Indeed this General Election of 2014 has churned a lot of heat and debate over the past few months. Barring the hustings soon after the Emergency of 1975, we have not witnessed such a hands on participation of the people in the proceedings of this country’s politics.
While this new awakening of the people can be attributed to many socio-economic-political factors, what is surely the case is, the people both urban & rural are fed-up of mere sloganeering politics while the reality of their lives are abysmally wanting.
Surely the coming of Aam Admi Party (AAP) on to the Indian political spectrum has added an edge of hope that the situation need not remain as it used to be and it can be challenged. While we will take up the issue of AAP in the later paragraphs, it has to be mentioned here that keeping with the general trend of the world situation, in response to the unbearable economic and social crisis faced by the mass of the population, the people around the world including India are entering into the arena of struggle in many different ways, and it is no longer possible for the ruling classes to have a business-as-usual approach.
New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) Socialist/Marxist party organisation, over the years has campaigned for an Independent Working Class/Peoples’ Alternative to the present Tweedledum-Tweedledee political choices.
We do understand the difficulties that radical political dispensations face in breaking the vice grip of the established political parties that represent Capital, Corporate, Casteist and Feudal landlord forces who control and run the Indian state irrespective of the Party/ies in power.
Yes we do see the immediate possible danger of an avowedly communal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed by the mass murderer Narendra Modi coming to power, who is a professed hate monger and doesn’t hesitate to use state power against the religious and other minorities. But that threat can not be seen in isolation of the political and economic processes that have been in progress at least in the last quarter of a century.
Willy-Nilly the corporates, both Multinational and Indian, have long decided that their interests are safe in the hands of Congress-BJP and the teams they muster to “govern” this vast land mass called India. Hence a de-facto, creeping two party bi-polar political “choice” is presented, rather foisted on as The Political Democratic selection.
Defeat BJP, YES! but that doesn’t mean in any way the evil of Congress can be chosen as a lesser and surly it can not be white washed as “secular”. We reject this time serving tactic which has been used time and again to hood wink the people especially the working classes in their struggle against Capitalism and Landlord-ism.
This is no genius conclusion which is new to the India’s working people both urban and rural, this self defeating “lesser evilism” has been dished out by the leadership of both the parliamentary Communist parties [CPI(M) & CPI] and their other cohorts as an electoral strategy from time immemorial.
Secondly coming to the above tactic, even from an angle of limited parliamentary strategy to advance the struggle and the bargaining capacity of the working and toiling masses the above advice or suggestion is erroneous and can be dangerous not only in the long term but also in the short term itself.
Though the advocates of this “Defeat BJP – Save India” slogan do not specifically point out which are the parties according to their acumen are “secular”, its very clear that this is leading the electorate once again to the blind alley of Congress being secular and BJP being Communal. As we have explained in our website Socialism.in and various leaflets that the rise (since the early 90’s) of communal-ism as represented by the BJP and RSS are in corollary with the neo-liberalism brought in by the Congress party in 1991. in fact, if not feeding on each other, surly one has complimented the other
While it is an irony of the situation that the very many endorsers of “Defeat BJP – Save India” line who happen to be the radical intelligentsia of the land, and who have tirelessly written, protested and organised against the neo-liberal policies of the Congress party and the economic , social and political consequences arising out of it end up into such a pathetic position of TINA and thus support the so called lesser evil of the two.
Just for arguments sake, with what stretch of imagination can we identify for example, Nandan Nilekani as a secular candidate. Can secularism or secular values be so narrow, can we forget this Congress party candidate’s take on Democracy during 2006? He lamented the fact that the NDA government led by Vajapayee of the BJP got defeated in 2004 in spite of the hype that was created by the ‘India Shining’ campaign. And Nandan Nilekani found fault with Indian Democracy which follows the principle of One Person One Vote, instead he advocated that it should be One Rupee One Vote (!), so that the fiscal Growth achievers and GDP contributors can have a decisive say in the workings of this Democracy.
