People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 51

December 29,2002

What 2002 Enjoins On Us For Future 

Harkishan Singh Surjeet

MEETING for two days towards the year’s end, the BJP’s national executive concluded on mutually contradictory notes issued by two top leaders. While the prime minister said Hindutva cannot be the party’s election plank, evidently his deputy thinks otherwise. Advani said the BJP can gain only by sticking to Hindutva, which the political resolution passed by the executive meeting sought to clothe under the title of ‘cultural nationalism.’ 


THE political resolution came a day after the BJP president, in himself a non-entity, had done his share of boasting: “Gujarat was not a mere political victory for the BJP; it was a mandate for the ideology that has always held the nation’s interest as its core strength.” Yet the fact is that even Gujarat victory has not been able to absolve the Parivar of the sins it has committed in the state and to overcome the hatred common people in the country have developed for the brigade. This explains Venkaiah Naidu’s futile attempt to uphold Hindutva and also demarcate it from its supposed VHP brand.

Thus the executive meeting, otherwise a lacklustre affair, will be remembered for repeating the same blow hot blow cold tactic which the Parivar has been pursuing for a long time. However, the meeting indicated that the BJP has geared itself into election mode and is ready to launch a communal offensive in view of the 11 assembly elections that will precede the Lok Sabha polls.   

There is a reason for it. In Gujarat the party had had nothing to show by way of achievement, and the same is true for the BJP-led regime at the centre. In such a situation the party has no option but to resort to virulent communalism to tide over the discontent its policies are generating. This shows what the talk of repeating Gujarat in other states means. This is the threat facing the nation.


YET there also remains the fact that repeating Gujarat in other parts of the country will not be as easy for the BJP as it thinks. Even a cursory glance at the year 2002 will show how the BJP tried to play the communal card in view of UP polls and how miserably it failed. In January the VHP took out a Sankalp Yatra from Ayodhya in a bid to help the BJP; this was in line with the threat the VHP had issued from the Kumbh mela a year before. But the people of UP foiled the attempt; the party came a poor third here. Compared to 177 seats in 1996, the BJP got only 88 seats in the assembly and these included at least a dozen members from smaller parties who the BJP had forced to contest on its election symbol.

Later the BJP played a most opportunistic game in UP to come to power from the backdoor, and continues to play similar opportunistic games in order to retain power. Even though the BSP-BJP coalition appears to have lost its majority, the governor (a BJP man) is adamantly refusing to call an assembly session for a trial of strength. As for the speaker (another BJP man), he only knows how to deprive the dissidents of their assembly membership. He played this trick in the last assembly and is set to repeat it.

Contrary to poll predictions, the BJP failed to win Uttaranchal also. The Akali-BJP combine fared badly in Punjab while the DMK, an NDA partner, failed to win Pondicherry. The BJP and pro-BJP parties failed in Manipur too.

But perhaps the worst sufferer was the ruling National Conference; the people of Jammu & Kashmir punished it for its alliance with the BJP, so much so that not a single member of Abdullah family won. The people of Jammu wrested from the BJP all its eight sitting seats; it won just one seat elsewhere. In this respect, the NC’s fate was the same as the AGP’s in Assam. Though the AGP had deserted the secular camp on the eve of assembly polls last year, contrary to its expectations, its alliance with the BJP had failed to save it from a rout; if anything, it had contributed to this rout.

In Goa, the BJP failed to win a majority. It formed a government only by purchasing some MLAs. Such mean tricks, whether in Goa or in UP, have made the party a butt of ridicule all over India.


THIS sad plight of the BJP was no fortuitous development but a product of its policies in the economic and other spheres. The BJP regime at the centre has become notorious for its steps to harm the common people’s interests while benefiting the indigenous and foreign monopolies. Lakhs of small-scale units have closed down in the last four-odd years, adding to the already serious unemployment situation. Subsidies for peasants are being dismantled; public distribution system is virtually finished; liberal imports of a large number of agri-products are ruining the peasantry, forcing hundreds to commit suicide. Administered prices have either been hiked or the system itself has been eliminated, leaving the vulnerable sections at the mercy of market forces. In these respects the BJP has far surpassed the earlier regimes.

At the same time, the centre has progressively reduced the interest rates on small savings to provide cheap credit to industrialists. This is hitting the small savers and threatens to adversely affect our overall savings rate, instead of taking it up. Coming only a few months before the polls in UP and other states, the UTI fiasco hit no less than two crore small savers.

In sum, the BJP-led regime left no stone unturned to shift the burden of economic recession on to the poor people’s backs. Now it is contemplating to effect retrograde changes in labour laws in order to deprive the working class of its hard-won rights and make protest difficult for the class.

The BJP-led regime has gone all out to saffronise the whole state apparatus. It has not spared educational institutions and textbooks either, in an attempt to produce a generation of bigots who could serve as cannonfodders in the Parivar’s battle for a theocratic state. Not surprisingly, as was nakedly evident in Gujarat, the union government and BJP-ruled state governments have been extending all help to the communal forces in their fratricidal game.

As for foreign policy, the less said the better. True to its character, the regime has dismantled our consensual foreign policy. There was a time when India was regarded as a leader of the newly liberated countries because of our policy of non-alignment, anti-imperialism, support to liberation movements, and a striving for total disarmament to preserve world peace. But the sad situation today is that our voice is not even heard on world forums. Today the US and UK are itching to launch another deadly war against Iraq and are only seeking an excuse for it. In the Middle East, the US and Israel are trying their best to drown in a pool of blood the Palestinian aspiration for a homeland. But, contrary to the situation not very long ago when freedom fighters could count on India’s support, New Delhi is conspicuous by its silence.

