People's Democracy

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


No. 27

July 07, 2013




Defeat Congress, Rebuff BJP, Forge Policies Based Alternative


Rajendra Sharma


HELD in Delhi, the national capital, on July 1, a national level political convention of the Left parties has called for forging a strong political alternative based on policies. The convention also adopted a Declaration which outlined an alternative platform based on a ten-point programme. This, the convention said, has become a pressing requirement today.


Leading cadres of the four Left parties, viz the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc, took part in the Left convention which was organised in the Mavalankar Auditorium in New Delhi. The main part of the audience naturally came from North India though all parts of the country were represented here. The ambience was one of enthusiasm and determination.


CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat moved the main resolution of the convention which CPI(M) Polit Bureu member Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy, FB general secretary Debbrata Biswas and RSP leader Abani Roy endorsed in their addresses. A presidium based on Brinda Karat of the CPI(M), Amarjeet Kaur (CPI), Barun Ghosh (FB) and Abani Roy (RSP) conducted the proceedings.


Dubbing the policies of the UPA government as intrinsically anti-people and anti-democratic, the convention declared that the Congress and the UPA it is leading would have to be defeated if the country is to have a set of alternative policies. However, at the same time, the convention dubbed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as still more retrogressive representatives of the existing regime, concluding that all the patriotic, secular and democratic forces would have to ensure that the BJP is prevented from coming to power again. Pointing out that both the alliances --- the UPA and the NDA --- are gripped with internal contradictions and are increasingly contracting, the Left convention underlined the need of rejecting both these formations along with all their policies. In this very context, the convention declared that the country needed a political alternative today and that such an alternative would emerge only on the basis of alternative policies. The Declaration adopted by the convention was in fact an attempt to outline an alternative policy based platform of this very type, while the convention itself was an important initiative in the direction of forging such a platform.


Apart from taking some other decisions, the convention took the key decision of running a national level campaign in order to take the idea of such a political platform to the people. For this purpose, rallies would be organised in all the states between July and September. Before the convention concluded, the participants stood up and observed a minute’s silence to pay homage to the victims after a resolution on the Uttarakhand tragedy was moved.     


While presenting the Declaration, Prakash Karat briefly outlined the present scenario in the country and drew attention to the continuing economic decline or deadlock even after nine years of the UPA rule. He said the number of the jobless fast increased during 2005-2010 under the UPA dispensation, while the rate of unemployment growth at over 10 per cent was still higher during 2011 and 2012. The situation today is that only 38 per cent of the over-18 people are able to get a job. He also drew attention to the fast increasing prices during the last four years; in particular food inflation has been at a very high level. The agrarian crisis has been continuing unabated; as a result the spate of peasant suicides refuses to get abated. However, the UPA government is basically concerned with reducing its fiscal deficit instead of addressing these basic issues. Also, it has been telling us that inviting foreign capital would be a panacea for all our ills today. Karat also said that apart from opening the doors of retail trade for foreign capital, which would kill the livelihood of over four crore families of small traders and hawkers etc, the UPA government is out to open some more areas for foreign capital over the next few weeks. It is also thinking of allowing the foreign penetration in several aspects of the mass media.


Karat said the real character of the existing regime is clear from the spate of concessions it has been doling out to the corporate houses and other rich, while it goes on curtailing the subsidies meant for the poor. Describing as “most shameful” the recent decision to double the price of natural gas, Karat said this single decision would rush additional profits of billions of dollars to a single corporate house while an unbearable burden would devolve on our peasantry, on common consumers and on the whole of our economy in the form of increased prices of fertilisers and power and increased cost of transportation. The CPI(M) general secretary said this particular decision has no explanation except that the UPA government is being guided or pressed by corporate houses in its decision making. While big bourgeoisie, Indian and foreign, have been provided all kinds of benefits under the UPA regime, there has been an open loot of our national resources, like land, coal, oil and gas, spectrum etc, under the neo-liberal dispensation. He said the large-scale corruption of today is rooted in this very kind of loot.


Karat sharply hit the UPA government’s renunciation of our time-tested foreign policy also in order to make India a camp follower of the US imperialists.


On the basis of his criticism of the UPA government’s policies and moves, the CPI(M) leader stressed the need of intensifying the struggle against this government. He said the neo-liberal policies would continue till the time the UPS remained in power.


