The victory of Gustavo Petro in the presidential election is one of the most significant moments in Colombia’s modern history. The election saw many ‘firsts’ in the two centuries of its independence. Never before has Colombia voted for a Left government. Also, for the first time, an Afro-Colombian woman, Francia Marquez, will be presiding over the post of vice-president.
In India, for the first time since Independence, voters gave the BJP, a Right-wing party, a decisive majority in 2014. The BJP also scripted history by appointing Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, as President in 2017. Also, for the first time, a tribal woman, Droupadi Murmu, will be taking over as President.
Elections in both countries were driven by the popularity and charisma of a single leader. They both rose from lower rungs of domestic politics. Petro served as Mayor of Bogota for three years in the early 2010s while Modi served as CM of Gujrat for twelve years. The tenure of Petro as mayor was marked by the successful implementation of several welfare schemes in the field of housing, transportation, and recognition for informal sector employees. Modi too has focused on various social-welfare programmes such as Swachh Bharat, Jal Jeevan, and Ujjwala Yojana.
Also read: Environmental activist Francia Marquez elected Colombia’s 1st Black vice president
Return of ‘Pink Tide’
Petros’s victory marks the return of the ‘Pink Tide’. It refers to the wave in Latin America wherein several Left parties came to power in the early 2000s. Petro’s victory was preceded by the triumph of Gabriel Boric in Chile, Xiomara Castro in Honduras, Pedro Castillo in Peru, Andrés Obrador in Mexico, and Alberto Fernández in Argentina. Also, chances are that Luiz Silva will win Brazil’s presidential elections to be held later this year.
Experts believe that poor Covid management and the slow pace of economic recovery are primarily responsible for the recent change of regimes in Latin America. Colombia witnessed 1.4 lakh Covid deaths, and its economy shrank by 6.8 per cent in 2020. India witnessed 5.25 lakh Covid deaths with an economic contraction of 8 per cent in 2020. Also, India’s economic growth has lost momentum since 2016.
Petro rose to power on the promise of reducing income inequality, poverty, unemployment and inflation. He has promised reforms in the agrarian sector and expansion of welfare programmes in education and healthcare. His agenda also includes reducing the dependence on fossil fuels and energy transition.
India faces similar challenges. The rising inequality, as per Oxfam International, shows that that the top 1 per cent own about 77 per cent of the country’s wealth. WPI and CPI were 15 per cent and 8.6 per cent, respectively in May, and an all-time high unemployment rate. The share of the agricultural sector in India’s GDP is 20 per cent, with 60 per cent of the population dependent on the agrarian economy. Low productivity, inadequate storage facility, and high input costs of seeds and fertilisers are some of the challenges that need immediate redressal.
Also read: Modi govt’s steps to fight inflation will help, but there’s a risk of unintended consequences
Future course of action
BJP government must allow debate and discussion in public and Parliament instead of pushing for reforms. Else, even the well-intentioned laws such as land acquisition bills, farm laws, and stalled labour codes may not see the light of the day.
The government also needs to curb the use of fossil fuels and make a transition toward cleaner forms of energy. It is necessary to avert threats linked to global warming. Already Indian coasts are witnessing the mayhem caused by tsunamis, the frequency of which has increased over the past few years.
The rise in the level of hate crimes, unilateral actions of state governments by bulldozing homes, spewing venom at various dharm sansads, and TV debates against the Muslim community is a cause of concern. For the first time in the history of independent India, the ruling party will not have a single candidate from the Muslim community, either as MPs or MLAs.
The BJP-led government must realise that nationalism and majoritarianism may fetch votes in the near future, but ultimately it’s the economic growth and increase in the standard of living that matters to the ordinary citizens. If Colombian voters can change the national discourse after two centuries of independence, so can the Indian voters because ‘it’s the economy, stupid’. The BJP government must mend its act, or else the rising ‘Pink Tide’ may sink the Modi-BJP juggernaut.
The author is a student at Netaji Subhas University of Technology, Dwarka. Views are personal