What do the results reveal and what needs to be learnt
In the recently held assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has won four while Punjab went to Aam Admi Party. Before elections, if anyone had surveyed the people of India except, of course, a handful of super-rich and relatively affluent section who hardly constitute 5% of the total population, they would have received only one answer—life is shattered in every respect and no sign of any relief is in sight. Astronomical rise in price line, phenomenal surge in unemployment and job loss, continuous fall in income level, growing uncertainty and insecurity in every sphere of life compounded by unremitting fiscal savagery, reckless corruption and nepotism and denial of justice—that has been the reality. There is yawning gap between the few rich and the oppressed millions. Obviously, people’s rage and grievances have been accumulating against the ruling dispensations which often have been found to erupt in the form of spontaneous outbursts of protest movements. But, when the election results were out, it was seen that there was hardly any reflection of such accrued wrath in the form of anti-incumbency mandate. Punjab where decisive impact of the historic yearlong peasants movement has been glaring, has been the only exception. Obvious question is why did people’s verdict get skewed towards the ruling BJP in the four states? Is it that people’s issues and problems no more determine poll results? If so, why? That is what all the democratic-minded right-thinking people need to seriously ponder over and understand if elections in the given stage of fascist autocracy, manifested in almost all imperialist-capitalist countries, have virtually lost validity in reflecting people’s opinion.
How genuine Marxists view election
At the outset, let us see how the genuine Marxists view election in degenerated bourgeois democracy today. Any student of history is aware that the modern parliament and the bourgeois democratic system were introduced by the rising bourgeoisie during their fight against feudalism and monarchy to establish their own rule through the bourgeois democratic revolution. The bourgeoisie was then a progressive force for society to advance. It pleaded that the fundamental premise of their new system would be the sovereign power of people to rule over their respective countries as against a few landlords or monarchs earlier. As direct rule of people was not feasible, there arose the concept and method that people must elect their representatives to take charge of legislature and governance. The parliament became the house of those representatives of people and the parliamentary system of governance gave effect to the bourgeois principle of people’s rule. To ensure that the government would give effect to people’s aspirations, demands and desires in totality, it would be fully accountable to the parliament, while the latter would be accountable to the people themselves. Sovereignty of the parliament would be contingent upon the sovereignty of the people. The exponents of bourgeois democracy maintained that there should be innumerable voluntary organizations of people beyond the parliament who would reflect people’s opinions, urges and aspirations and thus act as watchdog of parliamentary democracy. These voluntary organizations included inter alia the political parties who would contest elections as people’s representatives and were to raise people’s demands on problems of life and keep constant pressure upon the government, the parliament and its members through their extra-parliamentary movements involving people.
Whereas parliaments in the heydays of bourgeois democracy were set up and rested upon free and fair elections, in the present time of intense decadence of capitalism those elections are being constantly reduced to virtually a farce in all capitalist-imperialist countries, to a greater or lesser extent. Elections today are controlled by an all-powerful nexus of money-muscle-media-administrative-bureaucratic powers. It is the capitalist state which decides, which political party or which combination would be best suited for serving the class interest of the ruling monopolists at a given particular stage of political scenario, and then use the above mentioned powers and machinery to get the chosen nominees anointed to power. Pertinent to recall what great Lenin had observed way back in 1917: ‘‘To decide once every few years which members of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament—this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarianism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics.’’ (The State and Revolution).
Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, Founder General Secretary of the SUCI (C) and one of the outstanding Marxist thinkers in the post-Lenin-Stalin period, who had witnessed further degeneration of parliamentary democracy and manifestation of fascism as the common feature in all imperialist-capitalist countries observed that ‘‘Election is bourgeois politics. If the masses lack political consciousness, if the working class is not in the midst of struggle and does not have its own class organization, if there is no mass movement and if the people are not armed with the strength of a conscious organization, the big industrialists, businessmen and the reactionary forces create such a hype with the help of money and media power that the common masses get swayed by that just like the way a sheaf of thatch-grass gets swamped by onrush of water.’’ (quoted from an unpublished speech) He further elaborated that ‘‘So long as revolution is not accomplished, whether people want elections or not, like it or not, they get dragged into it, involved in it. Revolution means that people have realized that there is no need for elections, when they are all organized and boycotting elections in an organized manner, not negatively but have positively reached the stage of seizure of power and are saying: ‘‘No more election; capture power.’’ Only at that point does taking part in the election become infructuous, unnecessary. Or else the people do get time and again enmeshed in the election. And in order to stay with the masses, both revolutionaries as well as non-revolutionaries – all have to participate in the election… The main objective of the bourgeois parties is to grab maximum number of seats by any means and ride to power. Having captured power, to protect the existing system they undertake some reforms and raise slogans on false pretexts… when the party of the proletariat participates in the election with the object of revolutionary purposiveness, being compelled by the necessity to remain with the people, it does so on the basis of mass revolutionary political line. It also tries utmost to win seats. But the essence of its objective is never to anyhow grab maximum seats. The revolutionary party’s focal point is to educate the people as to how to fight the election on the basis of a mass revolutionary line and in doing so, if we can win maximum seats; all the better. If we cannot, not even a single seat, so be it. If we can retain ten seats, then be it so. But the central, the focal point can never be to anyhow grab some seats.’’ (On Preserving Unity and Establishing Revolutionary Leadership in Workers’ Movement)
Present context of capitalist India
Coming back to the present context of India, under capitalist rule, the Indian people never had the right to control their economic condition that have been in a shambles. It is vivid that rising exploitation, deprivation and poverty during 75 long years of post-independence period have sapped the spirit of 90-95 per cent of the people. With democracy gradually turning into fascist autocracy, economic concentration at the hands of the bourgeois state is on the rise with introduction of centralized taxation policy like GST, curbing autonomy of the monetary and fiscal regulatory authorities, dismantling of planning commission etc. Similarly, there is more and more concentration of political power as well. One after another hard-earned democratic rights of the people are snatched away. Draconian black acts are promulgated to muffle voice of protest and dissent. All governing bodies like Election Commission and investigating agencies are made subservient to the ruling party and government. Even attempts are on to put in place a committed judiciary and thereby elicit verdicts of choice. Alongside these stifling economic and political conditions, the people are also facing severe assaults in the socio-cultural sphere. The moral backbone of the people, particularly the youth is shattered by incessant feed of anti-life thoughts, inculcation of consumerist mindset, encouragement to addiction to liquor and drugs, deliberate proliferation of obscenity and sex-perversion. The very social fabric, the entire social structure is afflicted with these aberrations. All social and human sense of values are fast disappearing from the society. It is clear that side by side with the economic-political crises, a deep social-cultural-moral crisis has also engulfed the whole country. To further firm up this fascization of culture, religious backwardness and fanaticism, age-old creeds and customs, obscurantism, bigotry, fatalistic thoughts and narrow sectarian divisive mentalities are being promoted in full swing as against desired development of rational thought process and scientific bent of mind while highlighting only technological developments as progress of science. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh had said long back that fascism is ‘‘a peculiar fusion of spiritualism, obscurantism and irrational bent of mind with the technological aspects of science’’. (Socialist Unity Vol. 1, No. 9, 1 September 1951) Devoid of values, morals and finer sensibilities, people are being made slaves to instinct, individualistic, mean-minded, to succumb to greed, to be engaged in fratricidal feuds and internecine bloodbaths and performing anti-social activities without remorse. Thus the very social fabric is polluted with rotten thoughts and acts. As deception par excellence, the ruling monopolists claim that people have sovereign right to elect their representatives through elections. But as stated above, elections are no longer free and fair but totally manipulated by the ruling class through various direct and indirect means. Though people take part in the elections for the sake of it, they lack any interest, hope or enthusiasm in such participation. Rather they go to cast ballots with a feeling of despair and discontent and a deeply entrenched belief that the outcome of the polls would not change their lot anyway. Hence, they give in to temptation of some instant money and food or whatever freebies that are offered by the big bourgeois parties to buy vote. Further, if voting rate is low, it gives the vested interest scope for rigging the outcome.
Tragedy is that people are left with no effective political power to resist this. For combating this bourgeois conspiracy to reduce election into a farce, necessary political consciousness need to be imparted to the toiling masses by involving them in united well-organized powerful class and mass struggles under correct revolutionary leadership. When all sections of toiling masses are involved in a movement upholding their common cause and against their common enemy, the cultural milieu of that united movement removes divisive and sectarian mentalities injected in them incessantly by the ruling quarters.