However, one must also keep in mind that the BJP is no different from the Congress insofar as the economic policies and corruption scams are concerned. In fact, the BJP led National Democratic Alliance continued to implement the very same policies for full six years of its rule, from 1998 to 2004. Moreover, the BJP led state governments are following the same set of policies even today. In Gujarat, it is the Ambanis, Tatas, Adanis and other big houses that are the happiest of all creatures under the regime of Narendra Modi whom the BJP is doing its best to project as the next prime ministerial candidate. It is in fact these very houses and the corporate media that are singing paeans to Modi, demanding that the so-called “Gujarat model” must be implemented all over the state. On the other hand, the fact also remains that Gujarat is far behind several other states of our country on social development indicators like malnutrition among the below-5 children, and in respect of the conditions of the poor, dalit and tribal masses. It is evident that Modi is being praised to the sky for having given the rich a chance of unbridled loot. On top of it, while it was in the Modi dispensation that the biggest and most ferocious attack so far was launched against the Muslim minority, the Gujarat government is even today doing whatever it can to protect the murderers of the minority people. It was only after the Supreme Court’s repeated intervention that doors of justice for the victims and their families were opened in a limited number of cases.


Terming the Congress and the BJP as one in respect of corruption as well, Karat reminded that leaders of the mining mafia were made ministers under the BJP rule in Karnataka. He also referred to the BJP’s attempts to forge communal polarisation for electoral benefits and pointed to the series of riots at several places at BJP-RSS instigation. There were a large number of riots in Uttar Pradesh in particular during the last two years. Karat emphatically said that the BJP must not be allowed to come to power again, if we have to defend the secular edifice of our country and the rights of the minorities. Stressing that the BJP could not be an alternative to the Congress, Karat said that the BJP maintained stoic silence on the issue of recent gas price hike while the Left constantly and vociferously opposed it. After all, Mukesh Ambani is among the ardent admirers of Narendra Modi! Karat said that if the people of this country are to get freedom from poverty, backwardness, disease, agrarian crisis, joblessness and deprivation of various sorts, it would be possible only through policies that are in opposition to the Congress-BJP policies. The convention’s declaration presented a platform of such kind of alternative policies.


While clarifying various aspects of the envisaged alternative platform, Karat said such an alternative would not emerge by simply bringing all the non-Congress non-BJP parties together. During the last two decades the Left parties did try to forge alliances at the national level with other democratic and secular forces on the basis of some issues and forces, but experience shows that a mere electoral alliance cannot be a real alternative which can be forged only on the basis of policies. In the end, Karat appealed to all the democratic and secular forces to extend support to this platform of alternative policies and work together in order to realise the demands put forward in the convention’s declaration. An alternative would emerge only through powerful united struggles. Through the leading cadre who were participating in the convention, Karat called upon all the Left ranks to take the declaration to the people and launch campaigns on its basis all over the country. They must also try to draw other secular and democratic forces into this process, as only then would a new path open for the country’s advancement.


From the CPI(M), Sitaram Yechury said, in the context of ongoing discussions about the coming elections, that we need not an alternative leader but alternative policies. Rejecting the “NaMo Raag” being sung in praise of Narendra Modi, Yechury said it is the Left that can provide leadership to the country for adoption of alternative policies. We would change the situation and take the country on a different path, he asserted. In this regard, he referred to the fact that the under-25 age group today accounts for about 59 per cent of the country’s population but they need education and jobs. If only they get adequate education, if they get protection from diseases, if they get suitable employment opportunities, there is no force on the earth to prevent India from emerging as a better country. History has devolved this responsibility upon the Left parties; only they would be the harbingers of such a change. 


Making a trenchant criticism of the ongoing policies, Yechury said that in the foreword of the 12th plan document the prime minister has indirectly accepted that the country is today in a similar plight as it was in at the beginning of the 1990s, when the neo-liberal policies were adopted. The burden of loans has increased so high that the country’s foreign exchange reserves would not suffice for six months’ imports. Thus we are back to Square One after 22 years of a painful journey. However, while this crisis is an all-pervading crisis, the Congress led UPA government says there is only one way out --- to allow still more of foreign investments; so much so that the government is out to allow foreign investments even in the field of defence production. Yechury said the main problem with the neo-liberal path of development is that prosperity comes but only for a handful of people who garner more money, but they tend to acquire more of land or gold instead of making productive uses of their money. On the other hand, the purchasing power in the hands of the common mass goes on decreasing. This, Yechury said, is the real root of the ongoing crisis.  


