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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 34

Election-Eve Political Scene

Sunday 10 August 2008, by Harkishan Singh Surjeet


The last four years have been years of great disappointment for the toiling millions of the country. These have been years showing the failure of the Central Government to fulfill the pledges given to the people. The policies pursued by the Central Government have been influenced by the dictates of the World Bank. Removal of the subsidies which were meant to help the producer and the consumer, invitation to multinationals in the name of technological advance and import liberalisation, deficit financing and uncontrolled money supply, refusal to undertake land reforms, failure to eradicate poverty and unemployment have all led to growing discontent among the working class, peasantry, middle class employees, intellectuals and other sections of the toiling people.

In spite of the repeated promises being made to eradicate poverty and unemployment and announcement of many programmes in this respect, the Central Government has not succeeded to tackle any of these problems seriously. In fact these problems have got aggravated. On the other hand, the Central Government resorted to constant attacks on the democratic rights of the people: whether it is in the form of the Defamation Bill; the 59th Amendment to the Constitution; efforts to amend the Industrial Disputes Act; refusal to implement even the meagre changes in relation to Centre-State relations as recommended by the Sarkaria Commission; or discrimination against the State Governments ruled by the Opposition parties, particularly the governments led by the Left, in relation to projects, the supply of foodgrains and advances to help overcome the deficits. Now it is bent upon further decreasing the powers of the State Governments in relation to the Panchayati Raj and local self-government institutions under the false slogan of de-centralisation of power. But all these acts and steps of the Central Government had to face stiff resistance from the mass of the Indian population.

The last two years show how the Central Government, headed by Rajiv Gandhi, has been indulging in corruption, even at the risk of the security of the country. Whether it is Fairfax, the HWD submarine deal or Bofors, the government has been thoroughly exposed as misleading and deceiving the people. Even after it was thoroughly exposed that commissions have been paid by Bofors which was from the beginning denied by Rajiv Gandhi himself and other spokesmen of the government, the CAG report and General Sundarji’s statement have left no doubt in the minds of the general people that the government has all through been trying to deceive the Indian public. It is this which forced all the Opposition parties to take a decision to quit the Lok Sabha protesting against the ruling party’s cover-up of its corruption and misdeeds and appeal to the people for a fresh verdict. All this has led to great discontent which was expressed by the people in the successful Bharat Bandh on August 30, 1989.

Price Rise

The recent price rise during the last three months has added fuel to the fire. Prices of sugar has risen from Rs 6.50 to Rs 13.00 in the open market; prices of groundnut oil from Rs 18.50 to Rs 25.50. Similar is the case of foodgrains, pulses and other essential commodities. Even salt has not been spared. The prices have more than doubled. This has happened when the government is claiming a much better rate of growth in relation to both agriculture and industrial production and there is no doubt that food production in this period has increased. The sugarcane production has been 27 million tonnes more than last year and the groundnut production has increased by 38 per cent. People are bound to believe that it is the government which is allowing manipulation of prices and some papers have reported that hundreds of crores of rupees have been taken from the sugar magnates to allow them to raise the prices.

This undoubtedly has intensified the contradictions between the people and the government and has also led to intensification of conflicts within the ruling party. There is not a single State left where the party is not divided into two or three factions. Since no democracy exists in the party and since no elections have been held for more than 18 years, these conflicts are bound to intensify in the coming days. The persons who have served the Congress during the struggle for independence have no say in shaping its policies.

In such a situation the dominant desire in the country is for the removal of Rajiv Gandhi and the formation of such a government which would be able to fulfill the people’s aspirations.

The Communal Factor

Making use of the growing discontent of the people the communal and separatist forces in the country have become very active to divert the discontent into divisive channels. The separatists backed by imperialists have been very active in Punjab, in J&K and the North-East region posing a direct threat to the unity of the country. Shiv Sena, a fascist organisation which earlier raised the slogan of ‘sons of the soil’ and tried to instigate the Marathis against the people belonging to other nationalities in the country, has now taken an open stand to attack the minorities under the slogan of the Hindu state. The BJP has taken a lead in initiating the campaign on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue openly advocating the demolition of the Babri mosque instead of finding a solution to the problem either through negotiations or by a judicial verdict. They have also openly come out against the Urdu language being protected even though the leaders know it fully well that it is an Indian language incorporated in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution from the beginning but has so far been denied its rightful place.

The Bombay session of the BJP National Council, which was addressed by Bal Thackeray and where the RSS leaders were present, has decided to remove its mask and come out fully with a Hindu appeal. Even a person like Vajpayee had to declare that the BJP has changed names many times like the Ganges which has got many names but its content has remained the same. It has come out openly not only against Article 370 of the Constitution but against the Minorities Commission also. The BJP’s role in what happened subsequently and is happening today in the country in the form of communal riots, cannot be under-estimated. It is posing a threat to national unity. The BJP is making further efforts by which the minorities are completely alienated and their policy of rousing Hindu chauvinism becomes successful. Muslim fundamentalists backed by Saudi Arabia are also instigating the minority community and making all efforts to keep them away from the national mainstream.

