A Sham Democracy at Work!

The developments of the last few weeks, particularly during the Winter session of the parliament, has again exposed the sham democracy that is India. The ruling party – the Congress led UPA{{1}} government has once again managed to outmanoeuvre the opposition parties, led by the BJP{{2}} and to a lesser extent by the Left parties{{3}}, on their supposed opposition to the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

First came Mamata Banerjee‘s No Confidence motion which as everyone knew would be defeated as none of the parties were ready to face the electorate given their own unpopularity. This was also because of the fact that none of them, particularly the CPI(M){{4}}, did not want Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) to gain upper ground on the FDI issue. Then came the so called debate and parliamentary vote on the introduction of FDI in retail. Once again the government managed to bribe its way with the help of the fence sitters particularly Mayawati‘s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s wrongly christened Samajawadi (Socialist) Party (SP) on the most spurious grounds that the defeat of the FDI in retail in parliament would lead to a policy paralysis and pave way for the communal forces led by the BJP!

Now comes the revelations that Wal-Mart has spend over $25 million (Rs. 125 crores) in the last four years for lobbying with US lawmakers in gaining access to overseas markets, including India. As we have pointed elsewhere the 123 agreement between US and India was only possible because of strong lobbying efforts by the big US corporations which included Wal-Mart among others. The flip side of the deal was the complete opening up of the Indian economy to these big corporations. The probe ordered by the Indian government to investigate whether Indian government officials were bribed by Wal-Mart’s clandestine activities in India (through its tie-up with Bharati) will be another whitewash as the establishment will see to it that nothing will come out it.

Despite the government managing to weather away from this crisis, it only shows the extreme levels of its unpopularity and a government which is actually hanging by the thread as it lurches from one crisis after another. The only reason the government has managed to survive for this long is only because of the fact that its so called opponents in the opposition parties are equally lacking in credibility and, are as pro-capitalist and corrupt to the core.

The Left parties particularly the CPI(M), which could have made a difference, failed miserably. As we have pointed out in our previous article what was needed was a strong build up of the working class pressure through the advancement of the 2-day General Strike (slated to be held on 20th and 21st Feb 2013) during the lead up to the Winter Parliamentary session. Instead they spent all their energies in trying to form a bloc with the mainstream parties (including indirectly with the BJP) who do not really differ with any of the neo-liberal policies of the Congress.

The CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat recently announced that they will not allow even a single Wal-Mart store to be opened up in India. While this may appear as a sudden radical shift on the part of the CPI(M), it remains to be seen whether they are actually serious about it given the fact that Wal-Mart has already set up shop in India under a different brand name. A sustained struggle or a campaign, beyond the usual confines of ‘parliamentary’ protest, will certainly boost the morale of the Indian working class and radically shift the so called ‘supremacy of the parliament’ to ‘power to the people’ on the streets which the ruling class fear and simply cannot ignore.

If there is any historic opportunity for the left, particularly the CPI(M), to prove itself as a force to reckon with, given the fact all the mainstream parties are in shambles one way or the other, it is now. If the CPI(M) and rest of the left parties fails to act now, not only against FDI in retail but a host of other anti-people policies of the government, it is likely to face a massive split within its own rank and file in the coming period, particularly among its trade union and student bodies, and its electoral prospects in 2014 general elections would be anything but certain.

As for the Congress, their victory over FDI in retail is no succour for making any electoral gains in the coming assembly elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka or even the 2014 General Elections. In the coming Gujarat elections, the prospect of the Congress winning is anything but certain and Rahul Gandhi (the projected heir apparent to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty) has proven himself to be complete failure electorally for the Congress. Any attempt at projecting a reluctant Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate in the General Election is not going to be of any use whatsoever given UPA’s abject failure on all fronts in the last 2 terms of its rule.

And for the main opposition party – the communal, right-wing BJP, it has proven itself to be nothing more than the B team of the Indian ruling class and has discredited itself beyond repair. Given its complete disarray and organizational infighting, the victory of Narendra Modi in the coming elections will only increase the infighting, as Modi will try to take center stage in the 2014 General Elections as against the current BJP leadership around Nitin Gadkari and L K Advani. A split within the BJP is not ruled out nor is the possibility of the Modi’s elevation to the top post (given the extreme uncertainties of the current period) which would represent a serious threat to the hard won rights of the Indian working people.

The coming period leading up to the General Election in 2014 would mark as a very interesting period as there is increasing likelihood of the emergence of the working class on the streets given the scale of attacks on the working class in the last period. It would also represent an historic opportunity for genuine socialist ideas to gain ground amongst the new layers of the working class and the youth fed up with price rise, the extreme levels of exploitation in the working places and the increasingly dim prospects in an increasingly unviable system called capitalism.

The New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) believes that only a genuine mass Socialist Alternative based on grass-roots democracy is the only alternative forward in an increasingly outdated system based on class exploitation for the benefit of a few. And this task can only be achieved by the unity of all the working people, irrespective of religion, region, caste, gender, language etc., under the banner of one party/ force which can and would fight to the finish.

[[1]] United Progressive Alliance[[1]]

[[2]]Bharatiya Janata Party[[2]]

[[3]]Left Parties consist of mainly four of the leading mainstream left parties of India comprising of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc[[3]]

[[4]] Communist Party of India (Marxist) [[4]]