Here Come the Unionists!

Narrow regionalism of whatever sort is reactionary in theory and practice. It is no wonder that casteists and parochialists find common ground in North India today. As a counter-weight to Sangh Parivar (saffron family) they have launched their very own Parivar—Janata Parivar (Janata family), an amalgam of six Janata groupings. Faced with the prospects of further marginalisation in their traditional fiefdoms of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and partially in a southern state, caste lords, rather middle caste lords, have been nursing the idea of merger for quite some time. And the much talked about unification without an appropriate name of the new outfit, its flag and election symbol was announced with much fanfare on April 15 in Delhi. With 15 members in the Lower House and 30 in the Upper House this Parivar—a crude imitation of saffron style of remaining in media focus—is now a powerful power broker in Parliament where the Modi government is struggling from one crisis to another in getting a number of controversial bills passed. Ultimately what matters is their unified number and these rank opportunists know how to bargain with the powers that be under the cloak of some worn-out ideological baggage. They just root their political actions in tactics, not in a humanist philosophy of liberation, even of their kind.

In truth they cannot get back what they have steadily lost over the years—original Janata spirit initiated by the late Jayprakash Narayan. The old ‘Janata’ outlived its utility even before it started functioning properly as a cohesive force though all the constituents got united under a single banner while discarding their old flags and symbols. The new ‘Janata’ emerging under the syndicate of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav, Deve Gowda and their like, is a hybrid formation, having the sole cementing factor of caste, although they speak ‘anti-communal’ language but most of the time to play with the gallery. Their secular pretension is more like empty vessel, it sounds fine, particularly during electioneering.

Not that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is above caste. It is basically a bania-upper caste enterprise, albeit it has, of late, changed its stance towards the marginalised and minority communities because of electoral compulsions. This ‘Janata Parivar’ with the redoubtable Mulayam Yadav at the helm won’t have much impact beyond the cow belt where the rise of saffron power in the last parliamentary polls was phenomenal.

Ideologically these splinter Janata groups, otherwise notoriously provincial and racial in outlook, are in reality miscarriage of Lohia-ite socialistic thoughts. They no longer talk of Lohia and their socialism has long been changed to social justice for middle castes who have benefited enormously from reservation culture at the expense of dalits and tribals. Because of their Lohia-ite past they continue to brand themselves with some kind of ‘socialistic’ tag. It doesn’t matter whether they call the new entity Socialist Party, Samajwadi Party or Samata Party or something else. In essence it will be a casteist party. They have no anti-corporate agenda and yet they think they are the torchbearers of Lohia legacy. They hope, somewhat against hope, that their ‘Yadav clan’ with a number of scamstars, would be able to create a replica of Janata Party of 1977 or Janata Dal of 1989. The ground reality, however, betrays their ignorance. After all 2015 is not 1977. Nor will it be 1989. Emergency played a major role in paving the way for the formation of the Janata Party under the overwhelming influence of Jayaprakash Narayan.

The Yadav brigade has no concrete programme against the new economic policies of the centre. Strictly speaking they are not against the corporate scripted ‘development’ model. Even their passive approach to the controversial Land Ordinance, seeking sweeping powers to grab agricultural land, by force, is anything but intriguing. They hardly take up Modi’s austerity plan, which means poor people get power, those above poverty sink into it—dalits, especially the tribals are hit hardest of all. Having falled to contain BJP on the secular-communal issue, they are now doubly encouraged to play the caste card to its fullest extent as their secular song didn’t convince the minority community last time to vote enmasse for them.

As they have no political scruples other than opportunism they can join the saffron club anytime if they think it will help them save their fiefdoms. Not surprisingly, Janata Dal (Secular) chief Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister said in no uncertain terms the other day while explaining the outcome of Janata conclave to the press, that their initiative—merger of Janata factions—was not aimed at destabilising the Modi government. After generating so much heat against the present dispension, this is how they would fight the communal BJP! Nor do they bother about how Ambanis and Adanis are looting natural resources of the country because of the very stability provided by Modi.

Of the left parties, CPM doesn’t look enthusiastic about the merger of some casteist outfits though at one stage they hoped to float a third front by allying with these opportunists. But CPI, that has been trying to unify official communist movement in India for long without any success of course, hailed the new ‘Janata idea’. They see in it a united opposition to communal and anti-nation march of Narendra Modi. But Janata Parivar’s secularism is at worst a bargaining chip. It doesn’t sell in vote market anymore.

For one thing no party in this era of rapid globalisation can grow without fighting the corporate power in its entirety. Even AAP (Aam Admi Party) that had its origin in anti-corruption movement finds it difficult to check internal bickerings because it lacks any vision to offer to confront the corporate lobby. Nor does it oppose Modi’s economic policies. AAP doesn’t claim to be anti-corporate as does the ‘Janata Parivar’. All of them are in favour of ‘reforms’. But everytime one hears the word ‘‘reform’’ in India’s volatile political context, one always knows that the poor and marginalised are going to suffer the brunt of those ‘‘reforms’’.

Vol. 47, No. 42, Apr 26 - May 2, 2015