People's Democracy

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


No. 5

February 15, 2009


BJP And Congress Sessions: Two Faces Of Bankruptcy

Prakash Karat

THE Congress and the BJP have held their national sessions around the same time. While the BJP held its national council meeting in Nagpur, the Congress held a convention upto the level of its block presidents in Delhi. Last Sunday saw the leadership of both the parties announcing their respective election platforms.

The BJP meeting in the city where the RSS headquarters is situated, dutifully invoked the slogan of the `Ram temple at Ayodhya’, which underlined the fact that there was nothing much that has changed in the old communal agenda. The BJP prime ministerial candidate, L K Advani, harked back to the fight between “genuine secularism” and “pseudo secularism”. On terrorism, the BJP cannot get out of the mould cast by the Hindutva forces which targets the Muslim community. Narendra Modi demanded that the local collaborators of the Mumbai attack be apprehended. There was the usual litany of charges of “minority appeasement” by the UPA government.

Having realised that the communal stance on terrorism has not yielded dividends, the BJP tried to focus on the economic plight of the people. But it signally failed to spell out how the current economic crisis should be met. This is because the BJP has no real difference with the neo-liberal policies being pursued by the UPA government.

Being avidly rightwing in its economic outlook, the BJP president had to don the colours of Gandhian philosophy for spelling out its economic platform. The embracing of Gandhism was particularly grotesque as the leaders paid obeisance to Hegdewar and Golwalkar who were antithetical to all that Gandhiji stood for. L K Advani even admitted that he first learnt about secularism from Golwalkar after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

If the BJP session at Nagpur amply confirmed that it is a party mired in the contradictions of having to adhere to Hindutva while appearing to be a national party capable of attracting broader sections of society and political forces, the jamboree hosted in Delhi by the Congress was also revealing about the plight that the party finds itself in.

The Congress held the convention to rally the troops for the forthcoming electoral battle. As the Congress-led government nears the end of its term, the country is beset by all-round problems – the economy is faced with growing difficulties as a consequence of the global economic crisis; there is no let up in the activities of the communal forces who target the minorities; terrorist violence stalks the land. The Manmohan Singh government has bound India to the United States through a web of strategic, military and economic ties which have harmful consequences for the people’s livelihood and national sovereignty.

The convention’s claim that the focus has been on the aam admi during the tenure of the Congress-led government sounds hollow in the face of the growing economic problems faced by the ordinary people. Even before the global crisis took effect, thanks to the neo-liberal policies so beloved of the Congress rulers, the country is faced with an unprecedented divide between the super rich and the poor.

The Manmohan Singh government has followed the deregulated model of US capitalism. This has led to scandals from Enron to Satyam. Enabling the big capitalists to corner resources and make huge profits through “crony capitalism” has become the hallmark of the UPA government. The transfer of wealth to the richest strata has taken place on an unprecedented scale. The richest Indians are among the richest people in the world while the poorest Indians are among the poorest in the world.

In the last few months, under the impact of the global economic crisis, lakhs of jobs have disappeared in the organised sector, the traditional industries and the services sector. A recent ministry of Labour study found that five lakh jobs have been lost in the last three months of 2008. This is a gross underestimate. It is estimated that at least one crore jobs will be lost by the end of March 2009.

The brunt of the crisis will be borne by the peasantry. The prices of cash crops are falling steeply. Growing unemployment and distress among the peasantry are leading to suicides increasing once again. In Modi-ruled Gujarat, in the gem and diamond trade, over 70 jobless workers have committed suicide.

