December 28, 2014

On Recent Assembly Election Results

THE results of the elections to the state assemblies have been declared. The BJP has failed to reach its declared target towards achieving which it was furiously campaigning: forming its own government in both the states. Its much advertised `Operation 44 +’ in Jammu & Kashmir did not evoke the enthusiasm amongst the voters that it had worked for. It drew a blank in the Kashmir valley. Even though early, analyses are already pouring out pointing to the fact that BJP’s increase in the number of seats in the Jammu region has been primarily due to the high pitch communal polarisation that it unleashed. Compared to its Lok Sabha election performance, the BJP lost over 10 percent of the vote it polled then. The possibility of secular parties coming together should be explored in right earnest. This would be in the interests of preventing further communalisation in the state which has disastrous consequences. What sort of deals will take place, however, will only be known later. Maybe, by the time this edition of People’s Democracy reaches our readers. In Jharkhand, the BJP lost over 9 percent of the vote it had polled during the Lok Sabha elections. With its ally, the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), it barely managed to cross the half-way mark. Even this it could achieve after its high strung anti-Christian campaigns across the country. The campaign to observe December 25 not as Christmas but as a working day to observe Atal Behari Vajpayee’s birthday as the day of `good governance’ was aimed at such polarisation. Thus, both in Jammu and Jharkhand, BJP’s electoral victories, though significantly lesser than its Lok Sabha performance, were, thus, based on sharpening communal polarisation. The worst type of `vote bank politics’. Despite this, the RSS/BJP failed to achieve its declared objective of forming its single-party majority governments. Meanwhile, the winter session of the parliament has ended. The Lok Sabha considered 16 Bills, of these 13 were passed without any scrutiny by Parliamentary Standing Committees. These committees are considered as “mini parliaments” since they have representation from all the major political parties represented in both Houses. They discuss legislations thread-bare and examine all stakeholders. Refusing to refer legislative Bills to these committees totally violates parliamentary procedures and norms. This was done by the BJP exercising its `tyranny of democracy’ in the Lok Sabha. However, the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP does not command a majority, remained in a turmoil for over a week. The BJP today holds the opposition in the Rajya Sabha as being responsible for the disruptions. It forgets that Rajya Sabha passed 12 Bills in this session. During this severe winter, it prevented the eviction of lakhs of people living in unauthorised slums in the capital on the last day. It also discharged its constitutional obligation in returning `The Appropriation Bill’ in the midst of this turmoil, proving its credentials in upholding our parliamentary democracy. It is the government’s obduracy in not promising to take action against its MPs, ministers and spokesmen who, in the pursuit of its real hidden Hindutva agenda, provoked this turmoil. Blaming opposition is a classic example of the “kettle calling the pot black”. Earlier, Prime Minister Modi was forced to come and make a statement regretting the remarks made by a minister of state who called people opposing the BJP `names’ in unparliamentary language. He refused to tender an apology and finally had to accept a resolution moved by the Chair reflecting the sense of the House disapproving such comments. Despite the PM’s brief intervention on a minister of state’s obnoxious remarks earlier, however sanitised they may have been, the RSS/BJP spokesmen, at the highest level, continue to make provocative statements sharpening communal polarisation across the country. Both the RSS chief (in Kolkata) and the BJP president (in Kerala) pledged to continue their campaign of religious `reconversion’. Thus they ensured disruption of the last two days of Rajya Sabha. The RSS chief blessing the religious reconversion campaign by all its tentacles, including the BJP, said that all those who left the “Hindu fold” over the centuries will be brought back. He was not talking about bringing back the dead to life! He was targeting today’s religious minorities saying that they have been `stolen’ from `us’. At the same time, from another corner of the country, the BJP president endorsed the same sentiments thus removing even the fig leaf of any difference between the RSS and the BJP. He, thus, proved once again that the BJP functions only as the political arm of the RSS. Once again, all the secular forces in the country were challenged by these RSS leaders to support an anti-conversion Bill in the parliament. As argued in these columns last week, there is no need for any new legislation or law on this score. Both the Constitution and the Indian Penal Code have sufficient provisions to define forcible conversions as a crime, a violation of law, and, hence, punishable. Those who violate both the constitutional guarantees and the Indian Penal Code, particularly elected BJP ministers and MPs, must be punished for their crimes. The prime minister refused to give any such assurance on the floor of the House. This is what has caused the disruptions in the Rajya Sabha. Both the Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir elections show that despite all their efforts, the BJP could not achieve its target. Unfortunately, for the country and the people, this BJP’s electoral performance and the Rajya Sabha disruptions will only embolden the RSS and all its tentacles to further sharpen communal polarisation and, thus seek to consolidate the communal Hindu vote bank. This is likely to get more accentuated given the Modi government’s inability to `kick start’ the economy. It had sold grandiose illusions on this score during the election campaign. The economy, on the contrary, had deteriorated much more since the Modi government assumed office. The Modi government’s loudest `cheer leaders’, India Inc., have begun to express their disappointment and discontent. The leaders of the major corporate associations like the FICCI, CII etc., have begun to reflect upon the ground realities of our economic fundamentals. In order to appease the domestic corporates and international finance capital, the Modi government is seeking to implement further neo-liberal financial and economic reforms to permit them to maximise their profit generation by further exploiting the Indian people and resources. This, the Modi government is doing by bypassing parliamentary procedures. It has resorted now to running the country and the economy through an `ordinance raj’. It was the same BJP that shouted from the roof tops against `ordinance raj’ during the last ten years of the UPA governments. This is a shameless volte face. With this, the dangers before our secular democratic republic and our people multiply. It is no longer only a combination of rabid communal polarisation joining with aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal economic reforms any more. These two are now combined with growing authoritarian trends like the resort to `ordinance raj’. Thus, both secularism and democracy – the foundations of our republic – will increasingly come under greater threat. This has to be foiled. This is the pre-condition for the strengthening of people’s struggles for the creation of a better India. (December 24, 2014)