To make that a reality, the initial step in the prevailing period is to develop a united powerful left alternative to right reactionary politics. This is imperative. So, we repeatedly called upon the parties like the CPI (M), CPI, who flaunt leftist credential, to come forward and launch that united struggling left alternative. And if in the course of conducting such united movements any election comes by, the left combination would fight that election as a part of the ongoing movement upholding the line of struggling leftism. But they did not respond. So long as the CPI (M), CPI did not taste power, they had participated in militant left-democratic movement, albeit with parliamentarian interest in mind. But once they were saddled in power, they, in no time, became a partner of the nasty bourgeois vote politics and power game, forsaking leftist line. Even when in power, they did not hesitate to crush people’s just movements like any other bourgeois party. So, it is left to us to build up those struggles with singular effort.
The pre-election scenario
In this backdrop, the pre-election scenario was quite murky. Earlier, the parties serving the interest of the capitalist class were entering into the election fray with crores of rupees of black money provided by the industrial houses. Previously, such funding was done secretly. But now such transactions take place both in the open as well as behind the screen. During the BJP rule, electoral bonds to secure political donations without disclosure of the donor’s identity have been introduced. Needless to say that the BJP has been the overwhelming beneficiary of such donations in thousands of crores of rupees. Similarly, the BJP which has been serving the class interest of the ruling exploitative monopolists in the best way was in an advantageous position with money-media-administrative-bureaucratic powers at their disposal. The Election Commission has virtually become a rubber stamp of the BJP endorsing each and every wish of the ruling party. The ruling monopolists have no other force now which can serve them better than the BJP. The Congress was nowhere in their consideration as it is now a divided house ridden with factional feuds. No other bourgeois or social democratic party has either a national presence or any leadership which can be projected as alternative to Modi whose charisma and image have been carefully built up over the years by the ruling class as it needs a ‘superman’ type of political personality to be highlighted as epitome of ‘national interest’. At the same time, the ruling monopolists, continuously haunted by fear complex of anti-capitalist revolution—an inevitability as per laws of social development—are frightened if they find that a genuine revolutionary leadership is slowly taking over the leadership of the erupting people’s movements. The historic peasant movement which raised anti-monopoly slogan and symbolized cemented unity of the peasant community rising above all divisiveness and differences made them much shaky. So, they left no stone unturned to ensure victory of the BJP, particularly in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the biggest province of India, that elects 78 of the 520 odd members of Parliament and is the heartland of the Hindi belt. Almost all mainstream newspapers, journals, radio and TV controlled by the ruling monopoly houses as well as state-owned Doordarshan virtually became mouthpieces of the BJP and created an impression as if the BJP had sealed the results before polling. In fact, a victory of BJP was shown to be a foregone conclusion with all the pre-poll surveys highlighting that. The BJP, in turn, sought to further consolidate its position by recklessly pandering to casteism and communalism and raising anti-Muslim hatred to a high pitch. Thus, besides clearing the victory path by riding on communal polarization and craftily handling the casteist equations, all people’s issues were relegated to the back. Earlier, the bourgeois parties did not hesitate to resort to any means, starting from limitless manipulations on the voters’ lists to largescale terrorization, intimidation, forcible capture of polling booths and mass stamping to win at the hustings. Such practices are still there. Over and above, administrative rigging in the form of media backing as detailed above is a new feature. Moreover, with sophisticated spyware like Pegasus in hand, it cannot be ruled out that the BJP might have manipulated the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) through remote control, or by whatever means and thus elevated administrative rigging to new height. Also, the opposition parties starting from the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Aam Admi party, TMC and others, who accuse the BJP of practising Hindu communalism, could not but peddle, what they call, ‘soft Hindutva’ by offering pujas in the temple in media glare, reciting Hanuman Chalisa and so forth. Though these parties call themselves secular, they in fact are all pseudo-secularists. Secularism means non-recognition of any supernatural entity when dealing with worldly matters . Thus, prescript of genuine secularism is that religion has no place in politics, governance by the state and social relationships. All these are to be independent of religion. Religion is to be a matter of personal belief. Anti-BJP stand per se does not mean championing of secularism. But these pseudo-secularists have equated secularism with encouragement to all religions. Naturally, for devout Hindus, the appeal of Hindutva of the RSS-BJP is much stronger than that of soft-Hindutva. So, by vending soft-Hindutva, the opposition has, in fact, helped the BJP to score a brownie point. Based on this background, let us have brief insight into poll outcomes of the five states.
