The Crisis of the BJP and Tasks of the Left
Few could have expected the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to be ensnared in such an acute and protracted internal crisis so soon after being ousted from power. For the best part of its post-defeat period, the Parivar has been busy holding introspection sessions and battling ideological confusion and organizational dissidence. The authority of the BJP leadership has been completely eroded. Even a leader of Advani’s stature has to survive on a daily dole of approval from the RSS. The contagion of the Sangh’s crisis has also spread to the BJP’s closest ideological partner, the Shiv Sena, which continues to suffer a succession of desertions and splits.
This deepening internal crisis of the rabidly rightwing and communal camp is indeed wonderful news for every secular democratic Indian. But before we start celebrating the decline and decay of the political progeny of the RSS, it is instructive to take a look at recent history and study the political dynamics that catapulted the BJP into the centrestage of Indian politics.
The late 1970s had witnessed a similar crisis over the issue of the Sangh’s intervention in the affairs of the then ‘unified’ Janata Party into which the Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, had ‘dissolved’ itself. Left to choose between the RSS and the Janata Party, the children of the RSS chose to have their own new outfit in the form of the BJP. The new party flirted for a while with what it termed Gandhian socialism, and in November 1984 it suffered a veritable electoral eclipse when it could win only two seats.
The BJP’s spectacular resurgence through the 1990s took place against this bleak backdrop of the 1980s. Advani is universally acknowledged as the key architect of this resurgence, but Advani himself has never shied away from acknowledging the role that the Congress played to facilitate this biggest political turnaround of the twentieth century. And Advani is absolutely right on this score.
Ever since the 1971 Bangladesh war, Indira Gandhi had secured her own space as a ‘goddess’ in the political imagination of the RSS. The rise of Khalistani extremism in Punjab, which again was largely a creation of the Congress, further accentuated the pro-Hindu tilt of the Congress. When the BJP and its communal cousins launched the ‘Ram Janambhoomi’ campaign, the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi thought it could outsmart the BJP by ‘unlocking’ the Babri Masjid.
The subsequent ‘course correction’ attempted by the Congress by overriding the court verdict in the Shah Bano case only proved counter-productive and provided more fodder for the BJP. The initiation of the neo-liberal economic policies under Narsimha Rao did not help either and by 1998 the BJP inexorably reached the pinnacle of power.
The Congress is once again playing a similar role. Thanks to its collaboration with the CPI(M)-led opportunist Left, it believes it can take the Left and the working people for granted. All its attempts are therefore aimed at appropriating the BJP’s agenda and space. Look at the alacrity with which the Congress is rushing ahead with the economic policies of liberalization and privatization and with the foreign policy of ‘strategic partnership (read collusion and slavery)’ with the US. Look how UPA spokespersons describe the terrorist incident at Ayodhya as an attack on the ‘Ram Janambhoomi Mandir complex’ and the Congress treats the incident as an assault on India’s ‘national pride’. This sense of ‘national pride’ however melts characteristically into gratitude to the British colonial legacy of ‘good governance’. This is how the Congress has always hoped to blunt the political edge of the BJP and ended up sharpening it.
When the livelihood of the people is being systematically attacked and the history of the country is being painted with comprador colours, the Left should hold high the banner of people’s interests and national dignity. It is only through a powerful intervention of the Left and advancement of the people’s agenda for democracy and social transformation that the opportunities arising from the BJP’s decline can be utilized in the interests of democracy and the people. This task is however beyond the purview of the CPI(M)-led opportunist Left which operates within the framework of Common Minimum Programme (as permitted by the ruling classes and their government) and ‘coordination’ with the government. Revolutionary communists must show the way with a powerful mobilization of the toiling masses and the democratic intelligentsia.
Down with the UPA Government’s
Anti-Poor and Pro-Imperialist Policies!
Unite and Fight for Livelihood, Employment,
Democracy and National Dignity!
As we approach the 58 th anniversary of India ’s Independence , look around us. We are a free people supposedly exercising our free and democratic choice. But what choice do the bulk of our people have? Masses of agrarian poor can choose between the many faces of death – they may die of hunger, commit suicide out of desperate unemployment, or be shot for demanding water. In Independent India, the deep colonial scars of famine, exploitation and repression are yet to heal.