His dangerous misadventure of Unique Identification Development Authority of India- AADHAAR is something that all of us including some of the endorsers wrote and fought against. And to remind these lobbyists for Congress, that the entire Unique Identification Project was the brain child of BJP lead NDA project, not to speak of the fact that how the BJP’s “strongman”of yesteryears L K Advani wanted a unique identification for Indians to pursue his favourite Bangladeshi Muslim witch-hunt. Yet political Myopia invades, all this is forgotten and a secular label is stuck on him just because he joins Congress party the other day.
Though it is needless to go once again into the politically naive categorisation of today’s Congress Party as a Secular political party, yet the question crops up time and again. Given the advantageous baggage that Congress historically hooks-on to, as the party that was in the forefront of the fight against the colonial British rule, naturally carries a certain aura of anti-imperialism with it. Let’s also not forget that most of the political formations which have established them selves as opposition political parties (barring few regional parties) find their roots in the Congress.
The history of post 1970 Congress coinciding with Jawaharlal Nehru’s death and the end of Post-war boom, saw the gradual erosion of all that was progressive within Congress which hitherto clung on to the glimmer of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist legacy of the Independence movement. Though not recorded factually the infamous Emergency period clamped by Indira Gandhi and the coterie around her, sowed the seeds of majoritarianism albeit communalism in India’s body politic.
The infamous, Turkman Gate Demolition, Beautification of Delhi, the notorious Sterilisation drive primarily directed against the poor and above all bringing in Jagmohan Malhotra, the sworn Muslim hater into the administration coterie of the party saw that the discourse of Indian variety of Secularism as practised by the Congress sullied to the point of no return.
On another note, as Marxists and Socialists we reject this man oeuvre of sections of the ruling classes getting away with the tag of being “secular”. They have not formulated policies to separate Religion from having a say in the affairs of the State, instead they have coined a convenient phrase “Indian Secularism” which meaning ‘equal promotion of all religions’! And this is where the rot starts, where ruling classes for garnering votes pander to religious fundamentalism in the name of “secularism”.
Even from a bourgeois point of view, the practice of Secularism cannot be and should not be based on the political exigencies of the time, secular values are intrinsically linked with progressive values as a whole. State has to step in to see that the vulnerable sections in the society are not put into any disadvantageous position because of the brutal majority of a religious, linguistic, ethnic, nation or regional community and at the same it has to ensure that sensitivities pertaining to Women, Daliths, Adivasis and other marginalised are taken aboard and safe guarded.
In the neo-colonial world where capitalism and landlord-ism (even feudalism still rules the roost in all spheres of social life) have utterly failed in developing the society, the ruling class parties choose to lean “LEFT” on the masses time and again and wear “progressivism” on their sleeve as a matter of convenience. But what drives their “secularism and progressivism” is their opportunist vision. Take the cases of Shah Bano and Opening of Babri Masjid locks, the master minds of “secularism” in congress thought that caving into both Muslim and Hindu fundamentalist arguments is the best policy!
Organisationally, Congress has not taken a single step to cleanse its ranks from murderers of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Those who were responsible for the massacre of innocent Sikhs, women and Children have been rehabilitated in the party, given plum posts and even party tickets to fight elections.
It is indeed a political Hara-kiri to advise the electorate to choose Congress of today and place it somehow in better light than the blatantly communal BJP, it is like choosing between Pistol & Poison.
Surely & Squarely Say No to BJP! In the same breath reject farcically “secular” Congress!!
The dogging question! What Next?!
Lastly, in the bourgeois parliamentary democratic set-up that we live, people in general perceive elections as a chance to directly participate in decision making even though all the political parties of the establishment have utterly failed time and again both in the states and the all India level to tackle and solve the fundamental issues concerning the Indian people.
It is indeed ironical that even after the existence for almost a century, the Indian Communist movement, led by CPI & CPI(M) in particular has not advanced to the level of mounting a decisive challenge to the Bourgeois – Landlord system and provide a genuine alternative to the toiling masses condemned to live in penury.