As indicated above, when the electioneering began in that state, it was seen that the ruling BJP leaders including the BJP Prime Minister (PM) of the country conveniently skirted people’s problems and instead made arch Hindu communalism, anti-minority hatred, installation of Ram Mandir at the site of demolished Babri Masjid and fanning up pseudo-nationalism the main issues to seek vote. They claimed that under the BJP Chief Minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath, UP had made all round development, struck at the root of erstwhile mafiadom, abolished corruption, secured the life of all people including women and made the state an abode of peace and prosperity. But, if one attempts to compare this claim with facts, the disparity would be astonishing. In UP, unemployment has almost doubled. Only 32.9% population has a job and that too mostly of temporary contract-based engagement at low wage. The state BJP CM himself admitted in the state assembly that the number of unemployed educated youth has grown by over 12.5 lakh in the last two years to reach 34 lakh in 2020. The official government website shows that 38% of people are poor and 31% are illiterate. 62% of households reported that incomes have plummeted compared to what these were in the pre-lockdown period. Atrocities on women have risen by 66% since 2015. 11 rape cases were reported every day in UP. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, has marked UP as the most unsafe state for women. Incidents of brutal murder of gang-rape victims in Unnao and Hathras made headlines for being symbols of medieval bestiality. Uttar Pradesh continues to be the hub of harassment of religious minorities and so called dalits and accounts for around 50% of such cases in the country, as per National Human Rights Commission report. The insanity and killing spree of the cow vigilantes, anti-Romeo squads and self-styled crusaders against so called love jihad crossed all limits. Uttar Pradesh has also seen a spike in encounter killings by the police since the advent of the first Yogi Adityanath government in 2017. The maximum number of custodial deaths have been reported from UP. 72 jails in UP have the highest number of inmates at 1,01,297, which far exceeds the capacity of 60,340.
The tale of woes of UP people was further revealed during the pandemic. Acute shortage of hospital beds including ICU beds and oxygen cylinders were indicative of the total callousness of the BJP government. In a video tweeted by The Times of India which went viral in no time, a young man in a PPE suit was seen down on his knees on the road near an Agra hospital pleading with the UP police not to confiscate an oxygen cylinder that some men under their escort were seen carting towards a van. ‘‘My mother will die if you take away her oxygen cylinder,’’ he was saying in a choked voice. In Gorakhpur, the CM’s home district, a privately-run Hospital posted a notice stating, ‘‘It is to bring to the notice of all attendants of patients in the hospital that due to a shortage of oxygen in the hospital, we will not be able to give your patient the required medical treatment. We are informing you in advance so you can shift your patient to another hospital as soon as possible.’’ Another Hindi daily of UP published a report with the headline ‘‘476 Cremations, Pyres Burning Even After Sunset’’, when the official figure of death reported on that very day was only 9. Thereafter, people had seen hundreds of dead bodies floating in the Ganga river whom the BJP leaders pretend to worship as holy mother. Even the BJP Union Labour Minister had sent a letter to UP CM raising concerns about shortage of medical oxygen, alleging black-marketing of essential medical equipment such as ventilators, and pointing out the difficulties Covid patients were facing. BJP MP from Kanpur had also written to UP CM highlighting how people were dying outside their homes, outside hospitals and inside ambulances because of absence of timely treatment. And who can forget the plight and peril of the migrant workers because of sudden imposition of lockdown and shocking apathy of the BJP-government which was aware of the corona infection of Indians two months back but took no pre-emptive step in right earnest to contain its geometric progression in time. Hapless and helpless, the migrant labourers had to walk on foot hundreds of miles braving hunger and thirst, the sweltering summer heat and densely forested areas in a bid to get back home. Many of them died on the way either of fatigue or due to accident. A sizeable number of these migrant labourers were from UP. And the BJP government of the state even went to the extent of spraying disinfectant on these workers at the state borders before they were allowed to enter.
