The Indian election results proved a surprise.
A nice surprise anyway. Against all media prognosis and opinion
polls, Hindu fundamentalists' BJP-led alliance lost election
paving the way for Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. It was 'Mass media
vs. mass reality', says an analyst in leading Indian newspaper
Hindu.' The intensity of these electoral quake rates 8 on the
political Richter scale', he further says.
As late as May 12, a day before the election
results were announced, media reports were putting BJP-led National
Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of Congress-led alliance. May
13 had something else in fold: mass reality wins against mass
media. The NDA fetch 187 mandates compared to 214 for Congress-led
alliance. It was time for mass jubilation now. Mass jubilation
vs. mass media frustration, to be exact
Ridiculing BJP election campaign 'India Shining'
with 'Feel good' slogan, West Bengal 'communist' Chief minister
Buddhadev Bhattacharya ridiculed: 'I'm feeling good - 100 per
cent!' Bhattacharya had something more to 'feel good'. The four
parties Left Democratic Alliance (LDA), led by Bhattacharya's
Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM), showed best performance
ever with 59 members reaching the parliament. Four more parliaments
elect managed to win as a result of seat adjustment with LDA.
In total, LDA score is 63 instead of 59.
The mass joy had no bounds. No boundaries either.
Pakistanis were congratulating each other. Bangladesh was no
exception. As this scribe opened email late May 13, dozens of
friends had dashed off emails, with the subject: Mubarik (congratulations).
Emails had reached the mailbox from friends across the South
Arundhoti Roy, writing for Guardian on May 14, summed up the
mood:' For many of us who feel estranged from mainstream politics,
there are rare, ephemeral moments of celebration. Today is one
Neo Liberalism Defeated Too
India of late, besides China, has been the darling
of western imperialism. Its emerging middle class, no matter
how small it is in the sea of poverty, is too big to be ignored
by multinationals. Also, the cheap 'professional' labour market
makes India Shining for the economic hawks. The loot sale of
Indian public sector in the name of economic reforms and liberalisation
offers a bounty too 'shining' to be ignored. Multinationals
would not 'feel good' ignoring India.
Since its independence in 1947 from British imperialism, India
had strictly been a country with protectionist policies. The
protectionism had its plus and minus for Indian economy under
a capitalist system. The protectionist economic model helped
Indian capitalist class flourish that was vying for reaching
international markets by early 1990s. A section of Indian bourgeoisie
however was scared at the prospect of competing multinationals
at home ground.
In 1991, the tragic murder of Rajiv Gandhi, swept Congress to
power. The Congress government started a process of 'economic
reforms'. India had been opened for loot in the name of privatisation.
From a regional giant in manufacturing, it was soon to become
a market of consumer goods manufactured abroad.
The Hindu fundamentalist BJP & Co. was crying
hoarse against multinationals. They did not mere attack Babri
Mosque, Coca-Cola was attacked too. However, on reaching the
corridors of power, the Hindu fundamentalists found it more
'useful' to collaborate with multinationals. Of course, Banglore-like
IT islands were created in the sea of poverty. However, the
sea of poverty was too overwhelming to be harnessed. A day before
the announcement of Lok Sabha results, Andhra Pardesh state
elections had tipped what was in fold for NDA.
'The intensity of electoral quake' had rated
8 plus 'on the political Richter scale' in Andhra Pardesh. But
also describes what went wrong with BJP and media pundits.
In Andhra Pardesh state elections, BJP and its
chief ally Telgu Desham Party (TDP) had been sitting in government
for last nine years. TDP leader Naidu had done his best to play
the little Vajpayee in Andhra Pardesh. He attempted to turn
Hyderabad, into Banglore while cutting subsidies for farmers
and privatising the state public sector establishments. Bill
Gates was wooed. IT industry started propping up by Bill Gates.
But out on the countryside, farmers hard hit by drought and
cut in subsidies were committing suicides. "Bill Gates,
Bill Clinton and Dollar Bill. Naidu has saddled us with a lot
of Bills to pay," was one wisecrack making the rounds in
Suicides in India among farmers of late have
become a routine than exception. Seventy per cent Indians live
on countryside. Less than half a million benefit from IT sector.
BJP was depending on this less than a million. Congress was
luring the seventy percent. Result is obvious. In last three
general elections, Congress for the first time managed to win
more seats (145) than BJP (138). BJP allies did even pathetic.
