People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 15, 2004
Ayodhya Yet Again
Harkishan Singh Surjeet
IT is back to the basics again. Or the “core issue” to borrow a phrase from President Musharraf. Not that anyone had any doubts. But it is the swiftness with which they have fallen back on the basics that is a little surprising. It is an acknowledgement that they themselves do not “feel good” and the thick coat of polish used for “shining” has worn off. From making us “feel good” the tune has now changed to “feel better.” Mandir, will make the diehard feel better. Never mind if it makes some feel bitter. Never mind if it costs a few lives. It is election time. It is time to queue before the mandirs and seek blessings. It is time not just to invoke faith but to proclaim stridently that karke dikhayenge (we will do it). It is fodder for those who do not “feel good.”
And it comes from no less a personality than the prime minister of this land who is to lead the band. Ayodhya is an unfinished task, Vajpayee said explicitly. For those still entertaining doubts, the prime minister was more unequivocal for the Ram temple construction — “court verdict in favour of the temple or a consensus based on mutual goodwill and cooperation.”
Launching the BJP’s election campaign at a public meeting a few kilometers away from Ayodhya, Vajpayee said all hurdles in the way of the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya should be removed. The symbolism behind Vajpayee launching the party’s election campaign from Ayodhya is not lost. Ayodhya in the BJP’s scheme of things should occupy centre stage to enable it to cling on to power.
And in the battle of the ballot, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of seats. And it was with the Ram mascot that the BJP could win an unprecedented 51 seats to the Lok Sabha in the 1991 elections from the main battleground of the temple campaign from Uttar Pradesh. It is by winning 52 Lok Sabha seats in 1996 and 57 in 1998 from UP, that the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the parliament. But in the 1999 elections, despite the Kargil effect in most parts of the country, its performance in this crucial part of the Hindi heartland slid down and it could win only 29 seats. Ram did not help them either in the last elections to the UP assembly despite Vajpayee’s assertion a few days prior to the election that Ayodhya was an "expression of national sentiments." Again, last August at the condolence meeting of Paramhans, the chairman of the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust, Vajpayee expressed the hope that Ram temple would be constructed and all the obstacles in its way would be removed.
Whether the return of the star of the Babri Masjid demolition, Kalyan Singh, will help revive fortunes may be a debatable issue, but by bringing the Ayodhya issue again to the centre stage they expect to energise the Hindutva forces.
The other fire-spitting star Uma Bharati is already at the helm in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. Gaushalas and mandirs will come up galore and so will semi-starved tribal hamlets, filled with idols of Hindu deities. The Hindu Jagran Manch has rolled the juggernaut targeting the Christian minority in Jhabua.
Taking the cue from Vajpayee, Advani the next day sought “five more years” to fulfill his promise and the “unfinished tasks” of the NDA government to build a Ram temple. Advani went on to assure the gathering at Ahmedabad’s Chandlodia that the “temple must come up” and “will happen”. It’s a theme that we will see being repeated ad nauseam with the skipper setting the tone. Modi will be pleased to be in campaign mode again.
TRADE MARK SUBTERFUGE
Subterfuge being their trade mark, it did not take long for the NDA convener, George Fernandes, to assert with equal vehemence that Ayodhya will not be part of the NDA agenda for the coming Lok Sabha elections. As for the “unfinished tasks”, Fernandes said that “the NDA will try to complete” it “if returned to power”. Was Fernandes carrying forward the line of the “unfinished task” referred to by Vajpayee and Advani? Where do the other so-called secular partners of the NDA now stand vis-ŕ-vis the “unfinished task”?
The very same Vajpayee and Advani had sworn earlier that the three contentious issues of Ayodhya, uniform civil code and Article 370 do not form part of the NDA agenda and the BJP shall not push for it until they get a majority on their own. Then why this reference to the “unfinished task.” Obviously, it is to seek “another term,” as they themselves have admitted.
Vajpayee rightly revealed that efforts were made during his stint towards the fulfillment of this “task”. The Kanchi Shankaracharya’s efforts and the newly floated outfit in Faizabad, which expects Muslims to forgo their claim, -- are all aimed in this direction. May be, even the VHP’s sammelans, poojas and other such exercises at regular intervals, aimed at reminding its followers that they have not given up their plans, should all be considered as part of such efforts.
