LOOKING back at the year 2017 that has just ended, there is an important aspect of the national situation that must be noted. The year unfolded with the forces of reaction on the ascendant. But by the last quarter of the year, the forces of resistance against the right wing offensive had begun to assert themselves and make their presence felt.
The people have borne the brunt of the right-wing offensive in the year 2017. Under the Modi regime, the Hindutva forces became more emboldened. The rampage by the so-called gau rakshaks was exemplified by the killing of Pehlu Khan in Alwar, Rajasthan. The hate campaign claimed more victims like Junaid and Afrazul. Hindutva forces sought to dictate what films can be screened, what books read, and what can be taught in universities.
Politically, the year began with the massive victory of the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Adityanath becoming the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh signalled the advent of rabid right-wing communal politics. It was able to manoeuvre to form governments in Goa and Manipur where it could not win a majority. It won the elections in Himachal Pradesh defeating the Congress. Though it was able to retain Gujarat, it met with stiff opposition. Punjab was the only state where the Congress could defeat the Akali-BJP alliance.
As far as the economy is concerned, the year 2017 saw the continuing impact of the demonetisation which was announced towards the end of the year 2016. It affected small enterprises and the informal sector particularly, leading to more loss of jobs. The implementation of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) has imposed more burdens on the people and affected small traders, businesses and shopkeepers.
The impact of the agrarian crisis was felt more severely by farmers in various parts of the country. The economic slowdown has led to jobs being cut in various sectors of the economy. Growing unemployment underlines the total failure of the Modi government on the employment front. This coupled with price-rise of essential commodities has badly affected the people.
The BJP government is aggressively pushing policies for privatisation of the public sector, and in the various spheres of the economy. It has made plans for large scale privatisation of public education and public health systems. The Financial Resolution & Deposit Insurance Bill, now before parliament, seeks to appropriate the deposits of people in banks in order to bolster the position of the banks which are reeling under the non-performing assets created by the lavish loans given out to the corporates and big business.
The BJP-RSS combine has been working to undermine the institutions of the State and constitutional bodies. Anyone who opposes the Hindutva agenda is branded as anti-national. The year 2017 saw the authoritarian face of the Modi regime in full glare.
The Modi government accelerated the journey to make India a subordinate ally of the United States after Donald Trump became the US president. However, given the volatile and unpredictable shifts in US foreign policy under Trump, such an alliance is going to land India in unenviable positions which can harm the country’s interests. The recent example is how India was forced to come out in the United Nations against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, after initially refusing to criticise the announcement.
To sum up, the domestic scene in the year ending, saw continuous and all round attacks on the people’s livelihood and the democratic rights of citizens. However, this is only one side of the picture. The second half of the year 2017 was marked by the growing resistance and development of united struggles of different sections of the people against the policies of the BJP state governments and the central government.
Notable have been the united struggles of the peasantry which developed in BJP ruled states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The struggles in Maharashtra and Rajasthan in particular encompassed all sections of the peasantry which compelled the state governments to concede some of their demands. November 20 saw a united platform of over 100 kisan organisations holding a kisan parliament in Delhi.
The working class movement which had conducted a general strike on September 2, 2016 organised a massive united trade union action, the Mahapadav from November 9 to 11. Around two lakh workers from all around the country participated in this three day mass dharna.
The year also saw struggles by students in central universities and other educational institutions against the authoritarian onslaughts and attempts to impose Hindutva values. There were widespread protests against the killing of Gauri Lankesh by Hindutva extremists.
The year 2017 saw mounting discontent amongst different sections of the people against the BJP government’s economic policies. This has begun to turn the tide of the BJP’s political advance in the last three years. The Gujarat election results where the BJP won a majority but got the lowest tally since 1995 is an indication of this discontent.
What does this portend for 2018? The situation calls for more intensified struggles and the building of the widest unity of the people in defence of their democratic rights and against the attacks on the minorities.
It is through these united struggles and movements that a Left and democratic programme can be projected. Such a programme is the only credible alternative to the BJP government’s neo-liberal policies and communal agenda. In this context, the policies and performance of the LDF government in Kerala and the Left Front government in Tripura will make an important contribution.
For the Left and democratic forces, the major task lies in stepping up the struggles against the attacks on people’s livelihood, defence of democratic rights and against Hindutva communalism. It is by forging people’s unity on these issues that the wider unity of the secular democratic forces to defeat the BJP will emerge. Let this be the resolve for 2018.
(December 27, 2017)