Plain Truth

The announcement by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi that NDA government won't re-promulgate the land ordinance seems to be retreat for the corporate lobby for the time being. Since the time government promulgated land ordinance in the last week of December 2014, farmers and peasants, forests dwellers, adivasis and numerous others have showed their steadfast opposition to the ordinance and demanded no less than repeal of the Ordinance.

The Gujarat experiment led Narendra Modi and his acolytes to believe that a vigorous course of pro-corporate 'development' would accord well with the Hindutva agenda. But India is not Gujarat, and Narendra Modi cannot dictate terms to all sections of his party. Now one contradiction within the Sangh Parivar has surfaced into the open on the occasion of the re-promulgation of the Land Ordinance. The frontal organizations of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), namely the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, have opposed the Land Ordinance because they know that depriving the cultivators, particularly the non-owning cultivators, of their traditional occupation would be in conflict with the Hindutva agenda. When farmers find their livelihood badly hurt, they cannot be made to swallow Hindutva and communal politics. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch's stand is redolent of the behaviour of the Brown Shirts in Nazi Germany. These Brown Shirts, though belonging to the Nazi Party, used to talk a bit loudly about socialism, and as such represented an anti-capitalist tendency. They were eliminated by the time power was seized in 1933-34 by Hitler. The stand of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch is somewhat opposed to the interests of Indian and foreign corporates, which Modi is committed to serve. Yet it is scarcely possible for him to eliminate the Manch, because what is involved here is the ideology of nationalism.

Besides, the fact remains that the vote share of the BJP in the parliamentary polls was a little more than 31 percent only, and there is as yet no sign that it has been able to add to its popularity ever since its victory in the Lok Sabha polls. As far as West Bengal is concerned, the BJP wave has definitely subsided. Even if Narendra Modi succeeds in ratifying the Ordinance in parliament through a Bill, it is impossible for him to stop or suppress the outbreak of popular anger. If he dares to face a national referendum on this controversial issue, it will lead to a humiliating defeat for him. He is trying to form a covert alliance with some regional outfits, but that will not enable him to stem the tide of popular protests. Hitler could eliminate the Brown Shirts before seizing power, but Narendra Modi cannot replicate the German scene in India. He may seek to impose an emergency of the 1975 type, but that will most certainly boomerang after causing some bloodshed. Whatever the demerits of the AAP, the results of the Delhi assembly polls showed that the Modi juggernaut could be stopped, and no amount of corporate money was sufficient to sustain its march. Numerous acts of resistance against forcible acquisition of land in different parts of the country convinced the major political parties that slave-like appeasement of corporates, although desirable from the standpoint of neo-liberalism, is not feasible in the Indian situation of today. Hence the old Land Acquisition Act of 1894 was replaced by the new Act of January 1914. The new Act was supported by the BJP also. The frontal organizations of the BJP must have realized that a somersault on the part of their chosen Prime Minister on this issue would tarnish their images in a way that money and muscle power won't be able to refurbish. Nor would the ideology of Hindutva deliver the goods.

An argument has emerged that Modi's retreat is due to the coming Bihar assembly polls, in which the outfits led by Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar have reportedly made the Ordinance a big issue against the former. Be that as it may, this retreat has shown that given the present circumstances, the policy of pro-corporate 'developmental terrorism’ is unlikely to succeed in India, although it has many overt and covert apologists.

Bihar Elections are being said as the reason for this political decision of Modi. However, it is the massive opposition to the corporate designs of the Modi government by the people of this country, which has forced the government to reverse its decision. Political parties in opposition have played a crucial role inside Parliament but ultimately it is the strength of the people's movements and farmers' organizations on the ground which has compelled the government to take back the Ordinance.

Covert apologists, while favouring corporate-led growth, express their opposition to forcible seizure of land, refusing to understand that such forcible seizure is an integral part of the process of corporate-led development. Overt apologists, however, have no qualms in this regard. They are determined to push forward the neo-liberal agenda and hence are weaving grotesque theories. Their endeavour may lead to some costs in terms of human lives, but finally will not succeed.

It is also being said that the opposition by the non-BJP parties to the Ordinance is not genuine and is propelled by considerations of votes. Then it should also be accepted that even in a functional sense, the present system of elections may do some service to the people, although its role in the broader horizon of human freedom, in the transition from necessity to freedom, is a limited one.

Vol. 48, No. 10, Sep 13 - 19, 2015