Harping on Ayodhya is a calculated move. After its over-hyped campaign, the BJP realises that it does not feel good either. It is unable to sustain the initial euphoria following the recent victories in the assembly elections to the three states in North India. The BJP knows that it already holds 52 of the 72 Lok Sabha seats in the four states in the North that went to the polls. Even if we were to consider that the BJP will maintain its 1999 performance, it would not add to its overall tally of seats. And UP, as cited earlier, is a crucial state with 80 Lok Sabha seats. It currently has only 29, has slid to the third position and even with Kalyan Singh’s re-entry its prospects do not seem to be good. It is nobody’s reckoning that they would improve upon their last performance in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Bihar, Andhra, Karnataka, West Bengal or elsewhere. Or will it do better in Delhi where it won all seats last time but lost badly in the recent assembly elections? And with many of its allies deserting it earlier like the Lok Dal, Lok Janshakti or National Conference, followed by the DMK, MDMK, PMK and most recently the INLD. After more than half a dozen allies have deserted their camp, it is astounding that they still “feel good.”
Apart from the depleting stock leading to the feel bad factor for the BJP, the majority of our people also feel bad because of the fall in their real income, their worsening economic conditions, growing unemployment, increasing attacks on dalits and women etc.
“After the initial exuberance of GDP growth in the initial period of the reform process, there has been an unmistakable slowdown in subsequent years. Growth in industrial value added averaged 8.5 per cent per year from 1993-94 to 1996-97. This has fallen to about 4.8 per cent per year in the last four years, 1997-98 to 2000-01. Similarly, annual growth in value added in agriculture and allied sectors from 1993-94 to 1996-97 averaged 4.5 per cent whereas the annual growth in the last four years has averaged only 1.2 per cent.’’ And who is saying this? The Economic Survey 2002. (para 1.107)
the claim of the government is limited to the projected economic growth, it
should be borne in mind that all these projections still fall short of the
targeted growth rate announced by this government --- an annual 8 per cent
during the tenth plan period. The spurious claim that the economy has not shown
such a performance earlier is belied by the fact that it grew by more than 7 per
cent continuously for a three year period between 1994 and 1997. As compared to
last year when it grew by a mere 4.3 per cent, the increased growth witnessed
this year is on account of a good monsoon as against last year’s severe
drought. Data for the other sectors of the economy are not encouraging. In some
cases there is a decline while in others it is stagnating. Therefore it is the
rains that has made some difference. The
buoyant share market is also referred to when they want to make us feel good.
But the Mehtas and Parekhs and their endless list should really make us feel
can India shine when countless incidents of starvation deaths and suicides by
nearly 1400 peasants are taking place. Should we feel good when the country’s
poor starve while millions of tonnes of foodgrains are sold in the international
market at rates much lower than those offered to BPL families. With hunger,
death and starvation all around us how can we feel good? With Vajapyee himself
stating that the youth should not look for jobs in the government sector, how
can the jobless youth feel good?
A FEW FEELING
is just a small miniscule section of the population who are really feeling good.
This miniscule minority is benefiting from the highly unequal pattern of growth
of the past decade. The economic strategy followed by the government has not
simply meant the withdrawal of the government from its basic responsibilities
like health, education and the social sector but entailed systematic benefits in
favour of the rich.
from this, the host of concessions announced through a variety of mini-budgets
presented in the run up to the elections, most of it is designed for this very
same class and making them feel more good. The over eighty crore of the
population have nothing to feel good about.
does one feel good when there is lower agricultural growth especially foodgrains.
For the nearly 65 per cent of the urban population who continue to live in slums
and are deprived of basic amenities let alone employment or food how are they to
feel good. Same is the case with the overwhelming majority of the rural populace
also. How are we to feel good when the average consumption of foodgrains has
dropped from 174 kgs to 150 kgs per year.
does really feel good about improved relations with Pakistan. But did not India
under the NDA contribute to this deterioration in the first place? When we
called for restraint and not rushing our troops to the borders and building up
tensions, why were not such sane voices heeded to? Better late than never. But
does the credit go to Vajpayee the statesman? Not if we are to believe US
secretary of State, Colin Powell, who disclosed that two years of hard work has
redeeming the country from bhook, bhay and brastachar, we
were told we will feel good. But now we are told it is only Ram who can save us.
This was amply demonstrated when at Hyderabad after their national executive
meeting, Venkaiah Naidu had told reporters: “Ayodhya is important for the
country…. We are in favour of a temple.” He also said “no issue was given
up by the BJP. We will raise these issues as and when the need arises.”