But this government-created, unprecedented humanitarian crisis—the toll of which was borne, among other vulnerable sections of the population, by these migrants labourers—as well as people’s grieving minds aghast at the ruthless oppression in every walk of life, seemed to have just vanished in the blue when it came to the question of voting. The BJP leaders, cunning to the core as they are, could realize that after the thrashing they received from the epoch-making peasant movement whose waves swept across the UP as well, it would have to concentrate wholly and solely on the Hindutva plank and take communal polarization to the peak. So, starting from the PM to CM, all focussed on a one point agenda—singing glory of Hindutva while spewing venom against the Muslim minorities by painting them as mafias, criminals and anti-nationals. The BJP CM openly declared that this electoral battle was between 80 and 20 i.e. 80% Hindu population and 20% Muslim population. Because of his ability to muzzle the voice of dissenters, including journalists, and in many places, to raze the houses of poor Muslims into rubble with brute force and administrative coercion under flimsy pretext, the saffron-clad, self-proclaimed saint CM was eulogized by the RSS-BJP circles as ‘bulldozer baba.’ Alongside intensifying communal polarization and subtly wooing the oppressed SCs, STs and OBCs to rally behind Hindutva camp for survival, the BJP had also distributed some doles and freebies to the increasingly pauperized masses and extended free ration by a few more months. They also promised helping the self-help groups of the women—something that has become trademark of duping overture of bourgeois electoral game plan. You turn the people into beggars and then throw away some crumbs, and that too with conditions attached, to feign how caring one is for the poor and downtrodden. And of course the money, media and administrative powers were fully harnessed by the ruling BJP to crudely manipulate the results in its favour. With the help of huge corporate finance, the BJP could ably set up its election machinery to pool votes, which included liberal distribution of cash to the voters. Although the Samajwadi party and its combination could not match the huge money power of the BJP, yet their money and muscle power also did not go unnoticed.
Despite all manipulations and rigging, the number of seats of the BJP has come down by 58. Many of its sitting MLAs including one Deputy Chief Minister and eleven other ministers have been defeated. In 131 seats, the difference of votes between winning BJP candidates and losing opposition nominees has been between 1% to 5%. Of the 19 seats in Western UP where the impact of the peasant movement was maximum, the BJP lost 13 . Percentage of votes it polled from the rural areas was visibly lower than the urban belts. Though the SP emerged as the biggest opposition with increased tally of seats, it too revolved on casteist-religious equations both in their choice of candidates as well as during campaign trail. Also the covert friends of the BJP like Assasuddin Awasi of MIM, a Muslim outfit, and Mayawati’s BSP, worked clandestinely to reach out benefits to the BJP by splitting anti-BJP votes. To score over the divided opposition, the BJP also shrewdly played the card of ‘stable government’ and drumbeat the delusory notion that things can move only with Modi at the helm (Modi hai to mumkin hai). Combined effect of all these factors went in favour of the BJP in UP though there was visibly an anti-BJP mood among the masses which could not be capitalized on by the opposition in absence of an acceptable alternative and credible political line.
Uttarakhand was carved out of UP as a separate province in 2000. So, its soil is more or less the same as that of UP. Election in Uttarakhand witnessed a three-pronged contest with the ruling BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party vying for power in the 70-seat assembly. The BJP won in 47 Assembly seats in Uttarakhand, while the Congress stumbled with 19. Here also, the sitting BJP CM lost the election and strength of the ruling BJP shrank by 10 seats. Like UP, people of Uttarakhand had also been amidst an all round crisis. But here also, the crystallizing anti-incumbency mind did not find expression in the result. Natural calamities have been wreaking havoc in the state for last two decades. Over 5,700 people are reported to have lost their lives while over 2,000 suffered injuries during natural disasters, mainly triggered by flash floods and landslides. In February 2021, flashflood in Chamoli district first broke through the Rishi Ganga Hydroelectric project and then, along with debris accumulated there, broke through the Tapovan Vishnugad project 5-6 kilometres downstream. Most of the 204 people were workers of the Dam building company. The disaster was attributed to both faulty development policies in the Himalayas which did not factor in the possible adverse consequence in so far as ecological balance was concerned. And as is common with climate-linked disasters, the most vulnerable sections of society suffered the most devastating consequences. Again in the month of October last, Uttarakhand had non-stop rainfall, which flooded the hilly roads, caused landslides, and river overflew, stranding people in various locations. As per an official statement released by the Uttarakhand administration, 79 deaths were reported. Scientists have been warning about climate change and proper construction of dam and roads taking into account the vulnerability aspects for a very long time. It cannot be accepted that the construction company authorities were not aware of it. But they took no preventive measure. Nor have the constructions, both industrial and domestic, been in keeping with the prescription of maintaining ecological balance. Obviously, residents of the state mainly the poor have been maintaining ecological balance. Obviously, residents of the state, mainly the poor, have been resentful against such callousness on the part of the government administration. But election results did not reflect that.
