Shifting Gear

Left or Right, everyone now loves to talk about demonetisation. Initial antagonisms that have appeared have been there a short time. They have no plan to make it a point of long-term agitation. Democrats as per Indian standards and Leftists have generally ignored or written off a huge sector of population. What appears on the surface as a sort of ‘united’ opposition is actually a sense of desperation, of nothing left to win. Despite adverse criticisms from different quarters, the Modis seem to be winning. Maybe a Donald Trump syndrome! The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is curiously ‘losing’ its communal face, thanks to bankruptcy of secularists. So the saffronites are audacious enough to declare that they never indulge in politics of religious polarisation, albeit they are silent about digital polarisation which in reality reflects this system’s crisis. The other day Home Minister Rajnath Singh said his party BJP’s policy rested on justice and fair play. What a turn of history! Bad things can be turned into good—it is a dialectical process. And the Singhs are doing it nicely. He was actually justifying the apex court’s recent ruling that religion should not be the basis of politics. It is one way to invite the Opposition to return to their pet theme of locating communalism in BJP. They will be happy to see opposition withdrawing from anti-demonetisation protest. Also, they are trying to assure establishment parties, including left parties, how demonetisation has weakened ‘naxals’. Home Minister’s assessment narrates how the strength of ‘naxals’ has reduced post-demonetisation. Demonetisation has done what the security forces have failed to do in so many years. He is yet to furnish statistics about the ‘effect’ of demonetisation on the naxalite movement. But it is another gambit to silence the Opposition’s furore over demonetisation. After all it was Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister, who described the naxals as the biggest threat to internal security. All political parties, ruling or opposition, are on the same wave length when it is the question of tackling the ‘naxalite menace’. And the Modis are tackling it with a religious zeal through demonetisation.

In truth the Modis have begun to shift focus from demonetisation to upcoming assembly polls in five states, including the crucial UP vote, which allegedly tempted Modi and his men to introduce drastic economic surgery the ripple effect of which is unprecedented. But damage done by Modi’s blatant authoritarian move seems irreversible as a fear-psychosis has gripped the entire population. Nobody knows how budget will multiply agony of ordinary people. Indications are that after the ‘‘success of demonetisation’’ they are going to present a harsh anti-people budget to woo their backers—the corporate camp.

Opposition parties, not excluding regional parties that are badly hit by demonetisation, are now vociferous about early budget, not demonetisation as such. They have already moved the Election Commission charging that the Centre’s budget presentation right before the crucial round of polls in five states will allow the BJP-led Union Government to make ‘populist announcements’. The hard fact is that Modi has already presented a mini budget in his December 31, 2016 speech to defend demonetisation as it was more about ‘sops’ to be given to senior citizens and farmers, not demonetisation. That the idea behind early presentation of budget is a calculated move is now clear. Nor is demonetisation ‘accidental’.

No doubt the BJP has blunted the so-called anti-communal attacks by the secularists by way of demonetisation and now cashless economy. Quick shift in gear seems to have taken the Opposition parties unprepared. But Modi continues to face flak even from Nobel laureates for his reckless gambling. Only the other day while speaking at the bicentenary celebration of Presidency University, Nobel Laureate economist Jean Tirole opined against ‘cashless economy’. Even President Pranab Mukerjee in his customary ‘New Year Message’ to Governors and Lt Governors admitted in no uncertain terms that the on-going suffering the poor were experiencing in their everyday life resulted from demonetisation and its fall-out—economic slowdown. He was not ‘too sure’ that the poor could wait that long to see the transition from entitlement approach to an entrepreneurial one for ‘poverty alleviation’. Modi also had to face tough criticisms even from unexpected quarters as The New York Times described Indian Note ban as atrociously planned and executed.

But Modi doesn’t bother about what experts—or for that matter laymen—are saying about the present crisis created by his action with a definite goal to reach—to make corporate lobby smiling. ‘Corruption’ was not really the main issue. Nor was ‘black money’. Banias were actually opening new business opportunities to woo leading domestic business houses and their foreign collaborators.

As most politicians in opposition talk more of the same—black money vis-a-vis demonetisation—the religio-communal agenda of the saffron brigade now gets less focused. Gujarat genocide comes as a passing reference in their election propaganda. So is impact of beef ban. Even the Left, being the most vocal about BJP’s communal politics, has mellowed, of late, in their attack against the hidden agenda of BJP. To all of them vote matters, nothing else.

Secularists do hardly attack the economic base of communal forces. Congress cannot do it for its class interest. But the leftists too are reluctant to go to the roots of the problem. Communal politics is not growing in vacuum. Originally BJP was a party of traders—banias representing the major market forces in North India. From a traders’ party, it has now graduated to a party of corporate. To continually cry hoarse about BJP’s communal fascist strategy without attacking their economic base makes little sense. Finally all their anti-communal rhetoric rings hollow. Saffron ‘fascism’ as symbolised by Modi is war, it is war on behalf of the corporate against ordinary people. Corporate power, by its very gigantic nature, is always decimating existing jobs, small businesses and industries and even specific regions as one can see from what is happening in tribal regions, mostly in forest regions. Previously better off workers and employees are ending up in low-paid jobs in informal sector. Modi is opening the door to bigger corporate confrontation with socially and economically disadvantaged, having threatened to put the others ‘in their place’—dalits, tribals, minority community people, women, all of whom are scapegoated as responsible for ‘black money, corruption and terrorism’.

Vol. 49, No.28, Jan 15 - 21, 2017