Assembly Polls, Distress and Kashmir

The results of the assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana have appeared to many as unexpected. The BJP's hope of getting absolute majorities in both states has been dashed, and at the time of writing, the Shiv Sena, another militant Hindu Maharashtra-based outfit, is reportedly tormenting its senior partner, putting forward the claim for the chief ministerial berth. This is one manifestation of the crisis in the Hindutva camp which now shows itself to be rather unwieldly. In Haryana too, the BJP has been able to form the government only with the help of the members of the Jananayak Janata Party and has had to give the chair of the deputy chief minister to its leader, Dushyant Chautala. What is significant is that the wave of chauvinism unleashed by the Modi-Shah combine, backed by immense money power, has not succeeded as much as Modi and Shah expected it to do. All the major mainstream parties, including the Congress and the parliamentary left, supported this chauvinism earlier in milder forms. This chauvinism has assumed its most aggressive aspect under the Modi regime. Fighting this aggressive chauvinism with mild chauvinism would only have helped the BJP and its fake patriotism, and this is precisely what has happened. This was amply proved in the latest Lok Sabha polls. Sharad Pawar, the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, understood this point well enough and put burning economic issues like farmers' distress, industrial slowdown, rising unemployment etc in his electoral campaign. This has paid rich dividends, and the NCP has bagged 54 seats. Even the rudderless Congress has not done badly; it has captured 44 in Maharashtra and 31 in Haryana. Some basic questions, however, remain. Would a defeat of the BJP have lifted the economy from the economic distress it is currently undergoing? Right now, the thirty-eight thousand workers employed in the Andhra Road Transport Corporation are rendered jobless and have not been paid their arrears of wages and salaries. Three have committed suicides. Farmers' distress continues. In a south Bengal district, a well-known hatchery for the production of chickens has, suddenly closed down, leaving several hundred workers' families on the brink of starvation, the reason given by the authorities being fall in demand. Such examples can be multiplied. The continuous reductions in the repo rate and the interest rates on bank deposits have only served to lower the consumption levels, because the principal source of income of a not inconsiderable number of people is the interest earned on fixed deposits, and lowering the rate of interest reduces their purchasing power. Thus, reduction in the interest rates is, in the final analysis, a self-defeating measure. Liberal tax concessions to the corporate bourgeoisie are not likely to raise the level of investments because it is not the lack of funds that is the real impediment to increasing the rate of private investment. Private investment depends on the level of aggregate effective demand and the prospective rate of profit and it is here that the problem lies.

One remedial suggestion is to raise the level of public investment and if possible, the level of public consumption. But the question is: where will the money come from? The Modi government is incapable of taxing the super-rich effectively. Nor is it capable of punishing the big bank defaulters. Rather it provides money to banks so as to enable the latter to tide over the immediate crisis. So, the government is wholly incapable of solving the problem of demand. Repressive measures against the Kashmiri people, coupled with the claim of normalcy in Kashmir, is seemingly intended to cover the spinelessness of the Modi-Shah combine as far as the super-rich and big bank defaulters are concerned.

The latest news about Kashmir, a somewhat striking one, is that the government has welcomed 27 members of the European parliament to visit Kashmir, after some US lawmakers belonging to the Democratic Party have asked the Indian ambassador in the USA some embarrassing questions about the situation in Kashmir. The Government of India is not allowing Indian members of parliament to visit Kashmir, but is welcoming members of the European Parliament. The reason is not as mysterious as may appear at first sight. The European visitors belong in general to the extreme right and hence, may be called Narendra Modi's ideological counterparts in Europe. They are welcomed because they are expected to give reports favourable to Modi. The situation in Kashmir, as all available nongovernmental reports suggest, is as yet far from normal, and the people are being forced to live in a cage, but Modi wants to present a different picture to the western world. He knows that his actions in Kashmir have already drawn hostile public reactions abroad, and hence he badly needs his ideological brothers in Europe to come and submit a favourable, although largely untrue, report about Kashmir before the western world. How far this trick succeeds remains to be seen. ooo


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Vol. 52, No. 19, Nov 10 - 16, 2019