Moreover, the so-called ‘‘Debo-Bhumi’’ is now completely under the grip of communal polarization orchestrated by the RSS-BJP. In December 2021, a so-called Dharam Sansad (literally religious parliament) was organized by one Yati Narasimhanand, a Hindutva leader. Open calls for genocide and use of weapons against the Muslims were given from the conclave. One speaker said that after three days, the nectar that would be obtained from this conclave, would be a Dharmadesh (religious edict) and it would have to be accepted by all the governments in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other places. Another speaker threatened that if any hotel in Haridwar was found celebrating Christmas or Eid, it should be prepared to get its glasses broken.The inflammatory speeches warranted application of the charges of sedition, violation of Arms act, punishment for criminal intimidation and encroaching upon people’s freedom of religion and right to livelihood guaranteed under the Constitution, But no action was taken against them. In fact, this conclave set the tune of the forthcoming election. Here too, people had no credible force to rally behind and hence voted the BJP back to power based on the thinking similar to that of the UP people.
In the absence of left democratic movement, Goa, since its independence from Portuguese occupation, constitutes a fertile ground for the bourgeois reactionary forces and bourgeois power politics. Religious factors, separatist trends, casteist-ethnic feelings have been dominating the scene. Unity of all people has been the worst casualty. For a prolonged period, the Congress ruled the state. But for its misrule and failure to give rudimentary relief to the suffering people, it stood totally discredited. Again exploiting anti-Congress mentality, the BJP featured in the scene. Engineering large scale defection from the Congress with huge money power at command, the BJP captured power there. Some of the regional outfits shuttled between the BJP and the Congress in forming alliances with the sole intention of bagging one or two seats and in case of a hung mandate, keeping the scope for extracting a pound of flesh through bargaining with both the camps. This time, the TMC leadership rushed to the state as some of the Congress dissidents wanted to join it for deriving mileage in vote politics. The TMC also highlighted itself as one of the contenders for power. In this hotchpotch scenario where none of the forces could carve out a space in the people’s mind as dependable opposition to the BJP, the latter as usual with its money and administrative power and backing of the monopoly-controlled media retained power. Frustrated Congress leadership accused TMC and others for division of opposition vote.
Manipur has been a hotbed of separatist and secessionist forces for long and has been witness to the switching of sides by aspirant bourgeois leaders, both of the separatist-secessionist outfits as well as the Congress and BJP. In 2017 almost two dozen leaders of the Congress who joined the BJP were rewarded with ministerial posts. Obviously, lure for lucre and power worked behind the shifting allegiance. In the 2017 elections, the BJP had won 21 seats against 28 won by Congress, but the party had formed the government by uniting with National People’s Party (NPP), Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the regional outfits who openly announce their separatist-secessionist identities. With this, the BJP had formed a government for the first time in this north-eastern state. This time in the run-up to Manipur polls, Congress announced a pre-poll alliance with 5 parties of insignificant presence, namely the CPI, CPI (M), RSP, Janata Dal (S) and Forward Bloc. But, again it failed to spruce up its sagging image and the BJP won 32 seats in the 60-member assembly. It is pertinent to mention that while the BJP had earlier led an NDA alliance in Manipur, there was no pre-poll alliance this time due to its difference with NPP, NPF and JD(U) over continuation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) which gives special powers to armed forces to undertake any operation in the north-eastern states. It is surprising that despite strong sentiments among the people of the state against the controversial AFSPA, particularly after the killing of 13 civilians allegedly mistakenly in a botched up operation against terrorists in Nagaland, the NPP, NPF and JD(U) faced defeat while the ruling BJP has been returned to power.
Punjab is the only state where the BJP has been trounced. Before discussing the pre-poll political scenario in the state, it is necessary to say a few words about the specific nature of the state. There is no doubt that Punjab is very rich agriculturally. But, despite better irrigation facilities, because of enormous rise in the cost of agricultural inputs and rampant corruption in the agricultural produce procurement mechanism, the peasants are unable to get remunerative price and pay back loans. There is a growing resentment over it. Secondly, like other states of capitalist India, Punjab also is suffering from the problems of education, healthcare, electricity, water supply, drug addiction, atrocities against women and so forth. Venturing abroad by the young boys for eking out a decent living is a common household feature of Punjab. Also these boys are often found to come home, marry and take their brides with a temptation of better life. But on reaching the destination countries, these brides are dumped by them. In this way, lives of many young Punjab girls have been spoiled. Another issue which has been live for over 7 years in Punjab is that of sacrilege of Guru Grantha Saheb in connection with a series of desecration incidents since 2014 following which a series of protest movements erupted. In March 2016, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a regional Sikhism-oriented bourgeois party, passed a bill in the assembly seeking life imprisonment for sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib. In a state with a Sikh majority, this proved problematic on two accounts. The intent to curb desecration through increased punishment was viewed as a step towards orthodoxy and prioritizing sacrilege to Sikhism as graver than to other religions. Secondly, it was as majority bias of the ruling SAD as 40% of the state population belongs to other religions. This issue is not yet resolved. Finally, there was a decisive impact of the historic peasant movement on the state.