What stands out is that neither the Congress nor the BJP have anything different to offer when it comes to dealing with the crisis affecting millions of jobs and livelihoods as a result of the economic crisis. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, sought to put up a brave face by claiming that Indira Gandhi’s bold decision to nationalise banks has helped India’s financial sector to weather the global crisis. She also sought to claim the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru in building the public sector, which she correctly noted, has proved fundamental to giving strength to the economy. But what has been unsaid by the Congress president is too glaring to ignore. If the Left had not blocked the move, the government would have divested shares in the BHEL and other premier public sector units whose role the Congress president acknowledges. It is the UPA government under the Congress leadership which has tried its best to undermine the financial sector by liberalisation and opening it up to foreign finance capital. If it had not been for the Left parties’ consistent opposition in the last four years, the Congress would have succeeded in helping foreign banks gobble up Indian private banks and weaken the public sector banks by reducing government equity to 51 per cent, laying the foundations for their eventual privatisation.

Even now, the UPA government has legislation before parliament to facilitate foreign banks to hold 74 per cent share in Indian private banks by removing the cap on voting rights. Even after the global financial crisis hit the world, with banks and insurance companies collapsing in the United States, the Manmohan Singh government brought legislation in the last session of parliament to increase FDI in the insurance sector from 26 to 49 per cent.

What does this show? Contrary to the Congress president’s assertions, the Manmohan Singh government has proved to be nothing but the slavish followers of the Wall Street model of finance capitalism. Even in the last days of its regime, the Congress rulers are working overtime to effect policy changes – allowing FDI by foreign airlines in the civil aviation sector and liberalising the interpretation of FDI investment in other sectors.

The dismal economic performance on the eve of the elections has led to the Congress leadership focusing on Pakistan and the Mumbai terror attacks. No day passes without pronouncements by the Congress leadership and ministers on the action to be taken regarding Pakistan. However, the aftermath of the Mumbai attack has only resulted in the Manmohan Singh government binding India further into the US embrace. It relies solely on the United States to get the Pakistani government to act against the terrorist groups existing there. The FBI has been brought into the investigation of the Mumbai attack in an unprecedented manner. Not only has the FBI interrogated Kasab, the sole survivor of the terrorist squad, access has been given to the FBI to even question another suspect who was arrested in an earlier case and who is lodged in jail. The logic of the strategic alliance has now been extended to the American security agencies becoming involved in our internal security matters.

Rahul Gandhi, in his speech, talked about the “new revolution’ in energy being brought about as a result of the Indo-US nuclear deal. The country is witnessing how the nuclear deal and the strategic alliance lauded by Rahul Gandhi is fast undermining India’s independent foreign policy. The FBI in Mumbai and the Israeli Army Chief in Kashmir sums up the nature of the India-US-Israel nexus. The Palestinians of Gaza can be subjected to genocide but the Israeli perpetrators of war crimes are our security partners!

The Nagpur and Delhi sessions of the BJP and the Congress have shown up the bankruptcy of both these parties which are asking the people to mandate them to lead the country. Both are interested in positing that the electoral contest is between them alone. The BJP president declared that “It is for the first time in the country that a direct contest is going to take place between two alliances”. This cannot stand because the Congress has declared that it has no national alliance. L K Advani was more apprehensive in stating, “What is disconcerting, however, is the thinking in many quarters to work for a repeat of the 1996 experiment….”. He further wanted that “the farce of 1996” must not be repeated. The spectre of non-BJP, non-Congress parties getting together seems to haunt the BJP.

As for the Congress party, it lays claim to be the centre for all secular forces to rally around, evoking a situation reminiscent of the one before the 2004 elections.

But the analogy is misplaced. The political situation in 2009 is not a repeat of the one obtaining in 2004 when six years of BJP misrule and communalism had to be fought as a central goal. After five years of the Congress-led government, the country cannot be subjected, once again, to the neo-liberal dogma and “crony capitalism” of the Congress leaders and their abandonment of the Nehruvian legacy to convert India into a junior partner of the United States. The CPI(M) has called upon the non-Congress secular parties to come together on a joint platform for an effective electoral alternative. Such a platform has to be built around pro-people economic policies, defence of secularism and for an independent foreign policy. The work is cut out for the Left and secular forces to present such an alternative.