A Tense Moment

As this editorial is being penned, the publication of the results of the Lok Sabha polls is only two days away. Almost all the exit polls have, however, predicted an NDA victory. Although no definite conclusion can be taken before end on the basis of exit polls, the predictions seem somewhat surprising, given the performance of the NDA government on the economic front. Phenomena like demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) have adversely affected the lives of millions of people, and Modi has had to resort to all sorts of absurd talks regarding employment creation, national security etc. Astonishingly enough, the Election Commission, a professedly autonomous body, has in several instances adopted a blatantly partisan attitude in favour of Narendra Modi. A Prime Minister can call upon 'all Hindus' to vote for his party, or can seek votes in the name of the army; these are not considered violations of the model code of conduct, although protests have raged. The Election Commission can censor Mayavati for her appeal to Muslims not to split their votes, but it cannot censor Modi.

On the opposition parties, however, a few caustic remarks are not unwarranted. They have displayed a lack of enough bones and muscles in fighting the politics of ugly majoritarianism, based on an uglier uppercasteism. Even the more advanced among them have not highlighted the danger of communal fascism, symbolised in intensified attacks on dalits and Muslims and heightened communal propaganda with all sorts of false myths. In states like West Bengal, their corrupt and despotic rule has served to enhance the strength of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Jingoism is rooted in the mindset of a not inconsiderable section of the people and is vigorously fostered by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-BJP combine but the opposition parties have not made any serious attempt to expose the counter-productive nature of this jingoism, which could be easily done by elaborately explaining the past experiences of other countries as well as India. The Modi government's intriguing silence on the US imposition on India of the ban to import Iran's oil could be a powerful issue for exposing the real nature of Modi's nationalism, but the opposition parties have not been vocal about it. Their response is at best lukewarm.

So far, no opposition party have highlighted the heinous crimes like killing of rationalists and imprisonment of social activists like Sudha Bharadwaj, Soma Sen, Gautam Navlakha and many others. Leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Mayavati, Akhilesh Jadav or Mamata Banerjee think that it is not their duty to raise these issues. Even if defeating the BJP is considered an end in itself, the opposition parties have cut a sorry figure in so far as they have, barring the adjustment in Uttar Pradesh, failed to come to an understanding among themselves, seeming to give the impression that that if they are opposed to the BJP, they are no less opposed to one another. The term 'Modi wave' is a concoction of one section of the media. There was no Modi wave in 2014; Modi's party got less than 32% of the votes. The BJP still rose to the throne by taking advantage of the division among opponents. Now there is reportedly no Modi wave, nor can there be one, but the division is there, which has helped the BJP. Even if the BJP and NBA are defeated, there remains the possibility that in the immediate aftermath of the polls, there will be large-scale horse-trading, in which the BJP, as the party of the big corporate bourgeoisie, will definitely be in an advantageous position.

One more point. The BJP's economic policy package is in general a continuation of the neo-liberal policies introduced in the early nineties. These policies have miserably failed to solve the problems of unemployment and inequality and manifestations of crises are erupting here and there in varied forms. But no opposition party, notwithstanding some piecemeal promises, have come up with any comprehensive policy package. On what Professor Amit Bhaduri has called 'malignant growth', there is a remarkable degree of similarity of views between Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Narendra Modi. This is the curse of India's mainstream politics, the ruling party and the principal opposition party being in remarkable agreement about economic policy, which may be called 'developmental terrorism'.


Vol. 51, No. 48, Jun 2 - 8, 2019