PUCL Bulletin, July 2004

Elections - The wrath of people

-- By Rajindar Sachar

The BJP – NDA electoral defeat is a tribute to the inherent strength and pluralistic philosophy of people of India, and a final blow to the divisive agenda of BJP. But it would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that it is a signal for the revival of the glory of Congress party. The truth is that it was a combination of left and other secular parties which consolidated the various castes and special groups and which resulted in a wave of anti-BJP sentiment.

In this process of consolidation the yeomen contribution of Sarvodaees, Gandhians, and other NGOs, like People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) a body founded by Jayaprakash Narain who normally keep away from party politics but overcame their inhibitions and sensing the danger of communally divisive functioning of BJP gave up their long standing objection to taking part in party politics and worked hard and succeeded in creating a peoples movement with one slogan of ‘Defeat BJP’. This voice coming from the genuinely concerned people created an atmosphere to the benefit of Congress.

I do not agree with those who fault B.J.P. for advancing the elections. Having won state assembly election in Rajasthan/M.P. against all poll prediction it would have been politically unwise not to advance the polls - it really failed because it contemptuously ignored the negative factors and the ground reality.

One big reason for the defeat of BJP which is not being noticed is the arrogance of power which had enveloped its backroom younger and even some of older leadership and who were totally cut off from the people living in their slums and agricultural fields. The party deceived itself into thinking that when even known critics of BJP praised Prime Minister Vajpayee for his moderation (though always pointing out the contradictory positions he look in any moral crisis like Gujarat Carnage), its mandate from the people was assured. This was a fatal and unthinking conclusion. Praise for Prime Minister was a distinct sentiment unaccompanied by any corresponding sentiment in favour of the B.J.P.

BJP further compounded its folly by its alliance with Jayalalithaa who had acted so oppressively against government servant who had gone on strikes, thus alienating millions of government servants and their families.
Then there was the suicidal death wish slogan of ‘India shining’ and ‘feel good’. That any political party could feel good with admittedly 30% of population (which is equivalent to the total population of Indian Subcontinent of pre-August 1947) showed the disdain of BJP’s young leadership to the poor. That is why flaunting a few lakhs for new employment by IT, expansion while ignoring millions of unemployed on the street because of throwing open the market to foreign corporations could hardly endear BJP to the poor voter.

I am not saying that Congress had necessarily any sober approach to the poor. But the voter looks at the conduct of ruling party; the opposition can go on giving promises without being caught – Congress also had to pay the price of its neglect of the poor during its rule in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh Karnataka, and Punjab.

Another strong reason mentioned is the adverse impact of so-called economic reforms on the poor section of population. That undoubtedly is so. But it is amusing that many of the critics in the media are those very persons who castigated trade unions, NGOs, Narmada Bachao Andolan, and Anti W.T.O groups and called them as obstacles to the advancement of economic reforms which are in fact nothing else but the programme worked out by I.M.F and World bank, for the benefit of developed nations like USA. Those critics had grievously ignored the warnings given in the past. Thus H.R.D. 2000 commented acidly that to speak of globalisation with regard to increased integration of the world economy is misleading; there is a process of concentration of capital which only benefits three principal regions (North America, Europe and East Asia), whilst the rest of the globe (particularly Africa) becomes more and more marginalized. We can include India along with Africa.

As a matter of fact, the solutions being suggested are illusions. Even earlier UNDP’s Tenth Human Development Report of 1999, had warned that ‘Market dominated globalization has led to growing marginalisation of poor nations and people, growing human insecurity and growing inequality with benefits accruing almost solely to the richest people and countries and that the global gap between the haves and have-nots is widening.

It is amusing that left parties, which are so critical of reform-minded B.J.P. has readily accepted Congress’s commitment to the poor thus repudiating its own Election Manifesto, which had stated “the Congress party ruled the country for four decades and contributed to the present plight of the people”. But then modern politics is about power and not principles.

But action of BJP in the defeat shows a complete lack of maturity and a loss of balance. I am not objecting to its proposition that a natural born citizen alone should be the Prime Minister of this country, and for this it has the support of American constitution. But B.J.P. had made this a core issue in election but with no success. Surely once the results were out, democratic morality demanded a respite on this issue for the time being at least. But with its near ravings, it heralded such a sympathetic wave for Sonia that she sensibly utilized the occasion to paper over her own inadequacy for the Prime Minister’s job thus enhancing her public image of renunciation.

B.J.P. contempt for average decent citizen and hostility to the minorities was so manifest that it flaunted Narendra Modi as its election mascot notwithstanding the low level of his speeches and more importantly ignoring the trenchant indictment by the Supreme Court in the collusion of State machinery in Gujarat Carnage of cases like Best Bakery which showed itself so significantly in half of Gujarat seats being lost to B.J.P.

I do not think there is any danger to the continuance of Manmohan Singh government for full term. Sonia has to be complemented for the choice, which shows she has capacity to withstand Congress culture of sycophancy, and take a broader view. People had been so angered by B.J.P. rule that the present govt. even with the charge sheeted Laloo doing his antics and the present annoyance of DMK, which will not last long, and a disparate group of politicians.

The Prime Minister announcement of not disinvesting Oil sector has at one stroke earned him the loyalty of millions of social activists and public employees. Though the Law Minister has declared that the immediate steps will be taken to repeal POTA in fact there should be no delay because an Ordinance can straightaway be issued to repeal this legislation.

The Law Minister’s declaration that there will be no National Judicial Commission is unfortunate because there is near unanimity that the present system of appointments to higher judiciary has failed. People’s participation in the selection and more transparency can only be done through a National Judicial Commission and institution, which exists in most of the other commonwealth countries like Australia and Canada. I hope public pressure will make the Congress Government agree to this worthwhile suggestion.
Though Chidambaram’s appointment as Finance Minister will be welcomed by the corporate sector, the Congress should not forget that its real strength lies in the masses and that it will be judged by how it meets the onslaught of W.T.O on our agricultural sector and the development of our pharmaceutical sector which is facing a challenge of the patent laws framed by the developed nations.

Immediate stoppage of raising the height of Narmada Dam so as to prevent the flooding of villages and uprooting of thousands of families should be the immediate priority of the Government. Of course passing Women Reservation Bill should be the top most priority.


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