People's Democracy

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


No. 22

May 30, 2010





Directionless Drift


THE prime minister’s first press conference coinciding with the completion of one year of UPA-II government has further reconfirmed the sense of directionless drift of the government.  This was tellingly witnessed in the budget session of the parliament in the way the finance bill was passed by mobilising support through wheeling and dealing, blandishments and threats.  It is, indeed, strange that a coalition government  led by a party with more than 200 Lok Sabha seats (this happened for the first time in the last two decades of coalition governments at the centre) had to  count its numbers  for having legislations approved in its very first year.   In order to get the budget approved, the government was forced to shelve the women’s reservation bill after it having been passed by the Rajya Sabha. Now, in order to get the civil nuclear liability bill passed, so necessary to appease US imperialism, the government initially flirted with the demand for a caste-based census and has now constituted an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) to examine the issue.


Unlike the UPA-I, the UPA-II does not have a common minimum programme and, hence, lacks a direction and a sense of priority in its functioning.  The president of India, in her first address to the joint session of the parliament after UPA-II assumed office, had listed a 100-day agenda for the government. The overwhelming majority of these have not even come before the parliament for consideration leave alone being implemented. 


This sense of drift was reflected in the prime minister’s replies to the questions in the press conference.  On the crucial issue of the hardship being faced by the people, particularly due to the relentless rise in the prices of essential commodities, all that the prime minister did was to express “deep concern” and announce that by December the prices will stabilise.  Obviously, he is hoping for a good monsoon and a consequent good harvest to stabilise prices. While this would provide some relief to the people, clearly, a good monsoon is not the consequence of good governance.  The moot question of what is the government doing to provide relief to the people was evaded by the prime minister. There was no mention of considering any ban on the highly speculative forward/futures trading in essential commodities.  There was no reference to the fact that the central government is holding foodgrain stocks in quantities that are more than double of what is required as a buffer norm and if it is considering its release to the states to contain this price rise.   Likewise, there is no mention of strengthening the public distribution system or reconsidering the hike in the prices of petrol, diesel, fertilisers and natural gas. 


The prime minister is on record earlier, both in parliament and outside, to say that India can ill-afford crony capitalism. However, with reference to the telecom scam, while admitting that “if you compare figures of what was collected by 2G process as against the 3G process, there is a huge gap”, he took refuge behind the fact that the CBI is currently investigating certain complaints.  The principles of natural justice dictate that when an enquiry is pending on matters pertaining to a particular ministry, the minister concerned must step down.  Clearly, the compulsions of coalition politics and the eagerness to remain in power is compelling the prime minister to make unsavory compromises.  What else is this but political opportunism?  Likewise on the issue of the IPL controversy, the prime minister skirted from giving any firm reply except stating that the finance ministry is investigating the issue.  So much for the concern regarding crony capitalism. 


The prime minister is, on record, on several occasions in the past, to state that Maoist violence poses the gravest threat to India’s internal security.  He asserted that, “It is not correct to say that we have underestimated the magnitude of the problem”.  However, he failed to install any confidence by refusing to accept that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to tackle the problem.  In addition to law and order measures, what is required is the simultaneous effort to adopt the political approach to meet the Maoist challenge ideologically and to address the developmental needs of the tribal and other oppressed sections in right earnest.  Concerning the home minister’s statement that he had a limited mandate on this issue, the prime minister brushed this aside by saying that, “These are strategy issues which will be discussed in the appropriate forum of the cabinet, whenever the opportunity arises.”  While accepting that “this is a problem which has acquired a magnitude that cooperation between the centre and the state governments is absolutely necessary”, he did not spell out anything concrete.  He evaded all questions on the diametrically opposite position of his biggest ally in the government – Trinamul Congress.   The latter is openly patronising the Maoists in West Bengal hoping that the consequent violence and anarchy will bring electoral benefits.  The PM was quiet on this issue of how his government can function with such a major contradiction. Once again, political opportunism for continuing in office is permitting dangerous vacillations in dealing with Maoist violence. 


On the foreign policy front, while the government has taken some positive initiatives like keeping open the scope for a dialogue with Pakistan, strengthening the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) cooperation,  giving a momentum to the BRIC process and continuing with the Brazil, South Africa, India, China (BASIC) unity in the climate change negotiations, the prime minister unambiguously expressed his government’s pro-US imperialism tilt  by asserting that the nuclear agreement will move forward. 


Though the prime minister repeats his favourite phrase of `inclusive growth’, the policies being pursued by his government have only resulted in widening the hiatus between the rich and the poor.  While claiming the credit for the performance of the Indian economy despite the global recession, the prime minister, naturally, refrained from taking cognisance of the fact that in the very year of crisis, 2009, US dollar billionaires in India doubled to number 52.  Their combined assets are colossal – equaling one-fourth of our country’s GDP. 


In sum, therefore, while the government appears to be drifting in the general sense, on two crucial issues of pursuing neo-liberal economic policies and reducing India to a `junior partner’ status with US imperialism, it is unambiguously on course.  These policies, needless to add, will need to be opposed and reversed, through massive popular mobilisations, to provide relief to the people as well as to build a better India.