Our Prime Minister, on his recent visit to Britain, credited the British Empire with ‘good governance’ and ‘beneficial consequences’, and claimed that the freedom fighters just wanted ‘self-governance’: in order to put this ‘good governance’ in the hands of Indian rulers. He also proudly claimed that the ‘great institutions’ of the Indian police and bureaucracy were a gift of British rule, which have ‘served India well’.
Mr. PM, in India today, when farmers ask for water, police rain bullets on them and throw them in jail. Foodgrain meant for the starving and the flood affected are routinely siphoned off by senior bureaucrats and politicians. We agree with you – these institutions of repression and loot are indeed a legacy of colonial rule; and they have no doubt served Indian rulers well!
How right Bhagat Singh was to warn that the only concern of India ’s elites was to persuade the White Sahibs to allow the Black Sahibs to replace them and act as their agents! The BJP-led NDA Government arrogantly and nakedly imposed US-dictated imperialist policies – the present-day version of colonialism - on Indian people, which threatened the nation’s sovereignty and people’s survival. In a bid to throw off the yoke of these killer policies, people voted out the BJP-NDA.
Today, the UPA Government hopes to escape the fate of the NDA Government by claiming to give a ‘human face’ to these same killer policies. Meanwhile the government is going ahead with NDA’s policies of close economic, strategic and military partnership with the US . In order to justify the policy of collaborating with today’s imperialist powers, the PM has also tried to whitewash history and give British colonialism a ‘human face’ too!
But the ‘Caring Government’ mask is fast slipping – and people are fast recognising the callous face beneath. In the last one year since the UPA came to power, we have seen various sections of India ’s people hit the streets.
l Recently, thousands of farmers in Punjab , joined by students were jailed when they went on the war-path against the agrarian policies that were robbing them of their land and lives.
The rural poor of Bihar have demanded – how come top bureaucrats who rob us of relief and leave us to drown and starve go free, when those who champion our struggles are branded as ‘terrorists’ and jailed under TADA?
l All over the country, employment has become the rallying cry of youth. Anger against the dilution and mockery of the promise of ‘Employment Guarantee’ has erupted again and again.
l Hunger, the twin of unemployment stalks the land in almost every state in India . From agrarian labour in Maharashtra and Bihar to the tribals of Eastern UP, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, one can see the outrage against the non-implementation and scams in Food-for-Work schemes. For the nexus of PDS dealers, corrupt officials, contractors and many panchayat functionaries, food-for-work means yet another golden opportunity for food-for-loot, while the rural poor, especially their women, continue to reel under hunger-for-work. Tea garden workers in Bengal and Assam are raising their voice to declare – when tea gardens are being shut down and we’re dying of starvation, how dare the FCI withdraw its system of subsidised foodgrains for us?
l From Jharkhand to Gujarat , innocent victims of POTA are asking – if POTA was unjust and therefore repealed, why are we still being tortured in jails? Why have the worst provisions of POTA been recycled in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (ULAPA)? Just one year ago, the women of Manipur exposed the ‘human face’ lie by taking off their clothes in protest against the rape and murder of Manorama Devi by the Army. They demanded the scrapping of the AFSPA, and the UPA promised to ‘humanise’ AFSPA. Today, instead, the UPA Govt is preparing to nationalise AFSPA by incorporating its provisions in that convenient draconian hold-all – ULAPA!
l The UPA has hiked fuel prices, leaving common people reeling under sky-high prices of essential commodities. The UPA is also going all out in its bid to privatise public sector assets and introduce FDI in key sectors of India ’s economy. If the UPA has its way, employees’ pensions will soon be at the mercy of the whims of the stock market, and farmers will be branded as ‘criminal’ if they store seeds without paying royalty to MNC patent holders! Already, the Patent Act has been amended to allow MNCs a monopoly in medicines – life-saving drugs will soon be out of reach of the poor.
l The UPA has also tied India down to a 10-year Defence partnership with the US . This pact allows India to be a partner in the US ’ ‘multinational military operations’. In other words, Indian soldiers will now be expected to do the dirty work of policing US-occupied nations. Instead of showing solidarity with the freedom fighters of Iraq and Afghanistan , we will be seen as junior partners of the US .
