of climate change is not helping India’s dismal environmental protection efforts either. New Delhi has to implement a nation-wide strategy to protect and preserve its environment and boost economic activity by encouraging sustainable economic practices. The integration of the “Green Economy” compliments the government’s push to become independent from foreign oil purchases and its successful International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiative. Environmental conservation has to be a priority for the next government.
The last five years have seen a hit-or-miss approach towards key areas of foreign policy. The External Affairs ministry has been led by a proactive, engaging Foreign Minister but as Sushma Swaraj has elected not to contest the elections this year, the head of the MEA will no longer be able to shine through a potential failure of foreign policy. The biggest areA of concern has been the hot and cold approach to China. The next government has to prioritise a constructive engagement with Beijing. An example of the bilateral success with China is Beijing’s decision to support a Security Council resolution to label Masood Azhar as an international terrorist after years of opposition to the same.
The Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) has seen a rocky tenure since 2014, with sufficient controversies to prevent an objective assessment of the country’s education policy. India produces the second largest pool of graduates but employable skills are lacking in a staggering majority of graduates. India is teaching using 20th century methods to teach 21st century concepts and the HRD ministry has to prioritise the reformation of India’s higher education system. A viable suggestion could be the reformation of premier national institutes to accommodate a skills-based approach to teaching concepts.
One of the key achievements of the last five years is the strengthening of ties with key oil exporters like Saudi Arabia and UAE to secure a steady supply of crude oil when global prices were dipping. This has been successful to the extent of the UAE establishing a depot and refinery installation near Mumbai to store excess Emirati oil. However, India has also taken steps to move away from oil dependence, namely in the form of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). India needs to focus on the expansion of its energy security policy to look beyond oil and coal. The ISA could be an avenue for New Delhi to expand its influence as a major solar energy generator by aggressively pushing for technology exports. The top priority for energy should be exploring the viability of renewable energy sources for country-wide implementation.
As is with all new governments, the economy will always remain a priority. However, the country has recorded good growth numbers over the past decade. All that is expected of the new government is to not shock the system. Steady rates, prudent fiscal management and the continuation of the deficit reduction program should be the primary focus of the new government. Additionally, the promotion of green economic practices could bring in significant foreign capital, particularly from countries lacking key natural resources.
Image Courtesy: Daniel Hauptstein [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]