All these forces do not want the country to take a Left and democratic turn. They do not want India to play a positive role in the struggle for peace or against imperialist manoeuvres.

How to Meet the Situation

It would have been the best if there was a Left and democratic alternative, which alone can guarantee defence of national unity, stability and alternative policies. Such an alternative could help in ameliorating the conditions of the masses. But unfortunately, taking the country as a whole such a correlation of forces does not exist, where a government based on an alternative programme and an alternative to the ruling party representing the interests of the bourgeois-landlord classes can be thought of.

At the same time the urge of the Indian people is to remove the Rajiv Gandhi Government, which in today’s conditions can be done by the unity of the Left and secular forces. The Left has been struggling for this since the last one year. But the bourgeois Opposition parties are not very clear about this and are ignoring the political complexities of the situation and the consciousness of the Indian masses. Many of the leaders belonging to the secular Opposition parties are advocating a one-to-one fight and they are exaggerating the strength of the BJP also. The BJP votes have never been more than 9.2 per cent.

Even if we rely on sheer arithmetic, the Muslim votes in UP and Bihar are around 16 per cent, and the overwhelming majority of them are opposed to the Congress. The moment one joins hands with the BJP, in the present political context where efforts are being made by the Congress to woo the Muslims and by the BJP to resort to communal polarisation, this is bound to play into the hands of the Congress. As a result of this if the Janata Dal loses the support of the minority community and decides to rely only on Hindu support, it will not be in a position to defend national unity.

There are elements in the Janata Dal who even do not hesitate to advocate an understanding with the Shiv Sena. If their views are allowed to prevail it will provide Rajiv Gandhi with an opportunity to pose himself as a champion of national unity before the Indian people. In fact if the Janata Dal had by now launched its election campaign and gone to the people alongwith the Left, polarisation would have taken place between the Janata Dal and the Congress in the Hindi region. The strength of the BJP is limited to the cities. It has not yet been able to penetrate into the rural areas.

The Left, undoubtedly, is comparatively weak in this region but its credibility and appeal today is much wider and could have helped the Janata Dal to play the decisive role. Since the Left has proved to be the best defender of national unity by taking up campaigns against communalism and separatism and by sacrificing many of its valuable cadres it has a wider appeal amongst the minorities as well as the dominant, broad democratic opinion among the majority community. It is to be noted that people in general are against the communal divide. When Vijayraje Scindia raised the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi in the September 25 birthday rally of Devi Lal and she was hooted, not a single person raised his voice in her favour. No major party in today’s context can have a future if it shows a lack of concern for communal harmony and national unity. The sooner the Janata Dal leadership gives up its vacillation the better.

Two Aspects of Present Situation

There is no doubt that the dominant feature of the present situation is that the people from all walks of life today want the removal of the Rajiv Gandhi Government and they are determined to pull it down in the coming elections. This is a dominant feature of today’s political situation and this desire cannot be ignored. Any party which ignores this will get isolated.

But alongwith this, people are very much concerned about national unity and stability in the country. If the Opposition parties commit certain mistakes that allow Rajiv Gandhi to pose himself as a champion of national unity he can outmanoeuvre the Opposition. This aspect should not be minimised. That is why recently Rajiv Gandhi has started concentrating on the theme of concern for national unity although it is well-known that his government is responsible for continuation of the present situation in Punjab, for the worsening of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in the North-East region. With the media in his hands, and if the Opposition provides a handle, his capacity to confuse the people should not be under-estimated.

Therefore, in the present complex situation both aspects of the reality of the situation are to be taken into consideration. The Janata Dal leaders must understand that in the wake of communal polarisation if they join hands with the BJP in UP and Bihar they will not only lose credibility as a party in whose hands the national interests can be safe but they will be weakening the struggle for the removal of Rajiv Gandhi. The real solution lies in adopting steps whereby the National Front and the Janata Dal take a clear position on the issue of communalism, separatism and the protection of the genuine rights of the minorities, join hands with the Left and throw a challenge to the Rajiv Gandhi Government.

As the Left and secular forces move together, the whole atmosphere can be galvanised, where even the most backward sections of the toiling people belonging to the tribals, Scheduled Castes can be drawn into the battle, apart from rallying the minorities alongwith the majority community, making an appeal to the patriotic and democratic sentiments of the Indian masses. This alone can ensure a victory over the Rajiv Gandhi Government.

(Mainstream, Annual 1989)

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