What they Stand For

Congress is no longer a party of the south. Nor is it the party of the North. This grand old party, being now a totally family enterprise, has already lost its national status. Nowhere in the country it can fight elections on its own—everywhere it needs support from regional outfits with dubious ideological orientation and sectarian political aims, to keep tricolour flying in electoral battle. Perhaps Assam where they still command some sway over the populace, is the lone exception. In most states, at the end of the day, no matter how voters feel about their desperate and sometimes unprincipled search for alliance there’s no question that their ever increasing emphasis on alliance culture, makes their national identity more obscure than ever before. Their precarious existence in Tamil Nadu speaks volumes about the party’s future. Congress, now plagued by factionalism at every level ruled Tamil Nadu from 1947 to 1967 and Kamraj was its last charismatic chief minister. Since then it has been surviving politically by playing second fiddle to Dravidian parties. In the ensuing assembly poll in Tamil Nadu it is contesting in only 41 constituencies out of 234, and that too in league with the Dravidian major (or minor) DMK. In truth they feel lucky for this much benevolence shown by DMK. In Uttar Pradesh they are searching for an ally but tragically there is no taker for the orphan. In Bihar politics, there presence has long been reduced to a mere sign-board, thanks to caste-polarisation for which Congress itself was no less responsible in the yester years. In Jammu and Kashmir they cannot think of Congress rule even in the distant future. Their traditional ally National Conference, again a family property of Abdullahs, is itself in the doldrums. And in Bengal they have been out of power for 39 years. Maybe, it is too much for self-seekers and corrupt politicians of this party—they are restless. As they are too marginalised to be recognised as a respectable political force, they have long been experimenting alliance with this party or that for sheer survival. In 2011 elections they were forced to forge an alliance with the Trinamul Congress, under humiliating conditions; again for political survival. They had to remain satisfied with a limited number of seats. So they have been exploring chances to teach their former ally—TMC—a lesson since then. And 2016 Bengal polls opened before them a new possibility. Harried locally and nationally as well, CPM, otherwise a social fascist party, that ruled Bengal uninterruptedly for 34 years with iron hands, gave them an opening in 2016 assembly election by sharing seats with them somewhat liberally, with a view to dislodging the ruling TMC from power and forming a coalition government after the poll. After losing power and power-related privileges as well, CPM too was feeling the heat and had no option but to tie-up with 60 percent handicapped Congress, to send message to their supporters that they are still alive and kicking.

For all practical purposes fascist Congress has united with social-fascist CPM. People in Bengal know well what Congress brand of fascism means. They witnessed unprecedented horror and terror during the Siddhartha Ray regime. Mass murder, cold blooded killings were the order of the day in those hoodlum years. And the way social fascists with a banner of red flag suppressed popular movements in Nandigram and Singur is now history. Not for nothing their fascistic role got international focus. The unearthing of skeletons in a number of places in the post-CPM period only corroborated the wide allegation that Marxists eliminated their political adversaries with medieval brutalities. And all these people are now talking of democracy—or lack of it—and rule of law. CPM had to close their shop—party office—in Nandigram in 2007 after police barbarity that took place under their party supervision and they are yet to open that shop though in the recently held assembly election, the anti-incumbency factor came in handy to some extent to their relief.

Congress, the party of big business and corporates, is the architect of neo-liberal culture in Indian economy. That CPM’s opposition to neo-liberalism is sham doesn’t require much explanation. As to reach parliament is their only goal, they can go to any length. So to appease Tatas, they can oppress peasants. So it is no problem to find common grounds with Congress, a Gandhi-family limited company with no vision for sovereign India. Who bothers about principles? Much of the political left in India is now part of the system that is reactionary to the core. The moribund nature of today’s left movement is seen in the sad fact that so much seems to hang in election-oriented politics. Rather than being with the problems of grassroots masses on the ground, much of the more established left, like CPM, is arguing legalism and trying to make hard-pressed toilers docile.

The ‘Marxist’ party does hardly talk in the language of Marx. They learn preliminary lessons on capital from Tatas, not Marx’s Capital. Their entire political project revolves around election and in so doing they think only two issues—democracy and secularism—are enough in the Indian context to remain in the rat race of parliamentary gamble. The minority community people initially thought that they were secular particularly, at the initial thrust of saffron offensive across the country. But they too have realised from their experience that what they talk of secularism is largely ignored in practice.

But the future of election-oriented communist parties seems gloomy every-where—euro-communism is no lesson to them, notwithstanding their repeated electoral reversals in recent years in the country. True, they got somewhat encouraged after the success of Latin American left in parliamentary battle. But their experiment lasted far longer than anyone could have expected, now faces limitations, if not out right rejection. In most parts of Latin America, it is now the tale of right-wing opposition, while the left is back to square one.

In India people are increasingly losing faith in traditional mainstream parties. The net result : Congress is not a national party. Nor can Bharatiya Janata Party claim to be national. They are not just one-state based party like AIADMK or TDP—that’s all. As there is no national alternative emerging, people switch over to regional outfit in the hope that their problem could be addressed by them. In many cases these regional parties, despite their limited areas of operation, are more reactionary than the so-called mainstream parties. Mostly they have come out of popular demands of smaller states and the Centre’s step-motherly behaviour. But after attaining statehood, their sole aim is how to exploit the exchequer the way the mainstream parties do. Not that small regional parties have strengthened federal outlook though success of democracy depends on true federalism. No party is raising the slogan of federalism, albeit democracy cannot flourish without federalism. The demand of federalism must be viewed against the backdrop of revision of centre-state relations. In a sense the Centre continues to maintain a kind of colonial relationship with the states. Neither Congress nor Bharatiya Janata Party would argue in favour of federalism because they want to make the Indian administration more and more unitary.

Vote is now the only occasion when everybody talks of democracy but votes again have created some of the most brutally inhuman conditions people are now facing. It goes without saying that the ruling elites love it when ordinary people, toilers fight among themselves and so make the rule of their tormentors easier. And vote invariably brings in such occasions. If the Indian left has long been complicit in anti-people policies, the right has virtually taken over enough populist left rhetoric to maintain the status quo.

Vol. 48, No. 45, May 15 - 21, 2016