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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 10 New Delhi February 27, 2016

Drawing the Battle-lines

Sunday 28 February 2016


The debate in Parliament on Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the subsequent incidents in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has brought out in sharp relief the respective positions of the saffron camp and the entire Opposition on questions of nationalism and democracy. The partly emotional and partly minatory Lok Sabha speech by the Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani from the Treasury Benches was no match for the objective analysis of the present situation and the real motives and intents of the powers that be by Jyotiraditya Scindia of the Congress and Sugata Bose of the Trinamul Congress. Bose drew pointed attention to the fact that the RSS, the mentor of the ruling BJP, had never participated in the freedom movement. Incidentally, it also gave the lie to those who were insinuating that the TMC had entered into a sub rosa deal with the BJP and that the TMC members would remain ‘neutral` during the debate. Bose made it clear that his party stood solidly with the students against the forces of authoritarianism and fanaticism and the brand of ‘nationalism’ that these forces represented.

The speeches made by the members of the BJP left no room for doubt that the party would not budge from its policy of attacking anyone who does not agree with their definition of patriotism and nationalism. There was not a word of condemnation of those lawyers who had beaten up not only JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar but also the reporters, who had gone to discharge their professional duty, in the Patiala House Courts. In a sense it was a foretaste of worse things lying in store in the womb of the future.

By and large all the Opposition parties spoke in one voice in the Lok Sabha. All the major Opposition parties, including the TMC, staged a joint walk out from the House. Only some lone members, like Tathagata Satpathy of the BJD, sought to strike a note of ‘equidistance’ between the BJP and the united Opposition. When Smriti Irani rose to speak, the Opposition benches were empty.

But the unity shown in Parliament has to get reflected in the unity of action outside Parliament in the struggle against the authoritarianism and narrow nationalism of the saffron brigade and in defence of the people’s constitutional rights. Five States are going to polls in a month or two. Assembly elections are also due in the big State of Uttar Pradesh in 2017. Opposition unity in all these States is a must if those who want to destroy the democratic polity of the country and make it a Hindu Rashtra are to be defeated. Will the leaders of these parties be able to rise above their narrow party interests for defending the real national interests? Will the equation between Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati change? Will the Congress and CPI-M continue to treat the TMC in West Bengal as their prime enemy and a greater danger than the BJP? Will the BJD under Naveen Patnaik maintain an equidistance between the Congress and BJP?

The forces that are out to destroy the democratic fabric of the country and replace it with an authori-tarian state can be defeated only by a nationwide coordination of the major political parties. It must go beyond mere ‘floor coordination’ in the two Houses of Parliament. Only such a comprehensive unity can draw in other, smaller and vacillating parties to the fold of the unified Opposition and put up an effective challenge to the fascist forces. The spirit of the Sangh Parivar cannot be reconciled with the spirit of the Constitution. The battle-lines have been drawn. Those who do not stand against the current will be swept away by the current.

February 25 B.D.G.

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