People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 30, 2007
THE success in the assembly elections in Gujarat will certainly boost the morale of the BJP, given the fact that it has won the assembly elections in the state for the fourth successive time. Reacting to the victory, the BJP leader L K Advani claimed it as “a turning point in national politics because it signals the BJP’s comeback as the frontrunner in the next parliamentary election”. Earlier, in the run-up to the elections, some commentators and political circles talked of the “Modi phenomenon” as if Narendra Modi was pitted against sections of the RSS-BJP combine itself. Modi was projected as somebody who could cause serious problems for the BJP. This sort of instant punditry promoted by the media and particularly the news channels are not only misleading but downright dangerous if the true implications of the Gujarat results are considered.
Gujarat is unique in that the RSS-BJP combine has always considered it to be a laboratory for the Hindutva experiment. From the eighties, the network of the VHP-RSS was developed throughout the state. Spread of communal propaganda, targeting of minorities, first Muslims and later Christians, winning over the middle classes to the communal platform and when in government enlisting big business support by “disciplining” labour were all resorted to on a systematic scale. It is these long years of work on the political, ideological and organisational plane that has resulted in a communal atmosphere developing in Gujarat, which is now seen as a “normal” state of affairs. The pogroms unleashed in 2002 were orchestrated to administer a brutal lesson to the Muslims not to question this “normal” order. Modi is a product of this communal movement and to view his politics and persona separately from that of the RSS-Hindutva brigade is a serious error. Modi has been truthful when after the elections, he decried all the efforts to project him as bigger than the BJP or the Sangh. Just as, in another context, Atal Behari Vajpayee was inaccurately seen as the “right man in the wrong party”, Modi cannot be seen as anything but a creature of the Sangh combine.
That the BJP will fall back on projecting a full-scale Hindutva agenda became clear in its national council meeting at Lucknow in November 2006. With the decision to project L K Advani as its prime ministerial candidate, there is a complete convergence in what Modi says and does in Gujarat and the BJP at the national level.
That BJP rule will mean the continuation of the intimidation and terrorisation of the minorities was signalled within 48 hours of the polling when a Christian priest was brutally attacked and a convent threatened in Kwant, a tribal area of Vadodara. Cases have been filed by the police against them and not the assailants. That the BJP order in Gujarat is sustained and backed by the big bourgeoisie is another factor which should not be underrated. The enthusiastic welcome accorded to Modi’s return to office by the heads of the corporate sector and the Sensex was mirrored in the euphoric response of the affluent NRIs hailing from Gujarat in the United States. Under BJP rule, not only are the minorities converted to second class citizens, the full might of the State is pitted against the working class movement to the delight of the big capitalists.
The Gujarat election results underline the necessity for an uncompromising struggle against the Hindutva variety of communalism. Such a political platform has to be built up in the state and forces rallied around it. The Congress party, as the main opposition in Gujarat, has shirked doing so. On the contrary, the predominant attitude has been to avoid raising anti-communal issues on the plea that it will help the BJP to polarise the people. This is a short-sighted and harmful approach. The election campaign reflected this approach by and large – it harped on all other problems except the central one, i.e. the danger posed by the Hindutva platform. Some of the speeches of Sonia Gandhi were an exception and this only points to the absence of a firm anti-communal thrust in the campaign. The unwillingness to take up this struggle was reflected in the hesitancy and refusal of the UPA government to boldly pursue the legal and constitutional avenues to bring those responsible for the 2002 carnage to justice. Even in the cases filed by the affected parties pending before the Supreme Court, the centre has failed to take a firm stand.
Avoiding a forthright stance against the communal platform; depicting a contradiction between Modi and the BJP-RSS combine; and hoping for normal issues of bourgeois politics to assert themselves are all symptoms of how flawed was the strategy to fight the BJP in these elections.
The fight against the communal forces could have advanced only if it was reinforced by the taking up of the immediate problems of the people affected by the unabashed rightwing economic policies of the Modi government. The struggle for the rights of the farmers, the workers, the adivasis, against the eviction of the urban poor and displacement of farmers – all these could not be organised effectively. The Left could only do it in a limited way given its strength. The fight against the BJP’s Hindutva platform can be waged effectively only if the reactionary class policies are fought and people’s interests defended. Here again, the Congress which advocates policies of liberalisation was not inclined to oppose the BJP government’s policies in any determined fashion.
The results of the elections in Himachal Pradesh will follow soon after. By the time this article is published, the results of Himachal Pradesh would be out. All indications are that the Congress is up against popular discontent due to its state government’s record. After the Punjab and Uttarakhand election results, one had expected the Congress leadership to introspect. The pursuit of pro-rich, anti-people economic policies is adversely impacting the people’s livelihood, resulting in erosion of popular support. In fact, the decline of the Congress in the past two decades can be attributed mainly to its identification as a party that pursues policies that promotes the interests of the super-rich and international finance capital and which has lost its orientation towards the rural and urban poor.
If some of the secular opponents of the BJP were mistaken in underestimating the deep communal impact in Gujarat, the hopes of L K Advani that Gujarat marks “a turning point” in national politics is also misplaced. Advani cannot have forgotten what happened in 2003. After the BJP’s victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, Advani and the BJP leadership decided to go in for an early Lok Sabha election. They expected the momentum of the assembly elections to carry them back into office. Instead, to their surprise, they faced defeat. Just as the Congress party is being punished by the people in the states where it rules, the BJP should be apprehensive of what it will have to face in states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that go to the polls later in 2008. The record of the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh is one of misrule and corruption; of policies brazenly promoting the interests of the big capitalists and contractors, intimidation of minorities and repression of popular movements. The BJP government in Rajasthan has set a dubious record of 47 police firings in which 43 people died, including 16 farmers. Gujarat has escaped the pendulum shift between the BJP and the Congress precisely because it is an exception. Though Advani keeps talking about making Himachal Pradesh and other BJP-ruled states another Gujarat, the reality is that the BJP has pathetically failed to prove that there is even a semblance that it is a `party with a difference’.