While one would recognize the fact that through the struggles of yesteryears many social and economic advances have been made in the states where they have held power, for example the far reaching land reforms in Kerala under the first elected Communist government was a path breaker in itself. But it is also true that the half way house measures such as Operation Barga (right to till the land with out actually owning) in West Bengal later led to a grotesque situation where the left front government shot down the peasants who were their formidable support for three decades.
The limitations of working under the confines of Capitalism and Landlord-ism, without having a radical/revolutionary strategy of going beyond parliamentary cretinism led the Communist parties of India to leave the field free for reactionary forces through which the scourge of feudalism, caste-ism, obscurantism and religious fundamentalism could breed and flourish.
As commented earlier, the ludicrous debate of sections of the Indian bourgeois political parties being secular and progressive is primarily the invention and practice of the two Communist Parties CPI(M) and the CPI post independence, it was this ugly theorisation of their follies that led to Indira Gandhi being termed as progressive and the infamous Emergency period getting hailed by the CPI and later the reactionary conglomerate of Janata Party led by Morarji Desai as the champion of Democratic Rights against authoritarianism.
The coat-tail politics of the CPI & CPI(M) in their eternal search of progressive capitalist class to suit their time warped ideological position of stage-ism has sapped the combativity of the working classes to tread a class approach in the advancement of their struggle for emancipation. Time and again the leadership of both the communist parties and their cohorts have used the working class as mere cannon fodder to bargain and seek favours from ruling class parties.
Never in the history of independent India have the CP’s set the agenda to capture power, as recent as February of this year they were courting AIADMK’s Jayalalitha and BJD’s Naveen Patnaik singing paeans, urging them to lead the “Third Front” to advance their chimera of Non- Congress and Non BJP strategy, but hardly there is one party in that rump that is anti-BJP or anti-Congress in the true sense of the term. Either in the States or at the Centre all these “Seculars & Progressives” have shared power and the loot with Congress and the BJP.
It was the failure of the traditional left parties to provide an alternative to the burgeoning social, political and economic problems of the society that an entirely new entity such as AAP has shot into prominence in such a short span of time. Most of the issues that AAP has chosen to highlight are classical issues that mass parties of the left should have championed and rallied the masses to struggle.
It was this vacuum that paved the way for right-wingers like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Baba Ramdevs to tap the latent energy of the urban neo middle classes and catapult themselves as fighters against endemic corruption perfected as an art by all the ruling-establishment parties.
AAP growing out of this reaction against corruption in the system has to an extent caught the imagination of the urban youth who are primarily the beneficiaries of the decade long boom and growth which has predominantly concentrated in the metropolitan cities of the country.
While it is too early to judge the quality of this unknown quantity, nevertheless it has attracted many individuals who are steeped in struggle on various peoples issues, from anti-nuclear, Dalith rights, Environmental and Adivasi issues. It is true that many in the leadership of AAP and some of the Peoples’ Fighters who are joining the AAP come from the background of Non Governmental Organisations (NGO).
While it is no disqualification to be part of a NGO set up and be political, but the overriding ideology that runs in the background of NGOism is where Party Politics is an anathema. In the neo-colonial countries like India Voluntary Sector/NGOism became a factor as a buffer ideology to give a cushion effect to the ruthless policy implementation of the World Bank, IMF & WTO, infamous in their own right agencies such as Ford Foundation, Rockefeller, Carnegie Foundation & Bread for the World implemented a well thought out plan to literally buy out or behead the militant radical movements from reaching revolutionary conclusions at the time.
We will not hold this against all those genuine fighters who have stood by the causes and led glorious struggles, but the fact has to be taken into account in understanding the making of this new political entity AAP in whose leadership there are a few who have a history of apathy towards “politics” and have professed Non Party Political formations for the last two decades or so.
AAP which boasts of being neither right nor left and with no specific ideology as such is indeed attracting a phenomenal number in the urban centres of India, especially the youth who were hitherto apolitical or a-party political. When it comes to the core issues that confronts the Indian people the leadership of AAP is very evasive to a great extent. It also sings the same tune of unbridled free market Capitalism, except with a caveat saying it would oppose Crony Capitalism which goes with its cure all mantra of anti corruption.
