7) DESPERATION OF THE BJP AS INDIA'S ELECTION NEARS
Special to PV
With an election looming, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "clearly rattled by reading the writing on the wall," according to a Jan. 31 commentary by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The CPI(M) says that Modi's tactic of criticizing the unity emerging among secular opposition parties is "an act of sheer desperation; that it is Modi versus the rest in the forthcoming elections."
In the 2014 election, the CPI(M) says, the BJP and Modi had the advantage of a dispersed opposition, gaining a majority with the support of only 31 percent of the electorate. That scenario is no longer possible today, as the growing number of electoral "understandings" emerging in the major states sows panic in the BJP camp.
When Modi assumed office, 42 parties had supported the BJP, and many of them joined his NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government. Only a few of these had representation in the Lok Sabha; the rest were state level parties hoping for spoils of office whenever assembly elections were held, as happened in a large number of states. Many of those parties at both the Lok Sabha and state levels have now withdrawn their support to the BJP and exited the NDA.
These include the Telugu Desam Party, a key member of the NDA with a large number of MPs from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, but which is now out of the NDA. In the northeast state of Assam, the support of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) ensured that the BJP formed a state government; now the NDA's controversial amendment to the Citizenship Act declaring many in Assam as so-called "foreigners" has driven out the AGP.
Likewise in Bihar, at least three of the constituents of the NDA are now moving towards an understanding with secular forces. In Uttar Pradesh, many smaller allies of the BJP, including some which had shared cabinet positions, are seriously reconsidering their options.
In other states where recent elections were held, regional parties and smaller forces have now deserted the NDA, accelerating the trend towards a coming together of the secular opposition forces.
"Prime Minister Modi today expresses his dismay over the fact that the secular opposition parties are coming to certain understandings in order to maximise the pooling of anti-BJP vote, and he dubs this effort as being an opportunistic and unprincipled alliance," says the CPI(M) commentary. "What is the commonality between the BJP and the PDP in state of Jammu and Kashmir, except the urge to share the spoils of office that brought them together?" the commentary asks, pointing to yet another example.
The BJP's unscrupulous tactics are backfiring against the way Modi's party lured parties into cooperation, using threats and intimidation, or by offering them a share of power at the state level. This allowed the BJP to form governments even after being in the minority, as happened in Goa, Manipur and Arunachal.
"These are the people who are least qualified to talk about any principles and who have literally no scruples at forsaking principles for the sake of power," said the CPI(M), "but today they give moral lectures to the people of India and to the secular parties about morality and principles!"
Now, the desperate BJP is resorting to "belligerent bravado", calling Modi the "King Kong" against whom every other force is coming together to defeat him.
But the biggest weakness of Modi and the BJP is the ruination of the Indian economy. The resulting discontent is taking the shape of popular militant struggles, as seen in the recent coming together of the working class, kisans (farmers and peasants) and agricultural labourers in a massive joint worker-peasant rally in Delhi. This was followed up by nearly 200 kisan organisations, organising yet another massive march to parliament, which forced leaders of 21 major opposition parties to pledge support for legislation to improve incomes and loan conditions, to prevent growing numbers of rural suicides.
Another element to the growing discontent, says the CPI(M), is "the brazen loot of public money that the Modi government is facilitating by patronising and giving protection to elements who have looted our country," often in the form of unpaid loans taken from the banks by thieves under the patronage of the government.
The Rafale scam is a further example, this one involving the purchase of 36 multi-role fighter aircraft from France's Dassault Aviation, for highly inflated prices after PM Modi intervened to cancel an earlier deal undertaken by the previous government. This was done to benefit the PM's corporate crony Anil Ambani, at the expense of India's publicly-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
Supporters of every political party are now putting pressure on their leaders to ensure that the BJP does not take advantage of vote splits to retain power with minority support of the electorate.
A key strategy of the BJP been to sharpen polarisation, raking up contentious communally sensitive issues just prior to the elections. In that category falls once again the demand for construction of the Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Since taking office in 2014, the BJP has done nothing on this issue, saving it to exploit in the upcoming election. Meanwhile, the BJP has mobilized private armies to carry out mob lynching in the name of "cow protection," or to brutally rape and murder young girls, with the culprits never brought to justice.
Attacks on the Dalit and Muslim minorities are also rising. But now, "vast sections of Indian people see the Modi government as a government that is brazenly violating the constitutional directive of granting equality irrespective of caste, creed or sex."
On top of all this, says the CPI(M), is the government's authoritarian assault on the Constitution. Parliament has been deprived of time to discuss important decisions, even to the point of the Constitution being amended in just 24 hours without any prior consultations or preparation.
The commentary concludes by addressing the argument: who is the alternative to Modi? The Communists point to the election of 2004 when the BJP was pressing for power. At that time the alternative came in the shape of Dr. Manmohan Singh, who remained as Prime Minister of India for ten years.
"Likewise, in 2019. this alternative will come before India and it should give a policy direction that will be pro-people," says the CPI(M). "A stable secular government will assume office in 2019," it adds, giving several examples of such governments which formed after the dust settled from elections, not in advance.
(The above article is from the February 15-28, 2019, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)