In such a backdrop, the BJP stood no chance in the polls. The people of Punjab, particularly those in the rural belts have been decisively opposed to the BJP because of the Black Farm Laws, Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021 and unwillingness to legally guarantee Minimum Support Price (MSP) of crops. The Congress too was thoroughly discredited because of its misrule, corruption and factional feuds which all came out in the open. On the other hand, SAD which once ruled the state and later became a constituent of the BJP-led NDA, also severed ties with the BJP in 2020 over the passage of the Black Farm Bills in Parliament. The hold of the SAD also considerably eroded over the years. In Punjab also, there has not been any leftist alternative despite the state having a glorious history of revolutionary politics during the freedom movement and has been the birthplace of legions like Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Rajguru, Ramprasad Bismil, Udham Singh and others. So, the Aam Admi Party (AAP), another bourgeois party which was formed encashing the credit of anti-corruption movement by Anna Hazare, a Gandhite leader, and created a chilly flutter by inflicting a crushing defeat on the BJP in the Delhi Assembly election in 2015, sneaked in to fill up the void with slogan of bringing about “inquilab’ (revolution), fighting corruption and claiming to be carrying the heritage of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar. Thus AAP cleverly upheld a pro-people image, though its activities as the ruling party in Delhi vouch for just the reverse.
It bears recall that in the 2014s an interview with Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP chief and CM of Delhi printed in The Tribune, a leading English daily, published from Chandigarh. In that, when he was asked to comment on his views about socialism, he said that there is business in his blood. And that is amply proved when one finds him to devotedly implement the brazenly anti-labour laws of the central BJP government and not averse to entry of the multi-nationals in the power, water supply and road transport sectors. Still, capitalizing on Punjab people’s disillusion about the traditional bourgeois parties, AAP bagged a historic win in Punjab by winning a three-fourths majority with 92 seats – the highest number of seats won by any party in the state in over four decades. Though AAP claimed legacy of Bhagat Singh, Arvind Kejriwal made no secret of his Hindu religion orientation. He also secretly kept touch with some of the constituents of the Sanjukt Kishan Morcha (SKM) which led the peasant movement to derive electoral mileage.
The result of these five assembly elections ought to be an eye opener for all. As we stated above, the poll results have been glaringly incongruent with the prevailing anti-BJP mood, except Punjab. The electorates would have to examine in depth the latest political situation of the country and the true character, status and motivation of the contending political parties like the BJP, the Congress and others. They have to decide whether they would continue to lead a sub-human life allowing a few super-rich to amass all wealth and enjoy a luxurious princely life ? These are the heartrending questions that are agitating the minds of the toiling people, again and again. As we have said, only a powerful, organized, sustained, conscious people’s movement can only stem the rot to some extent, whether in people’s life or in the arena of electioneering. In view of the CPI(M), CPI preferring to stay away from the line of struggling leftism, the mantle of developing that movement has fallen on us.
We are engaging all our might in building that movement based on higher proletarian culture and ethics. In the recently concluded assembly elections also, we fought in some seats based on our organizational strength upholding true leftism and received encouraging response. The time has come for the countrymen to imbibe the truth, participate in the legitimate democratic movements and do not let themselves be swayed by the gimmicks of bourgeois vote politics.
We would like to conclude recalling an important guideline given by Comrade Shibdas Ghosh: ‘‘Although outwardly there appear to be many opposing forces in politics, and the press projects so many contending forces, but viewing the situation from the context of ultimate struggle, I hold, only two contending forces are there in politics—one for revolution, the other opposing revolution—in whatever nomenclature might it be posed. One is the politics of countering revolution, whether by the Congress through its politics, whether by all the many juggleries of so-called leftism, or by proclaimed commitment to democratic socialism, or by raising various right reactionary slogans, and through politics of catchy stunts. And the other is the politics of organizing revolution.’’ (Mass movements in India and Tasks of the Youth)