In the outgoing parliament, BJP and its allies had a presence
with almost 300 seats.
The BJP 'victory' in previous elections was
more a product of Hindu chauvinist euphoria it managed to create.
India went nuclear as soon as BJP took over Delhi. The BJP presented
nuclear blasts as a giant leap towards making India a super
power. In 1998, a limited war started by General Musharraf helped
Vajpayee fan national chauvinism. The BJP that might have lost
elections in 1998, was objectively helped by Musharraf to win
The anti-Pakistan politics, however, led masses
nowhere. They wanted an improvement in fast declining living
'India shining' campaigns and 'feel good' slogan was bombard
through media and election campaigns. It was an attempt to drive
home one message: BJP is turning India to a super power at par,
at least, with China.
But ordinary Indians both in towns and countryside
rejected all what BJP had offered. They have rejected its 'economic
reforms', its communal politics of divisiveness, and its chauvinistic
aims of becoming regional imperialist power. The message is
clear: nukes and computers lost against bread and butter.
Already Lost Victory
Congress leader Sonia Gandhi is all set to take
oath as next prime minister. The LDA support makes it pretty
sure that Sonia will get 272 members support in a house of 543.
The communists will not join the coalition government but will
vote it to power to keep the Hindu radicals out of power. The
'common minimum programme' of forming secular government is
all that Left wanted out of its alliance with Congress. The
Congress-Left alliance is confusing multinationals and their
'India's stock market crashed today in one of
the biggest falls in many years, prompting regulators to suspend
trading as investors remained wary about the economic policies
of the incoming communist-supported government in New Delhi
', reports Independent on May 17.
The break down was biggest in over 100 years.
'The market dived on fears that the Congress party, set to form
a new government after ousting the ruling National Democratic
Alliance in national elections last week, may slow down privatisation
of state-run companies and undo market-friendly policies to
appease the leftists, whose support is crucial for a parliamentary
majority', Independent further describes.
The fear seems bit of unjustified. Sonia Gandhi
has promised to carry out the 'economic reforms'. "The
economic reforms," Gandhi told reporters on May 16, "were
initiated by the Congress, by my husband, and later by Congress
governments. They will be carried forward."
Congress is traditional party of Indian capitalist class. The
stock exchange crash might be an attempt to warn, rather than
showing distrust to Sonia against making any promises to LDA.
Also, in the background of LDA policies in West
Bengal where communists are in power for last 27 years, winning
six successive state elections, the fear seems misplaced.
Communists as well as BJP are trying to woo
IT giants as well as any multinational to invest in West Bengal.
From IBM to Mitsubishi all are doing business in West Bengal
and Buddhadev is urging workers to desist from strike actions
in order not to scare investors away. The CPI (M) government
in West Bengal has itself embraced "liberalization,"
arguing that it is following the model of "socialist"
China. To this end, it has established Special Economic Zones
at Faalta and Salt Lake where labour laws that provide minimal
job security and working conditions do not apply. Increasingly
the Stalinist apparatus has forged relations with international
capital. In recent months, both Jyoti Basu and his successor
as West Bengal chief minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, have
attacked the trade unions, saying that workers must learn discipline
and forego strikes if West Bengal is to be able to secure investment.
"Outsourcing is a must in this era of globalization,
and we want to take advantage of this opportunity," Mr.
Bhattacharya told the IBM executive. "We want you to help
us." reports Washington Post (May 16) Mr. Bhattacharya
has also hired a team of consultants from the American firm
McKinsey & Company to help attract foreign investors. He
has convinced local Marxist labour unions to end nearly constant
strikes that paralysed the city. He has also encouraged investors
to open glistening American-style malls, where young middle-class
Indians buy Levi's jeans and Nike sneakers.
Head of Birla Group, an Indian industrial giant, has already
shown his satisfaction of the West Bengal government declaring
it 'pro reform'. Right now, expectations of Indian citizens
are high. Soon disillusionment will be high too. Sonia Gandhi
wants to start where Vajpayee has stopped. It might pave the
way back for BJP. The BJP is out of power, not out of politics.
With a Left contend with its 'Common Minimum
Programme' and vying for 'outsourcing', BJP remains the only
alternative in the given scenario. Arondhuti correctly points
out: 'None of the pundits and psychologists predicted the results.
