Recalling Lohia

Bharat Dogra

The enormity of the chan-ges that took place peacefully within the matter of a few weeks in Uttar Pradesh is interesting even by Indian standards. As it is well known India had important socialist, non-communist opposition parties in the post-independence period. Rammanohar Lohia, a very talented freedom fighter, ultimately emerged as the most important leader of these groups. Although Lohia had many big achievements in his eventful career, in the later years he became a captive of a blind anti-Congressism which later proved very harmful for the socialist movement as a generation of political activists brought up on this irrational, narrow thinking saw nothing wrong in tying up with even right-wing, sectarian, communal parties to somehow defeat Congress. In the process these politicians and their groups moved away further and further from socialist principles and their socialism (Samajwad) survived only in name.

t is in this wider context that the evolution of Samajwadi Party and Mulayam Yadav should be seen. Mulayam courageously took up some important issues like opposing encounter deaths in his early years. However once in power, the lack of any real socialist ideology led him to narrow, caste and clan based support systems which eventually led to widespread misuse of political power by his supporters, corruption and criminalsation of politics. However his son Akhilesh Yadav was perceived by several observers to be keen to get rid of this legacy as seen in his strong opposition of some proposed tie-ups with criminalised political groups. To sustain this he had to oppose some very powerful persons within his party, and so also had to look for new allies outside his party. He took his chances rather late in the last months of the five year tenure of his government, in the process not only making very big internal changes in the party but also striking a very powerful blow to the very long legacy of anti-Congressism. This has opened up several new possibilities at the national level also and this is the reason why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is so critical about Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance. In fact the BJP had encouraged the split in the SP hoping to gain from it, but as events actually played out some of these efforts of the BJP have backfired on it.

However it is good for democracy that the Samajwadi Party has now chances of emerging as a cleaner and more participative democracy which is no longer captive to the whims of a few powerful persons. This hope may or may not be fully realised but certainly there are more chances of this happening now.

But in the middle of all these significant changes one that remains still elusive is the emergence of a genuinely socialist political party which is committed to the three basic ideals mentioned in the preamble of the constitution—socialism, secularism and democracy. India badly needs a political party which is deeply committed to equality and justice at all levels but at the same time is equally committed to democracy and peace at all levels. Such a political party still remains elusive. The Aam Aadmi Party has emerged as more of a populist party with a strong tendency for personality cult as well. Finally it cannot be anything but a run of the mill political grouping wandering in the winderness of electoral cesspool. For the socialists or Lohiaites as they would like to call themselves, recalling Lohia at this juncture is more than urgent, for their sheer survival.

Vol. 49, No.42, April 23 - 29, 2017