People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 23, 2004
Onerous Tasks Devolve On Left & Democratic Forces
Harkishan Singh Surjeet
THE recent outburst made by Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Govindacharya and Ms Uma Bharti against the Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi, on the issue of her foreign origin, has been motivated by desperation, to say the least. It is not surprising that the RSS-provoked outburst has been lambasted by the people at large, and also by a large section of the media, including many that were singing paeans to the BJP not very long ago.
In fact, the outburst betrays the Sangh Parivar’s frustration over the fact that they have now lost their control of the levers of state machinery, which they had been exercising in the last six years, and at the same time it also brings to the fore the Parivar’s fascistic reality. The fact is that, just like any fascistic outfit, the RSS is not inclined to accept the verdict of the people who have decisively rejected its political mask, the BJP, and along with it the foreign origin issue on which the BJP sought to sway the electorate in its favour.
THE CASE OF GUJARAT
THERE can be no doubt that the people of this country have positively and decisively rejected the BJP, and this rejection has been not only numerical but also political. If we go by arithmetic, even though full and final figures are yet to come, the fact is that the Congress party has received not only more seats but also more votes across the country. And if one talks of the entire secular camp, the BJP’s losses would appear to be far more dramatic. The party and its allies have suffered sweeping reverses in Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
But far more meaningful have been the losses the saffron party has suffered in political terms. Gujarat, for example, was often dubbed as the laboratory of Hindutva, and not very long ago VHP leader Ashok Singhal went to the extent of saying that the massacre of Muslims in the state was a successful experiment that should be replicated in other parts of the country. It was therefore quite natural that the BJP was feeling most confident in this state and expecting to raise its seat tally from 21 (out of 26) to 23 or 24. Yet, what happened in the end was that, despite all the terror created with the help of state machinery, a large number of secular minded people came out to vote against the BJP and the party’s seat tally came down to 14. Moreover, the BJP won 6 seats by less than 10,000 margin, including 4 where the margin was less than 5,000. Also, going by assembly segments, the Congress led in 92 segments out of a total of 182, while the BJP led in only 90. It is thus clear that the BJP could have suffered more if only the Congress had been more firmly united in the state.
Though deputy prime minister L K Advani won the Gandhinagar seat in Gujarat, the overall polling here was only 37 per cent. This shows the lack of people’s enthusiasm for the BJP. Yet, to be true to facts, Advani was a bit more fortunate than his boss in the outgoing cabinet; we mean A B Vajpayee whose constituency (Lucknow) witnessed only about 35 per cent voting.
The Gujarat result shows the silent but deep-seated revulsion the people were feeling for the communal and fratricidal politics of the BJP, and they came out against it as soon as they got their chance. The undoubted fact is that it was not the Muslims alone who gave the BJP a drubbing, as many of the Muslims did not go to the polling booths because of the atmosphere of terror and fear. The drubbing the BJP received in the state was given by the deeply secular minded people, including Hindus. The Supreme Court’s order in the Best Bakery case gave further boost to the morale of the secular masses in Gujarat.
REJECTION OF COMMUNAL PLANK
THE people’s rejection of the BJP’s fratricidal politics was not confined to Gujarat; the story was repeated in other parts of the country. Murli Manohar Joshi, one of the stalwarts of the so-called temple movement and the thick-skinned champion of saffronisation, lost in Allahabad while UP BJP chief Vinay Katiyar lost in Lakhimpur Khiri where he had gone in the hope that it would be a safer seat for him. Some other luminaries of the temple movement like D B Rai, Vedanti and Swami Chinmayanand have also been defeated. Kalyan Singh and some others of the kind could scrape through by small margins.
And to compound the popular rejection of the communal plank, the people have routed the BJP in Faizabad, Mathura and Varanasi. It is needless to remind that while the now demolished Babri Masjid was located in Faizabad constituency, the two other cities also house the mosques against which the Sangh Parivar wanted to generate communal frenzy.
There is yet another proof of how the people all across the country have positively rejected the BJP and its politics. Writing in the May 9 issue of this paper, we had said that all the contesting ministers of NDA government were "having nightmares these days." Our estimate was this: "It will thus not be surprising if one sees many NDA heads rolling when the results are out. And who can say whether these polls will not make a record of sorts by claiming the heads of a large number of ministers!"
And now precisely the same thing has happened. Going by a rough guess, over two dozen central ministers are now biting dust; in fact, so many ministers had never lost in the last 25 years. Another minister, Nitish Kumar, entered the Lok Sabha only because he contested from two seats — he won in Nalanda while lost in his traditional seat Barh. The losers also include Shahnawaz Khan, the BJP’s Muslim mascot, who lost in Kishanganj, the only Muslim majority seat outside Kashmir.
The losers also include heavyweights like Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi and another Shiv Sena chap Sanjay Nirupam. Turncoats like Arif Mohd Khan and Bhupen Hazarika have also lost.
FASCISTIC FACE OF PARIVAR
IT is thus clear that the people have decisively rejected the communal plank of the BJP and, with it, the issue of Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin. One will agree that it was in fact a non-issue and it was the BJP that made it an election issue in its mad bid to garner votes. But as The Times of India editorially commented on May 18: "If the BJP strategists were intent on turning the elections into a referendum on Sonia’s origins, the people, it seems, were equally determined to reject mindless xenophobia."
Moreover, while the Congress party did not project Mrs Sonia as its prime ministerial candidate, the BJP sought to contest the polls on "Sonia versus Vajpayee" plank, which the masses of this country have kicked aside.
"In the event," The Times of India’s opinion is, "the unexpected victory of the Congress should settle the issue once and for all."