Yet as many analysts opine, we agree that it has to some extent put brakes on the seemingly ascending juggernaut of Modi led BJP, but what worries the close observers is that AAP’s doors are wide open to even the disgruntled right-wing Hindutva supporters.
What is the strategy for future?
While holding our judgement on the finality of this Aam Admi Party, we would appeal to those People’s Struggles leaders such as S P Udhayakumar, Pushparayan, Jesuraj, Ponnaiah Chandran, Medha Patkar, Dayamani Barla, Soni Sori and many others with whom the radical/marxist/socialist organisations have shoulder to shoulder struggled on various peoples issues to push this party to the left so that it could qualify to emerge as an alternative to the present political imbroglio that we are placed in.
Despite the complex nature of the AAP and its leadership, confusion about the character of the party and more importantly the vagueness of its programme in relation to many crucial issues such as Nuclear Energy, AFSPA, LGBTI, Nationality Questions, particularly the Kashmir and the question of the Sri Lanka’s Tamils who are seeking Right of Self Determination etc.
In spite of all the short comings at present it is bound to attract Tens of thousands of votes as they are mobilising on the plank of anti-corruption and anti mainstream parties, those feelings that run deep in the society. Number of candidates who have a reputation as mass struggle leaders such as S P Udhayakumar, Medha Patker etc., are participating in this not just to win the election but to work to deliver what they are promising the voters.
If they are elected, their ability to deliver on their promises would be limited by the fact that they will not be able to implement the policies (as they may not win enough seats). In those circumstances what would be their post-election political strategy? Resignation like that took place in Delhi is an easy way out and will be seen as a disrespect to those tens of thousands who voted for them.
Instead they should prepare the masses for an extra parliamentary struggle to force the govt. of the day, which could be a parliamentary totalitarian govt. as every serious commentators think. These demands can still be taken forward – regardless of number of seats won by AAP in the coming election – through mobilising the masses. We would support such a call for mass mobilisation to deliver on the demands. Vote for AAP should be seen as more conscious vote than the vote for any other mainstream parties. Masses will be prepared to struggle if these leaders are serious about delivering what they are putting forward.
The people who cooperated with the various peoples movements headed by those luminaries whom we have listed will be waiting for a dialogue to take the mass struggles forward through which we can challenge the present routine-ism in politics and pave way for a genuine change in the lives of the people of India.
To facilitate such a trajectory we will certainly advocate a vote to those candidates of AAP who have a history of leading uncompromising peoples struggles in various parts of the country.
While being very critical of the leadership of the left parties such as CPI & CPI(M) on their eternal mistake of seeking progressives among capitalist and landlord classes , we still feel that there is a churning taking place with in the ranks of these parties. The rank & file membership of CPI(M) in few states where they have significant following, have opened up serious debates on the various policies and strategies of the left parties vis-a-vis issues and problems confronting people, a near revolt in Tamil Nadu last year against the leadership’s attitude to Kudankulam anti- Nuclear struggle resulting in thousands not renewing their membership of the party, and even a minor split in the region of Coimbatore.
With the intention of strengthening the left forces, we will critically give support to many candidates of the traditional left parties, smaller radical parties and groups who have put up candidates to focus the issues concerning the working people, the marginalised and downtrodden through which to register their protest against both Communalism. neo-liberalism and Capitalism.
New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) would emphatically stand for the strengthening of the left forces with a call to urgently build a genuine Working class/peoples mass alternative, which stands on a clear anti-capitalist and democratic socialist programme.
Reject the glorification of the so called India’s growth & development.
Reject all those political parties who stand for Capitalism of one shade or the other.
Don’t vote those neo-liberalists and communalists, they go hand in hand.
Oppose the Communal Parliamentary Totalitarian Govt. in the offing led by BJP’s Modi.
Build a genuine anti-capitalist, mass democratic socialist alternative to challenge the system.