Lack of a real class alternative and pattern of volatility continues
The results of the recently concluded 5 state assembly elections plus the council elections in Maharashtra is more than a warning sign for the ruling Congress party. The electoral drubbing the Congress has received in almost all the states (except in the North Eastern state of Manipur) is significant in many ways.
The poor performance of the Congress especially in Uttar Pradesh – UP (India’s most populous and politically important state), despite the high profile campaign by the heir apparent – Rahul Gandhi and losing out especially in the Congress stronghold of Amethi and Rae Bareli is nothing short of rejection of Congress’s economic policies at the Centre.
It is not only the rejection of the Congress that is of significance but also the poor performance of the BJP (except in Goa) that is also equally important. The loss of Ayodhya (the epicentre of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that demolished the Babri Masjid Mosque in 1992) reflects the state of affairs in the so called oppositional party. The crisis in the BJP is best reflected in the editorial of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser, which simply stated the obvious: the BJP is unlikely to come to power in the 2014 General Elections in this present state. (The Hindu, 12 March 2012)
The only significant winners in this elections were the regional parties such as Samajwadi Party (SP) in UP, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab and even Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) – the Marathi Chauvinist party in the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation elections. While signifying the re-emergence of the regional parties, it should be noted that none of them represent a shift in the neo-liberal policies that is in any way different from the policies of the Congress or the BJP. This elections should also be noted for the distinct absence of the so called left parties in any these states which reflects their own bankruptcy and provincialism of not having grown beyond their traditional regional presence in West Bengal, Kerala & Tripura.
Uttar Pradesh (UP)
In UP, it was not merely the poor showing of the Congress that was significant. But what was also significant and inevitable was the fall of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Apart from a self inflicted defeat that was all apparent, there was a gang up of all the major mainstream parties of UP from the Congress to the BJP, SP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to see to the defeat of Dalith Chief Minister– Mayawati. This debacle of Mayawati’s BSP is bound to create a mood of despair among some sections of Daliths and embolden the casteist marauders who went on a immediate rampage against the Dalith and other vulnerable communities soon after SP’s victory.
The Congress poor performance cannot just be understood from the perspective of its economic policies at the centre but also due to its lack of base, especially the caste base which is the determining factor in the caste ridden politics of UP. The new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – Akhilesh Yadav (the new prince charming and son of the SP supremo – Mulayam Singh Yadav) does not mark any change from the past as the media likes to portray. The only shift this time around was the absence of the now disgraced corrupt businessman-politician – Amar Singh and his coterie of Bollywood stars which was the usual style of SP campaigning in the last decade.
Apart from that the same muscle men, who terrorized the populace of UP especially Daliths and other oppressed communities earlier, have been voted back to power and are now occupying cabinet positions. It is hard to envisage how they will behave any differently from the erstwhile SP regime (before 2007) which was nothing more than a rule of gangster capitalism – landlordism. Even the tinge of Lohiate Socialism (read mouthing Social Justice rhetoric ) that has always been staple part of SP’s electoral campaign all along has been dumped and coming of Akhilesh Yadav also marks its total embrace of neo-liberal policies.
The real losers, as in all elections, would be the working people, peasants and the oppressed communities especially the poor Daliths who stand to lose most from whatever little gains they made under Mayawati’s regime and will continue to remain suppressed both from a class and a caste point of view.
In Uttarkhand (formerly part of UP), the inconclusive results, with neither party the Congress nor the BJP gaining a majority, proving that the people there saw no difference between the two. In Goa, it was primarily a rejection of the super corrupt and arrogant government of the Digambar Kamat’s Congress that saw the BJP riding the electoral wave, even garnering support from the Christians (who form a significant part of the population). However, the BJP will prove to be no different from the Congress rule (that was mired by mining scandals and SEZ’s) especially given its track record in the neighbouring state of Karnataka where the mining and land mafia dons occupy cabinet positions in the state government.
While Manipur might seem like an odd ball in this elections with the Congress gaining more seats than in the previous elections but one must also understand that Manipur is like a quasi military dictatorship under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). There really are no oppositional parties in Manipur as most of the opposition has been driven underground or concentrated in the insurgency. Given the little or no choice people had, this victory of the Congress should not be seen as a vote for the Congress.
As mentioned earlier, the results are more than warning signal for the Congress in the light of the 2012 general elections. Unless there is a distinct change of course towards centre left, which is highly unlikely as the current budget or the proposed railway fare hike clearly shows, Congress stands to lose out. However this does not mean it cannot come back to power but may come back with reduced number of seats and having to rely on even more unstable coalition governments than the present one. The coming two year period would indeed be an interesting period marked by various permutation and combinations of economic, social and political forces which would determine the course of the 2014 election outcome.
While the state elections results may not lead to an mid term elections, as oppositional parties such as the BJP or the left do not want to precipitate matter as both stand to lose out, but as always nothing can be ruled out. As things stands now, given its inability to control the price rises or unable to carry forward its neo-liberal reform agenda (which is facing opposition from the ranks of its own coalition partners such as Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress), the current Manmohan Singh government is in a state of paralysis.
With the global economic slowdown, a lower economic growth rate of 6-7% and a bleak economic outlook everywhere, there is not even that chimera of economic miracle to shout about any more. And the prince Rahul Gandhi still being a novice in politics and highly unlikely to make much of an impact (as shown in UP) and also with no real Congress heavyweights to lead election campaigns, things could not have looked more bleaker for the Congress government.
As things stands out at present, the problem facing people everywhere and most strikingly here in India, is the absence of an genuine socialist alternative that could dramatically change course from the present crisis under capitalism. But with things starting to open up such as the 100 million strong general strike that India witnessed recently on 28th February or the general strikes in Europe and the various inspiring movements the world over from Tahrir square to Occupy Wall Street last year, there is room enough for hope.