April 13, 2014

BJP Manifesto: A Characteristic Double-Speak

April 9, 2014

THE BJP has, finally, released its manifesto for the 16th general elections. Its release, however reluctantly, is motivated by a public outcry that a party, which according to India Inc and its corporate media drum-beaters, has all but won the election to form the next government, has not spelt out its roadmap on how it shall steer the country’s future. It is unprecedented that its manifesto should be released after the polling process has actually begun. In the record of India's electoral history, one cannot recall, such an instance. Clearly, its manifesto is merely for public consumption. While its real agenda lies elsewhere, not open to public scrutiny. Be that as it may, the manifesto is full of rhetoric, minus the crucial steps that would be undertaken to achieve the stated objectives. Amidst sloganeering, there are only two substantive points that emerge. The first is the reiteration of the hardcore Hindutva agenda. It has, once again, promised to build the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. However, with a caveat this time that it shall be done within the “Constitution’s framework”! This begs the question if the destruction of the Babri Masjid was done within the Constitution’s framework? At that time, it had brazenly violated the Indian Constitution and the assurances given, by its then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh to the apex court that his government would do everything to protect the Babri Masjid, with impunity. Further, this chief minister who is now back in the BJP's fold had proudly declared that their 'kar sevaks' demolished the Babri Masjid in five hours, while any professional contractor would have taken many months! To this the corporate media replies that the fact that the hardcore Hindutva agenda finds mention on page 41 of the 42 page document is in itself a testimony that the BJP has scaled down the importance of these issues on its agenda. Such wishful thinking, even BJP's most ardent supporter would find difficult to digest. In their eagerness of high expectations that a future BJP government would provide them with unbridled access to super-profits, they not merely refuse to see the writing on the wall, but obfuscate RSS/BJP’s objective of future sharpening of communal polarisation to mislead the people. The BJP manifesto has reiterated the other hardcore Hindutva demands of a Uniform Civil Code and abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution. Since 1996, all BJP election manifestoes, except when it did not issue one in 1999, have highlighted this agenda. The record is, thus, set right. The BJP is no different today, it cannot be anything else but the political arm of the RSS. A clear declaration to sow deeper the poison of communal polarsation and to seek a consolidation of the `Hindu vote bank’. The second is its economic agenda where it unambiguously states that except for the multi-brand retail sector (more to protect its support base) it shall permit FDI in all sectors including “infrastructure” and “selected defence industries”. It shall “review labour laws” and ease “licensing norms for business”. It speaks of rationalising and simplifying the tax regime and the adoption of a Goods and Services Tax (GST, which its state governments, including Gujarat, have resolutely opposed till now). All this is, the sweetest of the honey for India Inc and international finance capital (IFC). The bargain appears clear – India Inc and IFC will have greater access to India's natural and mineral wealth for profit maximisation, while the BJP will ride piggy back and form the next government. As Italy’s fascist dictator Mussolini once defined, fascism is, amongst others, the convergence of the State with Capital. The rest of the 42-page document is characteristic double-speak. The real and the declared intensions of the BJP are entirely different. The BJP’s campaign has been centered exclusively around projecting its `leader’. The BJP’s website speaks of `Modi Mantra’ as the panacea for all problems facing our nation and for a `bright future’. How this will happen, however, is not supposed to be questioned. The `Gujarat model’ is, we are told, the direction for an unstoppable bright future of `milk and honey’. A plethora of studies have busted this myth both on the counts of the quality of life of the people in Gujarat and the so-called rapid industrialisation and modernisation. For instance: Value added tax on petrol, diesel and kerosene in Gujarat is among the highest in the country and highest VAT on CNG in India – 15 percent. Ironically, while central government is attacked for rising prices while the state government reaps a bonanza of revenue collection. Gujarat has maximum incidences of labour unrest including strikes and lockouts. Gujarat has one of the worst public distribution systems and the highest rate of foodgrain diversion. Ankleshwar and Vapi in Gujarat top the list of severely polluted industrial areas in India. Critics say that Gujarat government reduced its power generation capacity over the years and thrust is on to buy more power at higher rate from private companies. Per capita health expenditure in Gujarat is among the lowest in the country. Gujarat has one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds available per one lakh population – 143. Gujarat has high maternal and infant mortality rates. Almost every second child under five in Gujarat is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. (for a comprehensive coverage, see The Week, April 6, 2014) In the past, these columns had exploded the myth of the `Gujarat model’. Its core is the unprecedented concessions and benefits given to Indian and foreign capital. No wonder that sections of India Inc are eager to join the beeline of chorus hailing this `messiah’. If such concessions would be doled out all over the country, what a killing of super profits they would make! Its economic vision is, thus, aimed at accentuating the policies that have already resulted in the growing divide between the two Indias. What is in store, thus, for the vast mass of our people, if the BJP heads a future government, is heightened misery and agonies of daily life. The refusal by the BJP’s `leader’ to take any media questions betrays a completely anti-democratic attitude negating their commitment to uphold the Republican values of our Constitution. This is buttressed by the fact that at the ground level, its actual issues of mobilising people centers around the sharpening of communal polarisation as evidenced by the `leader’s’ right hand man in Uttar Pradesh recently making inflammatory