Rhetoric and Realpolitik

Modi’s Congress Agenda

Barun Das Gupta

The first item on Narendra Modi's agenda is consolidation of power—not till the next elections but far beyond it. He will pursue more aggressively the agenda that Manmohan Singh had set and embarked on as Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao cabinet in 1991. Prescribed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and insisted upon by Washington, it was the agenda for launching India on the path of unbridled capitalism.

The basic difference between Nehru's policy and Manmohan's was that, post independence, Nehru wanted to launch India on the path of independent capitalist development, that is, free from the dependence on the former colonial Powers of the West, build up key and heavy industries and develop the productive forces massively. Once inspired by the October Socialist Revolution and socialist thinking, Nehru, while opting for a mixed economy, also took care that the private sector, whose sole motivation was profit, did not dominate the national economy. It would be the State sector, he announced, which would dominate the 'commanding heights of the economy'.

Manmohan Singh's policy was the opposile of it, the path of dependent capitalist development, that is, Indian capitalism that played second fiddle to the Western multinationals and oligarchies. Globalization meant that Indian economy would be integrated fully with the world capitalist system and would play a subservient role. To implement this policy, he started dismantling the public sector undertakings by selling off these units for a song to the private sector and using the revenue earned to offset, partly, the mounting revenue deficits in the Union budget. There was no indication of an endogenous mechanism being put in place to contain the budget deficits within reasonable limits and how the deficits would be managed once all the PSUs were sold out.

Narendra Modi and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are committed to pursuing the same path of capitalist mode of development—if 'development' at all it can be called. Once known as the party of the banias, the BJP has now matured into being a party of the monopoly and industrial bourgeoisie. The way the corporate-owned print and electronic media mounted a high-voltage propaganda blitzkrieg for Modi and popularized the slogan ‘ab ki bar Modi sarkar’ was never seen in any election before. So, there will be an unbroken policy continuity from the UPA to the NDA government. In the domain of foreign policy also, BJP-led NDA will not strike a different path from the one followed by the UPA.

During the poll campaign Modi was threatening to drive out all the 'Bangladeshi infiltrators' (meaning Bengali Muslims) in West Bengal and Assam across the border once he came to power. It was hinted that under him India would no longer follow the 'soft' policy of the UPA Government to Pakistan and China and tolerate border transgressions. Now, after the elections, he is not talking any more about deporting the Bangladeshis.

Rather, he dispatched his Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj to meet the Bangla Prime Minister and others to assure them that India was tryiag to reach a consensus (with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) on such contentious issues as sharing of Teesta waters and finalizing the Land Boundary Agreement. India has agreed to supply an additional one hundred megawatts of power from Tripura while both sides are interested in starting a Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus service. Sushma also made it a point to meet Begum Khaleda Zia of the BNP who represents the rabidly communal and fundamentalist forces in Bangladesh.

Next Pakistan. By engaging in a quiet one-to-one talk with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who came to New Delhi on the occasion of Modi's swearing-in ceremony along with other SAARC leaders, he made it clear that he wanted to keep on interacting with Pakistan. Before and after the meeting, Pakistan has resorted to firing on India's border posts in Jammu and Kashmir several times, killing and wounding members of the security forces and civilians. Modi's reaction has been no different from that of Manmohan Singh, a totally muted response.

In the case of China also, he has shown no hawkishness. Nor has China shown any concern at an aggressive Hindu nationalist party coming to power in India. Both sides are pledging peace, friendship and mutual cooperation. This was expected. The three-hour briefing that Modi had from the chiefs of the defence service in the war room in Delhi has enabled him to assess India's military strength vis-a-vis both Pakistan and China. Electoral rhetoric, having served its purpose, has now given place to realpolitik.

By appropriating the Congress policies, Modi has disarmed the Congress politically. He will now implement Manmohan Singh's 'development' policy, but more aggressively and ruthlessly. Adivasis and farmers will now be evicted from their land with greater vigour and those who organize and articulate the protest of the landless and build up resistance movements, the Maoists, will, in Modi's word, be given a 'befitting' reply by the security forces. Already he has made it plain that henceforth 'development' will be the driving force of the new government and considerations of ecology and environment will be given short-shrift.

By enlisting the full support of the corporate sector which Manmohan Singh failed to do because of a supposed 'policy paralysis' of his government and his dependence on recalcitrant UPA allies, Modi will get a free hand to implement his, that is the Congress', agenda. His call to the electorate to vote for a Congress-mukt (free) Bharat has been realized. Now it is the turn of the people to realize what a Congress mukt Bharat really means. The Congress has not only been reduced to an ineffective Opposition in Parliament but, what is more, its own agenda has been usurped by Modi. Can the Congress conscientiously object to ruthless suppression of the Maoist movement which is actually a struggle for survival of the adivasis and poor peasants, when its own Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had repeatedly dubbed the Maoists to be the 'greatest security threat' to the country?

The democratic space will shrink gradually, unlike the one-stroke Emergency coup of Indira Gandhi snuffing out democracy and even fundamental rights 39 years ago. There will be no overt suppression of democracy. The media wil be 'managed' by staffing it with pliant people and by putting subtle and not-so-subtle pressure on media persons and the ownerrs. With the levers of power in his hands that will be easy. Vocal critics will be labelled as foreign agents or anti-nationals and their voice gagged. The anti-establishment media will increasingly find it hard to comment freely and survive.

Meanwhile RSS shakhas will proliferate rapidly across the country in the newly created favourable climate. The younger generation will be brain-washed and indoctrinated in the Hindutva ideology. With the Congress rendered impotent and the Left (or whatever is left of it) rendered irrelevant in national politics, the RSS and the BJP will have a field day till democratic forces are able to reorganize themselves and a broad -based unity of all democratic individuals, political parties and other organizations is achieved.

To regain its political relevance, the Left must have a new and younger leadership which will have to oppose the ideological onslaught of Hindutva and attract the youth back to the Left fold. The tired, old and corrupt leaders of the Estiblishment Left, bereft of new ideas and suffering from political bankruptcy, are singularly incapable of doing it. The Left will eventually overcome. History will forge its own weapons on the anvil of struggle but it will take time. Meanwhile the people will have to prepare themselves for hard days ahead and for assault on democratic institutions including constitutional bodies.

Vol. 47, No. 3, Jul 27 - Aug 2, 2014