Hypocrisy Unlimited

Deceitfully So

Manas Bakshi

Since politics is an art of the possible, alliance between different political parties at any level—from panchayat to national—is not at all a remote possibility whatever be the degree or extent of their trumpeted ideological stand. But compromising with arch rivals who are at the loggerheads in one or more states for warding off another—allegedly their common enemy—said to be in consonance with greater interests, makes even the horse smile because it is always in the interest of the power hungry political parties, to be more specific, their helmsmen. That nothing long-standing and beneficial to the people can emerge out of such milijuli or mishmash constellation of political forces has been proved several times earlier in the country. Still, in parliamentary democracy as India’s, often indulging in manoeuvring politics, such alliance is considered the easiest way open before the regional parties to climb the ladder of national politics for a toe-hold at the desired level.

If one looks back, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and CPI(M) joined hands in 1988 to oust Rajiv Gandhi from power. Almost same was the gameplan of CPI(M) in 2008 against Manmohan Singh led UPA government but it failed since withdrawing support to UPA did not bring an immediate end to its tenure; more so because Mulayam Singh Jadav and Arjun Singh led Samajbadi Party (SP) extended their support while, on the other hand, the strategy paved the way for CPI(M) to come close to Mayabati of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) whom the CPI(M) criticised till the bonhomie materialised. Even more astounding seemed the all India bandh-call by BJP and CPI(M) together on 20.9.12 in protest against FDI. It is useless to pass any comment on the role BJP is playing at present as far as the issue is concerned.

But now, when the BJP and CPI(M) are distanced, politics of compromise has neared Congress to CPI(M) on the pretext that anti-BJP vote should not be allowed to get divided. Which is why in the run up to the Assembly Election in West Bengal 2021, the Congress-Left Front-ISF alliance— known as the Sanjukta Morcha—took shape promptly. The equation behind such an opportunistic political compromise was the alliance, apart from harnessing the traditional vote bank of Congress, could get an edge over Trinamool Congress (TMC ) as far as its minority support base was concerned—by scuttling the minority vote bank with the help of ISF at the command of Abbas Siddqui who was vocal for the upliftment of the minority community in reality. But it has not happened like that because people at large including the Left minded ones could not accept such an alliance as invoked compromise with Congress which was long accused by the Left forces of massive carnage in the seventies of the previous century at the behest of Siddharta Sankar Ray on the one hand; and, on the other, neither Abbas Siddiqui nor his ISF could endorse a testified secular image or identity. As a sequel, both the Congress and CPI(M) drew a blank. In truth ISF is a minority communal outfit of Siddqui based in Furfura Sharif.

What a cruel joke of history! For the first time in the history of West Bengal Assembly, the budget session began on 2.7.21 without the representation of a single elected member from either the CPI(M) or the Congress. Not only the impromptu nexus between Congress, CPI(M) and ISF fell flat, CPI(M)’s brazen deviation from its ideological stand has logically been considered a pointer to dualism. While evidently politics of compromise did not fructify—whatever be the reason, the BJP on the contrary has remarkably made inroads in West Bengal bagging as many as 75 seats to play the role of a sturdy opposition.

The situation raises some crucial questions. First, while there has been considerable erosion in the support base of the Left forces despite its reign of over three decades with a vaunted secular image, the organised strength of BJP has provided it with enough space for social mobilisation. How far the rise of BJP garnering 38.1 per cent vote is indicative of the advent of Hindutva politics is what only time will prove. Secondly, it is strange that there has been phenomenal advocacy of the right wing political party like BJP when, at the national level, nothing has remarkably changed for the better in the recent past. The hard fact is that the survey by the centre for Monitoring Indian Economy has reported that the unemployment rate rose to a record high in October 2019 after August 2016. It was 8.89 per cent in the rural regions and 8.28 per cent in the urban areas. With lockdown imposed since March 2020, the situation has further worsened—the automobile and small scale industries having been worst hit. Instead of addressing such vital issues as unemployment, soaring prices of petrol and diesel casting severe effect on essential commodities and, above all, the indomitable threat of a parallel economy, we find only an onward march towards privatisation, disinvestment and merger of nationalised banks accompanied by frequent fall in the rate of interest on public deposits. Thirdly, it is also questionable how we, the people at large, allow ourselves to be hoodwinked or bamboozled in believing those political dadas who are adept in adoping the art of defection before or soon after the result of the greatest festival of democracy—is declared.