Yechury said the Left has always been clear about the way out of this crisis and has been putting its views before the government. For example, the total fiscal deficit of the government comes to Rs 5.23 lakh crore, but the government has also doled out a number of concessions to corporate houses, which altogether amount to Rs 5.73 lakh crore. It is obvious that there would have been no question of a deficit if only the government had collected its revenues properly. If the government had invested such resources in developing our social and economic infrastructure, lakhs of new jobs could have been created and the accruing purchasing power of the people would have paved the way for further economic development. The speaker also reminded that there is no other way out of the ongoing recession and depression but to create new demand by raising the purchasing power of the people. Moreover, if only money had not been squandered in scams like the coal scam and 2G spectrum scam, the resources saved would bee sufficient to educate the whole country as well as free it from hunger and malnutrition.


About the unity of the Congress and the BJP on policy issues, Yechury said both make silent overtures to each other in parliament. To rebuff the neo-liberal policies is necessary not only for getting out of the economic crisis but also for saving our democratic system from being derailed. Yechury here referred to a recent confession by BJP leader Gopinath Munde, adding that democracy is being killed today by the practice of vote purchasing. This is also a reason why the Left wants curbs on corruption. The convention’s declaration talks of thorough electoral reforms which would among other things ensure transparent funding of political parties from public exchequer for election purposes, which would curb to an extent the prevalence of money power in elections. The root of corruption is the practice of corporate houses slyly giving funds to political parties; it is only the Left parties which refuse to accept such funding. In this regard, Yechury also insisted on the Left demand of having a system of proportional representation.


Talking about the need of having alternative policies, the CPI(M) leader said the country would have to suffer still more in case the neo-liberal policies continue unabated. However, this is high time that the people, who do have the capacity to change the course of history, must assert themselves and exert pressure upon other secular and democratic parties to come together on an alternative programme. This is high time we move for a better India, Yechury concluded, adding that resources, capacities and opportunities, all are there for this kind of a project.


Endorsing the convention’s declaration, CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy drew attention to the loot of peasants’ and tribals’ lands in particular, which has made lakhs of peasants hapless and jobless; tribals are seething with discontent over this practice. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening; as much as 30 per cent of the world’s poor today live in India alone. On the other hand, India also accounts for four out of the ten richest individuals in the world. The ruling combination has failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people while the BJP has failed to act as a genuine opposition. Both are competitors in corruption. It is not surprising that both the NDA and UPA are disintegrating. Both are going to lose the next elections. It is in this situation that the need of an alternative is being felt. Talking about the importance of the Left declaration, Reddy said that it is the Left alone that has been in the arena of struggle in the last four years of UPA-2 government. On specific issues, we have been able to draw other secular and democratic forces too in this arena.


Forward Bloc general secretary Debbrata Biswas described the struggle for alternative policies as one for the country’s protection and defence, adding that several forces are trying their level best to break the unity of the people. The ruling classes know that to divide the people is the best way to perpetuate their rule and protect their vested interests. At the same time, the Left is also fighting for the protection of our democratic system. Biswas drew attention to the attacks being launched against the Left parties in West Bengal and other parts of the country. However, history testifies that democracy got strengthened whenever the Left got strengthened. The Left has since long been in the arena of struggle, and it is this struggle that would show the country an alternative path. The speaker also expressed the hope that the mass of our people would prevail upon other secular and democratic forces to come to this alternative platform.


RSP leader Abani Roy referred to the people’s widespread disillusionment with the existing system, quipping that those talking of removing the poverty are busy removing the poor themselves. The government is not reconciled to any of the people’s rights, nor is it ready to abide by the constitution. Talking about the need of forging an alternative to the Congress as well as the BJP, the RSP leader said the Left is not for a mere change of government; it is for a change of the very system.


This important political convention of the Left parties concluded with an emotional address by veteran communist leader A B Bardhan, who stressed that the Left is not for somehow gathering a motley crowd of non-Congress and non-BJP parties. Even if an electoral alliance is forged, it won’t last in the absence of a credible programme. At the same time, the veteran leader also rejected the dreams of forging an alliance sans the Left; he said no credible alliance or alternative is possible without the participation of the Left parties. Making a fervent appeal about taking the convention’s declaration to the mass of the people, Bardhan said a number of actions, campaigns and programmes would be organised for the purpose over the next few months.


The convention accepted the veteran leader’s suggestions, heartily endorsed the declaration and came to a rousing conclusion amid the slogans of Left unity.