The advice came in the wake of BJP leader Mrs Sushma Swaraj’s threat that she and her husband would resign their Rajya Sabha seats while Govindacharya (speaking from the wilderness where he has been for years) threatened to launch a ‘national self-respect’ movement if Mrs Sonia became the prime minister. Now that the Congress president has declined to accept the post, may the souls of these saffron luminaries rest in peace! But the fact remains that these threats did amount to a fascistic type rejection of the will and mandate of the people — something that was to be expected from the RSS and the outfits it controls.
That the saffron brigade never learns a lesson if it goes against its fascistic project, has been known to all the politically aware people. It was, to take just one example, the same Mrs Swaraj, known for her hyperbole, who contested against Mrs Sonia in Bellary (Karnataka) in 1999 on the same non-issue of the latter’s foreign origin, and was badly humbled by the people. The latest outbursts of Mrs Swaraj and her ilk, thus, only expose the real fascistic face of the Sangh Parivar.
SENSE OF REVULSION
THIS has angered all the right thinking people of the country. For instance, former union law minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan writes: "I have known Smt Sushma Swaraj since 1977, and have had considerable respect for her ability, knowledge and eloquence, and can thus attribute this outburst only to a deep sense of frustration" (The Hindu, May 18).
Nay, quoting the relevant clauses of India’s constitution, this legal expert goes on to say that the document gives all Indian citizens equal rights and "does not make any distinction among citizens on ground of place of birth." He also says "the principle of equality amongst citizens and non-discrimination on the ground of place of birth is in my opinion a basic feature of the constitution and is beyond the amending power conferred on parliament by article 368." Evidently, this legal expert had in mind the pre-poll threat issued by the BJP that if it came back to power, it would amend the constitution to debar persons of foreign origin from holding high offices.
The article clearly accuses Mrs Swaraj of violating the oath she has taken in the name of the constitution. It says: "Even if Smt Sushma Swaraj resigns from the membership of the Rajya Sabha as she intends to do, she will still be bound by article 51-A of the constitution which lays down fundamental duties for every citizen, and the first duty is to abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institutions."
The meaning is clear: Even if the lady now retains her Rajya Sabha seat, she will still be guilty of violation of her oath if she raises the issue again.
Shanti Bhushan, however, only gave voice to the deep sense of revulsion the people of this country have been feeling over the ugly saffron game on the foreign origin issue. As The Times of India editorial, quoted above, says: "Sonia may not seem the real thing to many in the Parivar, but to the great majority in this country she is Indian enough."
Be that as it may, now Mrs Sonia’s act of declining the prime ministerial position, whatever may have been its reason, has deprived the saffron brigade of one of their weapons, even if a blunt weapon, which they could have used in the next five years. Now one will only be eager to see whether, even at this late stage, the saffron brigade magnanimously accepts its defeat or it devises new ploys to further its anti-national game!
TASKS FOR THE COMING DAYS
AND now that the Congress party is all set to form a government at the centre with support from several other parties, some of whom may join the government and some others may extend outside support, it is clear that there is more than a fair chance that that government would complete its full term. But that would also give a big rebuff to the BJP propaganda that only it was capable of providing a stable government to the country.
The fact that now not Mrs Sonia but Dr Manmohan Singh will lead the new government makes no difference to the situation. For, the other parties’ support to the government is based on the principles, not individuals.
The CPI(M) and the Left have a very onerous responsibility to discharge in this new scenario. As the Left has put up its best performance so far, this has raised the people’s expectations from the Left parties all over the country. Though the Left parties’ combined decision was not to join the government but to extend it support from outside, it does not mean that this exhausts the role of the Left parties.
Evidently, the Left parties’ role will not be confined to ensuring that the government completes its full term. A far bigger task is to ensure that the communal forces are not able to raise their ugly heads again and, if they at all dare to create a disturbance here and generate tension there, their game is nipped in the bud.
But this requires two things. First, it is expected that, unlike some occasions in the past, the Congress would not capitulate before the communal forces. In its stead, it has to adopt an unambiguous stand whenever a threat to national unity and communal harmony arises and take the communal forces head on. Second, more than joining or extending support to the government, other secular and democratic parties have to come forward to form a powerful coalition against communal forces. To put it clearly, the Congress and all these parties have to take care not only of the country’s present but also of its future. No narrow-mindedness or sectarianism is permissible here.
At the same time, economic policies play a big role in shaping the life and thinking of the common mass of a country and, along with communalism, saffronisation drive and corruption, it is also the BJP-NDA’s economic policies that led to its rout even in a state like Andhra Pradesh. A similar story was repeated in Karnataka where the Congress regime’s economic policies were no different from those of the central government, and caused losses to the party in the state. It is clear that if the new regime at the centre pursues the same discredited policies, it will only give the communal forces a new lease of life.
By the time we go to press, the Congress was engaged in drafting a common minimum programme (CMP) and the idea is that the party would consult the friendly parties on the draft of the CMP. Therefore, at the moment, nothing definitive can be said on this score. We can only assure our people that we would act as watch-guards of their genuine interests, see that the CMP reflects their legitimate aspirations and that imperialist powers and their institutions do not get a chance to lord over us. We will also see that corruption is fought tooth and nail, as it adversely affects our people’s life and livelihood by eating into the resources that could otherwise be utilised for public welfare. Another area of our concern will be to see that our earlier, time-tested foreign policy of non-alignment is restored in all its facets. In sum, this is not the end of the journey; rather a long and arduous struggle still remains ahead and the country’s Left, democratic and secular forces have to maintain utmost vigil to ensure that the people’s enemies, internal and external, are defeated and routed.