A Strategy of Inaction

Things look pretty bad. The possibility of United opposition to the saffron establishment in the coming parliamentary polls seems remote. Most of the regional outfits run by local satraps are out and out reactionary and opportunist. They can hardly talk from the point of view of nationwide solidarity and unity. The way they acted in the recently held election of Deputy Chairman of Upper House (Rajya Sabha) illustrates among other things that they can be manipulated very easily. By assuring the support of Orissa's Biju Janata Dal and Telengana's Telengana Rashtriya Samiti, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA candidate had no problem in winning the seat; PDP of Mehbooba Mufti and AAP of Arvind Kejriwal didn't participate in voting, making it easier for BJP to sail smoothly. No doubt, it was a low-key event but it points to the shape of things to come in the wake of 2019 general elections. Meanwhile, AAP has declared that the party won't join any opposition alliance against the BJP for the 2019 parliamentary polls.

Right-wing populism is a specific strategy by which the Modis are trying to defend their policies and privileges while the Opposition is still in search of an appropriate action-programme to combat it. In truth, opposition parties including left parties, have no powerful issues that could unnerve the Modi-Shah limited company. Congress has now one-point agenda of stepping up demand for Rafale fighter aircraft deal probe. For the Gandhis it is their 'Bofors' in reverse. But 'Rafale' is too weak an issue to turn the tide against the Modi dispensation. Harsh economic policies of the union government have created uncertainties in every sector. They talk of jobs but jobless growth is the order of the day. Populism continues to be the strategy of the Modis by which they want to retain power. As no party is serious about throwing alternative vision of job creation, the Modis continue to sell utopia and illusion. Industry is being pampered at the cost of majority of population and leaders of industry continually demand reduction in labour force, not job creation. Also, there are no jobs in government services while more and more groups and casteist sub-groups are agitating for quotas in government services. For reservationists quota is the only issue that matters in their calculation of making alliance or breaking it. People have begun to forget the trauma they had to face because of demonetisation, much to the relief of the Modis, but its impact lingers on like slow-poisoning.

And GST has ruined small businesses and industries, blocking the prospects of job creation. Agriculture is no longer the shock absorber. Once upon a time villages used to accommodate retrenched workers of cities. The situation is completely different today.

By making Aadhaar mandatory, unofficially though, in every sphere of life, India is emerging as the most notorious police state in the world. They have made Aadhaar mandatory by the backdoor, in contravention of the apex court's order. The latest Aadhaar-related news is no less intriguing. They have made it mandatory for company directors. The Centre has stipulated that all company directors must update their DIN number by furnishing their Aadhaar details by August 31. The Modi administration has been side-tracking the Supreme Court's orders in case of Aadhaar right from the beginning. They have no time to wait for the Supreme Court's final verdict. But this state surveillance doesn't bother political parties - they take it as fait accompli. They don't oppose it. Perhaps it is harmless and less troublesome, to raise the 'Rafale' deal in parliament. Strictly speaking the government should face 'contempt of court' in Aadhaar case as they have already taken several irreversible steps to thrust biometrics verification rules for all citizens in every sphere of life and activity. Reports of Aadhaar-related starvation deaths are coming form the BJP-ruled state of Jharkhand. But Congressmen think it is more important to highlight 'Rafale', not Aadhaar-related starvation deaths. There is enough scope to mobilise masses against 'mandatory Aadhaar' but opposition parties, including left parties, simply avoid this burning issue while resorting to some kind of useless populism that has no taker.

For the last several years the left has not led mass movement worth the name, barring the Maharashtra farmers' march. Sporadic farmers' agitations are taking place here and there mostly under local and independent initiatives, but spontaneity is no answer to the regimented rule of Modi. As things are the Congress party seems to have lost the opportunity to unite all the opposition forces that can be united against Modi's misrule. They think small parties or regional parties will knock the doors of Sonia Gandhi on their own and oblige the Gandhis by projecting Rahul Gandhi as their prime ministerial candidate. In the world of conflicting interests, it is unlikely to happen. And without a minimum common programme of action they cannot do much to thwart the juggernaut of Modi and his brigade.

The only force that may be able to be effective against right-wing populism of saffron variety is a democratic-populism. But all democrats, even left democrats and liberals, look totally rudderless, wandering in political and ideological wilderness.

Vol. 51, No.7, Aug 19 - 25, 2018