People's Democracy

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


No. 13

March 31, 2013




Alternative Policy

Direction Needed


It is not unusual that in the run-up to general elections, talk of new alliances amongst political parties and excitement over coalitions is generated.  However, with nearly a year left for the 2014 general elections, such excitement seems to have begun early mainly due to the growing uncertainty of the UPA-2 alliance.  This government was already reduced to a minority when the Trinamul Congress withdrew its support.  With the DMK now doing so, it has been reduced to a further minority government. Its survival will now increasingly depend on the outside support that it garners from the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. 


By now it is amply clear that such outside support is managed for the survival of the government either through enticements or threats.  As for the former, in tune with the relentless rise in the prices of all commodities in the country, the cost of such enticements to garner support for any vote in the parliament will also rise.  On the other hand, as for the latter, the fact that within 24 hours following the DMK’s withdrawal of support, the CBI raided the premises of its heir apparent, Stalin, was a clear signal (read threat) of what is likely to follow if either the SP or the BSP  even contemplates not extending outside support. 


Further, adding to this rising political uncertainty at the centre is the near pathetic situation of the Congress party in states which are considered as its strongholds.  In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress’s continued ambivalence over the question of separate Telangana and the split in the party caused by the former late chief minister’s son has seriously dented its poll prospects. In Tamilnadu where the Congress in coalition with either the AIADMK or the DMK managed to enjoy the support of a sizeable majority of MPs from the state so far, appears no longer to be in such a position.  Both the DMK and AIADMK stand today completely estranged from the Congress on the issue of the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka.  The Congress’s chance of retaining governments in the states that go to poll this year look not too bright. Similarly, it does not seem to be in a position to regain governments in those states that go to poll later this year which are currently ruled by opposition parties. 


Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that the SP supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav, should suddenly begin talking in terms of a non-Congress non-BJP ‘third front’ at the centre.  On March 24, he suggested in Maharashtra that parties committed to social change in Bihar (read JD(U)), Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra (read NCP) should come together. Naturally, this sent ripples in the UPA as the Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar’s  NCP is an important constituent of the central coalition government.


It is only natural that both the Congress and the BJP rushed to rubbish such a possibility.  The Congress spokesperson and union minister has termed Mr Yadav’s comments as constituting the pursuit of the “most enduring mirage of Indian politics”.  The BJP, likewise, claimed that such efforts were a “non starter” and that “there is no scope for a third front”.  Both, however, accepted that coalition governments were the order of the day.


Such acceptance of coalition government is merely a recognition of an Indian reality.  Way back in 1996, when the general elections threw up a fractured mandate, many had bemoaned that this is a regression of our democracy.  Amongst the honourable exceptions was this column which argued that far from being a regression, the 1996 mandate, in fact, reflected a process of the maturation of Indian democracy.  The vast social plurality of India was bound to reflect in its politics.  A political monolithic structure, like a single party rule, could not properly reflect this social diversity and plurality.  We had then said that coalition governments would be the order of the day for some decades ahead.  Late Shri V P Singh was one of the few who endorsed such an understanding calling India itself as a “grand coalition”. 


This understanding has been resoundingly vindicated during the last two decades.  It is fairly certain that no government that will emerge following the 2014 general elections can be anything else except a coalition. The question, however, remains as to who will lead such a coalition government? 


There are many who would be most comfortable if this question resolves itself into a solution of bipolarity – led by either the Congress or the BJP.  Imperialism would be happy because both display a very strong inclination to play the role of its subordinate partner. The pundits of neo-liberal economic reforms would be more happy since there is very little choice between the policies of economic reforms between the BJP and the Congress. 


Such commonalities apart, the people of our country have emphatically confirmed their belief and allegiance to the secular democratic foundations of modern India. On this score, they find the BJP’s pursuit of the RSS political agenda of communalism as being an anathema.  This is the irresoluble contradiction that plagues any coalition led by the BJP.  If the coalition has to be strong enough to command the numbers of a majority, then the BJP would have to put its core communal agenda on the back-burner.   On the other hand, unless the communal agenda is aggressively pursued as directed by the RSS, the BJP would not be able to either consolidate or expand its own political base. This contradiction is already reflecting itself in the choices being considered by the BJP for their prime ministerial candidate based on their illusory hopes of winning the forthcoming election. 


Amidst all such speculations concerning political permutations and combinations, the real aspirations of the people do not receive adequate attention.  The reason why parties like the SP that continue to bailout this Congress-led UPA government talk in terms of a third front is precisely because there is pressure from the SP’s own political and social base for a  change that will provide people some relief from their present miserable conditions of existence.  The economic slowdown, the relentless rise in prices of all commodities, the deepening agrarian distress – are all combining to mount unprecedented agonies on the people.  The people’s cries for relief and a better livelihood find such political expressions of a `third front’ government. 


However, the moot point is that the much needed relief which the people are hoping will not come merely from a non-Congress non-BJP government.  Relief can only come through alternate policies.  What the people require, therefore, is not merely an alternate government but a government that can implement an alternate pro-people policy direction. 


The recently-concluded CPI(M)’s Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha had highlighted such alternate policies which can provide the basic right to every Indian to live without hunger and to be provided with education, health, jobs and shelter.  The jatha showed that the country has the necessary resources to ensure that every Indian enjoys these rights.  However, these resources are currently either being looted through mega corruption scams or are being siphoned through policies that are designed to further enrich the rich and impoverish the poor.  It is these policies that need to be changed.


Such a change in the policy trajectory in the country can be achieved only by mounting massive pressure on our ruling classes by strengthening the popular struggles. It is with this objective that the CPI(M) has given a call for countrywide mass picketing in the second half of May which will assume the character of a massive civil disobedience movement.  Such intensified struggles must put the necessary pressure on the ruling classes to change the policy direction.  Simultaneously, such struggles must enforce that the non-Congress non-BJP secular parties give up their political opportunism of forming a front merely for the sake of sharing the spoils of office but for forming a front for a government that will implement alternative policies which will significantly improve the livelihood conditions of our people and create a `Better India’ for all Indians. 


(March 26, 2013)