Friends, in May 2004, the people of our country bravely rejected the communal fascist agenda of Ram and riots. Thanks to their bold struggles, basic issues of survival, employment and democracy came to the fore, and the BJP-NDA was ousted from power. In the year since, the BJP’s fortunes have declined further – disintegrating into a real crisis within the Sangh Parivar. This is good news for our nation. The fact that the people did not rest with merely ousting the BJP-NDA, but have kept the basic issues alive in fresh struggles and movements is even better news.
But the Congress is living up to its legacy of providing fertile ground for the growth and revival of communal fascism. Rather than offer a policy alternative to the BJP, the Congress is trying to compete with the BJP to appropriate its space and agenda for itself! Let us take the most recent example of the bomb blasts at Ayodhya. The BJP predictably began its shrill attempts to whip up communal frenzy, and to our great relief, it has not succeeded in this attempt. But we must remember that it is the UPA government which has officially described the area where the incident took place as the Ram Janambhoomi Mandir complex. And the Congress President described the terrorist act at Ayodhya as an assault on India ’s ‘national pride’! What more could the BJP possibly want?
If people’s anger is not channelised in a united all-out struggle for an alternative, people’s sense of betrayal and helplessness could well help the BJP find the road to revival.
Unfortunately, the official Left parties who are supporting the UPA government are doing nothing more than pay lip service to the people’s issues. They claim that since they do not participate in the government, they are free to champion people’s struggles. But the fact is the Common Minimum Programme, the UPA-Left Co-ordination Committee, and the various lunch and dinner meetings with Congress leaders are all ties that shackle them to the Government. These bindings, combined with the fact that their own West Bengal Government follows the self-same anti-people policies that the Government at the Centre does, have all but paralysed these parties. The spirit of class struggle has been sacrificed at the altar of class collaboration.
In this situation, what must be the role of democratic and patriotic Indians? Will we stand by and allow the Congress-led UPA to endanger our nation’s freedom and our own survival? Will we not act to prevent the fascist Sangh and BJP from taking advantage of people’s resentment in order to rally their scattered forces?
The Parliament session begins on 25 July and ends a month later in August. August is the historic month of the Quit India Movement; the month in which India achieved Independence . It is also the month when the US , at the end of World War II, announced a new era of imperialist domination by dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki . In the month ahead, let us prove – our rulers may want to keep alive the legacy of the British Empire , but we, the people of India , know how to keep alive the glorious legacy of those who sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom!
l Let us resist every attempt to erode India ’s sovereignty, any attempt to undermine our freedom by tuning us into ‘strategic’ stooges of imperialist powers!
l Let us demand that the Govt. must, in this session of Parliament, enact laws for
(i) comprehensive round-the-year employment guarantee for the jobless all over the country,
(ii) comprehensive central legislation for agricultural labourers,
(iii) social security legislation for unorganised sector workers,
(iv) debt remission and alternative agricultural policy for the distressed peasantry,
(v) 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Assemblies.
Building a powerful countrywide people’s movement on this basic agenda is the need of the hour. To this end, the CPI(ML) has resolved to conduct a monthlong nationwide mass campaign, beginning with mass demonstrations at major centres all over the country on July 25. August 6, the sixtieth anniversary of the infamous US-led destruction of the Hiroshima city of Japan will be observed as a day of nationwide protest against the military offensive of US imperialism and the UPA government’s policy of strategic surrender to this American design. The campaign will finally culminate in programmes of militant mass mobilisation (like rasta roko/rail roko/chakka jam/jail bharo) on 24 August.
Let us turn this campaign into a powerful statement of people’s action on the most pressing agenda of the people. Let the voice of the oppressed and betrayed Indian people roar against the treacherous rulers of the country who are bent upon ruining our livelihoods and resources and insulting our legacy and aspirations of freedom.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org