All this has only made the regime an adjunct of US imperialists, oblivious of the real US game in South Asia.

The way Vajpayee refused to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad only shows how the regime is not prepared to take any initiative to strengthen this multilateral forum, despite its obvious importance for the whole region. Nor is India under the BJP prepared to take initiative to revive the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) so as to help end the present unipolarity and make the world a more secure place to live in.

Attacks on people’s livelihood internally and servility to the US externally ---this has thus been the basic direction of the BJP’s policies.


BUT coming on top of all this, the spate of scams in the four-odd years has exposed the BJP’s tall claims of being “a party with a difference.” All its talk of morality in politics has proved to be a sheer humbug. People all over the country saw a former BJP president taking a bundle of notes from decoy arms dealers and asking for dollars next time. The media also reported how the present BJP president cornered large chunks of land in his home state, that were meant for SCs and other weaker sections. Ruling party politicians forced the UTI to invest in shaky companies; this is what made the US 64 bankrupt. Patronised by BJP, men like Bhansali and Ketan Parekh effected stock scams with impunity. Then came to light the coffin scam and recently the scandal effected in allotment of petrol pumps and LPG outlets. The CAG has recently indicted the defence ministry for some more bungling in defence purchases.

Truly, no regime ever effected so many scams in so short a time as the BJP’s regime has done. In this regard, the BJP is really a party with a difference.

No less astonishing is the BJP’s attitude to these scams. What to talk of punishing the culprits, the regime has done everything to scuttle a probe or to push the issues under the carpet. The way it offered a job to the judge heading the Tehelka probe is a case in point; today no other judge is ready to head the probe. After a stint in wilderness, Fernandes was re-inducted as defence minister. Bangaroo Laxman was given a plum post with ministerial facilities.    

And now has come the report of the joint parliamentary committee that was probing the UTI and stock scams. The report is unique for its distorted sense of probity. Despite having indicted the finance ministry at least 52 times for these scams, the JPC had guts even to say that the minister was innocent. The regime is now maintaining a deadly silence after the Supreme Court indicted it for having pre-empted a probe into the petrol pump scam.


HOWEVER, even before the Goa and J&K polls took place, the BJP had well realised how sticky its position was in the country. Even before the poll results in February were out, the Sangh Parivar picked up the heinous Godhra incident to launch a full-fledged pogrom against Muslims. But the way this pogrom was conducted and the fact that it continued for months together, do indicate that the Parivar was preparing for it for long and would have run a minority-killing programme in any case. It was just a chance that Godhra came as a handy excuse for them.    

The Parivar’s game plan has been summed up thus by The Statesman editorial on December 25: “It was only the realpolitik compulsions of coalitions and an NDA government, which forced it to put Hindutva aside. But they have never made any secret of the fact that if they ever come to power on their own steam it would be Hindutva all the way. After his rath yatra in 1990, the precursor of Modi’s gaurav yatra, L K Advani had openly said that it was the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and the demolition of the Babri Mosque which was responsible for taking the BJP from a party of two MPs to 200 MPs. Modi took it one step further by launching a state-sponsored pogrom against Muslims, and adding insult to injury by calling them terrorists, anti-national and a security threat. Musharraf was used to symbolise Gujarati Muslims and the election campaign was based on communal hatred and polarisation --- and it worked…. Real bread and butter issues were relegated to the sidelines.”  

But this also spells out the danger the nation is facing. If the Parivar is talking of repeating Gujarat in other states, it is just a move to relegate the “real bread and butter issues to the sidelines” and to tide over the discontent the BJP’s policies continue to generate. An intensification of the communal drive in the days to come cannot be ruled out. 

This makes the choice before secular forces clear; they have no option but to take the monster of communalism head on. This requires that they come together to put up a united fight against the danger and give the message that, whatever their differences in other spheres, the secular camp is one in fighting the threat to our national unity. At the same time, the masses have to be mobilised on their “real bread and butter issues.” Tactics like “soft Hinduism” will be suicidal. What we need is a secular offensive. Nothing less will do.  

As for us, the 17th party congress --- one of the major events of the year going out --- has already shown the way by evolving a suitable tactical line in the complicated situation of today. By stressing on the need of joint actions on mass issues where possible and independent actions otherwise, the party congress has paved the way for an intensification of resistance to the regime and its masters abroad. The tactic is also showing results in form of increased activity. Defending the nation’s unity, economic sovereignty and prestige has to be a major part of our work.

The NDA’s non-BJP non-Sena parties too have to realise the threat. Two of them, the JD(U) and DMK, have taken exception to the talk of repeating Gujarat in other parts. But is this sufficient? It is in fact these parties that are propping up the BJP rule. Nay, their supine behaviour has even emboldened the BJP so much that it has no care for other NDA parties. Neither their views about the policies to be followed are given any weight, nor were their pleas heeded whenever the cabinet was expanded; today as many as 58 ministers out of 77 belong to the BJP. And what have these parties got in return? Nothing but an erosion of their mass base, as the polls held in the last four-odd years show. The National Conference has already suffered humiliation for aligning with the BJP, and so has the AGP. The choice before the NDA parties too is clear, and they cannot dodge their responsibility towards the nation in this regard.