speeches calling for a so-called `revenge’ in the coming elections against the Muslims, whom he blames for the Muzaffarnagar communal riots. This is the game in which they have always excelled. First ensure that riots occur, then proceed to blame the worst victims and sufferers of the riots as the perpetrators. Then use this as an excuse for further whipping up communal polarisation. The classic argument for the worst vote bank consolidation – consolidation of the majority Hindu vote bank. While its public refrain continues to be projecting the issues of development and misgovernance of the UPA, the undercurrent in all its PM aspirant’s speeches are designed to sharpen communal polarisation. He charged the Congress and the UP state government of encouraging a 'pink revolution'. This is with reference to the lack of availability of fodder and water for cows in UP, which according to him is the reason for cow slaughter and the export of beef, a reflection of the RSS/BJP's demand of banning cow slaughter. This according to him, is in contrast with the white revolution that he promoted in Gujarat (this is with reference to the milk revolution as symbolised by the Amul dairy cooperative movement). The Amul cooperative was set up in 1946 (before the BJP PM aspirant’s official date of birth). History shows that this was done when Sardar Patel entrusted Morarji Desai on January 4, 1946 to visit Kaira district of the then Bombay province, which is in todays Gujarat. The cooperative was fully registered in December 14, 1946. In 1964, the then Prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri visited the area and initiated the establishment of the National Dairy Development Board, which carried out the 'Operation Flood', popularly referred to henceforth as the `white revolution’. Clearly this has nothing to do with the RSS or with the BJP or with its PM aspirant. Yet one more distortion of history is undertaken by this 'leader'. The choice of Varanasi (Kashi) by displacing a former BJP president from his sitting seat is also designed to sharpen communal polarisation in Uttar Pradesh as noted in these columns in the past. Such is the undercurrent of relentlessly pursuing the hardcore RSS agenda seeking to transform the secular, democratic foundations of the modern Indian republic into its vision of a rabidly intolerant fascistic 'Hindu Rashtra'. There is no doubt that vast sections of our people are expressing their dismay and disgust at the UPA’s policies that have imposed unprecedented burdens on their lives. There is no question that these have to be rejected. While the Left has offered its solution in an alternative policy trajectory for the country, the BJP has not merely failed to do so but has, in fact, spoken in terms of advancing the same. Both on corruption and economic policies, there is little difference between the Congress and the BJP. Glimpses of BJP’s real agenda emerge in the preface to its much-laboured manifesto. It begins by stating “India is the most ancient civilization of the world…”(not one amongst others). The glory that was once India was lost because after independence, “the leaders at the helm of affairs lost the spirit and the vision”. Therefore, the time has come to “pick up the thread from the point where the continuum of our civilizational consciousness was lost and reorient the polity in consonance with those strong points of Indian psyche which will be the engine for our future glory”. And this psyche, it says, is “one country, one people and one nation”. This is a new rehash of the old and continuing RSS slogan that describes India as “one people, one culture and one country” – in Hindi this is popularised as “Hindu, Hindi, Hindustan”. The RSS has always held and continues to hold concepts of nation and country as the same. Hence their opposition to the scientifically correct description of India being a multi-national country – a country united by the strength of communality of bonds that bind together our immense plurality and diversity in all aspects of social life. This shift of emphasis in its current slogan is a perfidious effort to reaffirm the RSS assertion based on a completely unscientific and ahistorical analysis. RSS’s guruji, Golwalkar says, “The conclusion is unquestionably forced upon us that...in Hindustan (country) exists and must needs exist the ancient Hindu nation and nought else but the Hindu nation”. He chillingly defined the RSS ideological project saying, “In Hindustan, the land of the Hindus lives and should live the Hindu nation…only those movements are truly `National’ as aim at rebuilding, revitalising and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Nation. Those only are nationalist patriots…all others are either traitors or enemies….” The country and the nation hence become the same – that of Hindus alone. Such an exclusivist vision is the very negation of India’s syncretic civilisational advance (the famous Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb) in history. This breeds poisonous communal polarisation that aborts the unfolding of the 'Idea of India’ – a historical regression of the real Indian psyche. This is the real agenda that is in store under a future BJP government. For modern India, this spells a complete disaster. Deliberately ignoring such grievous consequences to our Republican order, India Inc and corporate media, displaying a more “loyal than the King” sycophancy, these 'messiahs' cheer-leaders hail their 'chosen one' as the man they require to advance their interests, never mind the disastrous damage that will be done to the very concept and survival of India. Instead of historical advance that strengthens the Indian republic, assuring a better quality of life to its people, what is being promoted is a historical regression towards an Indian fascistic variant. As argued in this column on many earlier occasions, this situation is chillingly reminiscent of the raise of Hitler and Nazi fascism, then hailed by captains of global corporates as `deliverance’ from the economic crisis of the 'great depression' of the 1930s. The people, in the ongoing elections, must act to advance India to greater heights, rather than dissipate our energies to settle imaginary scores of history, whose historical authenticity in any case is highly dubious. Such a regression of India's polity must be stopped. This can only be done by rejecting both the Congress and the BJP and ensuring a future based on the strength of the Left, democratic and secular forces that in turn can ensure the implementation of an alternative pro-people policy trajectory which will lead to a better India, provide an enhanced quality of life to all our people.