A reason easy to advance in this regard is we are getting habituated to the appalling lack of principled politics leading to a craze for switching sides in favour of the powerful party and it is evinced in the past in several states like Karnataka and Manipur. While the defectors change political sides on their own, they swear by no obligation to remain answerable to their voters whose support they sought for while contesting—let alone feeling the need to explain it to the political party which favoured them with the ticket. Instead, more often than not, they find faults to hurl barbs through social and/or print media at the functioning of the party they leave. It so happens as a regular feature but why? Sometimes it is at the tip of the ruling party assuring a better placement if the party wins, sometimes at the drop of hat that his past records—even if not hushed up—will not land the defector under the clamp of central investigation. No matter how far affected is one’s political image when principled politics is a far cry. And how far defection dents one’s personal image is also of mean significance now a days.

And, not surprisingly, sometimes the defectors also take advantage of a politically sinuous situation developing even after the government is formed though the Tenth Schedule of our Constitution as also the anti-defection law are meant for keeping a government stable by preventing the legislators from switching sides. In West Bengal, the dominant trend before the Assembly election 2021 was defection at a large scale from TMC to BJP though no such tenable reason was in evidence as could sweep the mindset of the electorate with the spirit of either secular, cultural or spiritual nationalism—not to speak about BJP’s performance on the economic front. Quite interestingly, most of the defectors have been defeated, and the defectors have started crossing over from the fold of the defeated party to that of the winner one once again. Really funny!

But BJP having failed to reach the target, even bagging 38.1 per cent vote, has also failed to check the reverse trend that is continuing still. That the defectors have been taught a lesson is evident from the election results from many a place. Thanks to the electorate for realising that it was only for satisfying the defectors’ personal interest; neither in the interest of the people nor goaded by any ideological parameters that they joined the party they expected would make a headway. While the wave of defection spread like an eruptive infection, it was not only from TMC to BJP but also from some other parties including CPI(M), the one time propagators of ‘People’s Democratic Revolution’. But blaming only the defectors may deflect attention from another crude reality that needs to be reckoned with as far as dilution of ideology or ideological deviation of a political party that often tantamounts to doublespeak is concerned. Take, for instance, the standpoint of CPI(M) before and after the West Bengal assembly election 2021. And now that it is over with their debacle, and that the Loksabha poll is scheduled in 2024, CPI(M) has started harping on how they were mistaken in opining BJ-Mul (BJP+Trinamool) keeping in view that they will be further nowhere unless another compromising equation of parties of various colour and nature is reached before 2024 to parry away—if at all possible—BJP at the national level. Accordingly, while admitting that the coinage BJ-Mul they used before election was not justified, it also makes easy to brush aside the popular belief that the rise of BJP in West Bengal has been possible during the tenure of TMC for over a decade. But will it not be too early to forget that on 9.4.21 at the Calcutta Press Club, CPI-M secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra affirmed that “BJP and TMC are two sides of the same coin”?

Before one concludes, what seems pertinent to mention are the incidents of post-poll violence that have, as alleged, been menacingly manifest in more districts than one between 2nd May and 20th June; and the process of ghar wapsi—meaning return to the party one had allegiance to—started at places in fear of being ousted from home or being chastised with the diktat of social boycott—a syndrome most unlikely of a democratic system. In parliamentary democracy, freedom of expression is our fundamental right and a political opponent has to be fought off politically—not with muscle power. To confront, combat and win over the opposition does not mean gagging its voice. Remarkably, in no other state, politics stoops so low as one political party bares its claws and teeth to avenge another so much so that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) finds reason to interfere. Not only that, while submitting its report on the gravity of the situation to the Calcutta High Court on 13.7.21, the NHRC has recommended CBI investigation into the burning issue.

This being the perspective, one thing is crystal clear. Political dadas seek the favour of ruling party, most of the followers seek their dadas’ favour to make quick bucks from some other sources than official employment in the absence of job opportunities. But means like dole politics, loan waiver or politics of appeasement—at central or state level—cannot stave off the recession or stagnation effect, nor can mud-slinging or vindictive politics bring about economic development.

And politics of compromise sans ideology or principles can produce only some opportunists, hoodlums and countless have-nots beneath a high-rise. The effect is not only disappointing but also a pointer to the fact that formerly people found the budding community with intellectual acumen, ideological grooming, elocution and transparent political outlook used to join politics at the college or university level to carve a niche in the long run —some successfully reached their goals. But now a days, that feature is conspicuous by its absence, because—to those aspiring for the charisma of an ideal political figure—politics without principles seems to have become more a dirty game than ever before.

Back to Home Page

Vol. 54, No. 14-17, Oct 3 - 30, 2021