The right wing BJP-led coalition has not just been voted out
of power, it has been humiliated. It cannot but be seen as a
decisive vote against communalism, and neo-liberalism's economic
"reforms". The Congress has become the largest party.
The left parties, the only parties to be overtly (but ineffectively)
critical of the reforms, have been given an unprecedented mandate.
But even as we celebrate, we know that on every major issue
besides overt Hindu nationalism (nuclear bombs, big dams and
privatisation), the Congress and the BJP have no major ideological
differences. We know the legacy of the Congress led us to the
horror of the BJP. Still, we celebrate because surely darkness
has passed. Or has it? '
The 'Feel Good' Left
The LDA has emerged as third largest party in
the parliament. The CPM-led LDA comprises of All India Forward
Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Communist Party of India
and Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM). The CPI is the traditional
party of Indian communists formed in 1925 while CPM is its off
shoot in 1964 when likes elsewhere Moscow-Beijing differences
led to splits. The CPM was a pro-Beijing faction. AIFB is an
ultra Stalinist party while RSP represents non-Stalinist, non-Maoist
left. Often RSP is wrongly refereed to as Trotskyite party as
The LDA has its electoral bases in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura.
In these states LDA won 54 of the available 64 seats. It won
a remarkable 18 of Kerala's 20 seats. The world's first democratically
elected Communist administration was formed in Kerala in 1957.
The LDA secured 34 of the 42 seats in West Bengal and both seats
in Tripura. The LDA has governed West Bengal continuously since
1977. In stark contrast the Left Front won just 8 of the remaining
479 seats throughout the rest of India.
Inside LDA, it is CPM that dominates. This time,
the CPM share in 59 seats is 43 while 10 members belong to CPI.
The AIFB and RSP have three members each elected to Lok Sabha.
The CPM had fielded 69 candidates while CPI had 34 candidates
in the run. AIFB and RSP had 10 and 17 candidates respectively
contesting elections mainly from states mentioned above but
also in states of Andhara pardesh, Assam, Punjab, Jammu kashmir,
Bihar and so on.
The success of 59 LDA candidates out of 130
is much better compared to Congress and BJP. Both have fielded
364 and 417 candidates respectively. The vote share for LDA
was a little over seven percent, as was in pervious elections.
Right now, the LDA leadership is also 'feeling good' as it has
an excuse to pacify its voters by saying: 'look! We have managed
to keep Hindu radicals out of power. We have succeeded in putting
a secular government.'
The secular credentials of Congress though remain questionable,
but LDA for time being has this lullaby to lull its supporters
to sleep. The unfolding events may likely bring BJP back on
agenda. The BJP, now in opposition, will try to be more radical
on all issues in order to woo its estranged voter's back. On
the other hand, the LDA is not ready to go for extra-parliamentary
actions. Its militancy remains restricted to trade union militancy
through which it can exhaust as well as satisfy (pacify) its
support base. This impotence stems from its ideological handicap.
Through the bankrupt Stalinist thought of supporting the national
bourgeoisie has LDA chained and shackled itself. Also, obsessed
with parliamentary politics, LDA has made a compromise with
Congress. Compromise is: do not interfere in our 'red forts'
of West Bengal and Kerala, we will not poke nose in your constituencies.
The Indian left is continuously avoiding a policy
of avoiding the historical task. The election success speaks
volumes for the opportunities India offering for Left.
Another hurdle that India needs to overcome
is left unity. The Communist Party of India (Marxist Linenist)
Liberation had fielded 65 candidates though none of them managed
to win. The party however has mass bases in pockets of Bihar
and Assam. Couple of other Maoist groups has support bases in
different regions. Another ML faction managed to win a seat
in Andhra Pardesh state elections. But past factional fights
and bitter memories keep left disunited. Left unity is war cry
today. A united left offering itself as an alternative to Congress
and BJP not just in elections but in day to day struggles has
all the possibilities to lead Indian working classes to victory
over capitalism's treachery.
Last but not least: Indian democracy deserves
a word of praise. With no illusions in capitalist democracy,
one must however recognise the strength of Indian democracy,
a product of hard fought working class battles, that has not
only survived a neo -fascist government of Hindu radicals but
also is ready for a non-Indian prime minister. A woman too.
One wonders: will western democracies one day manage to afford
an immigrant prime minister.