Political Parties in India
The Indian political parties are categorized into two main types: national level parties and state level parties. A political party shall be treated as a recognised political party in a State, if and only if either the conditions specified in Clause (A) are, or the condition specified in Clause (B) is, fulfilled by that party and not otherwise, that is to say-
(A) that such party –
- has been engaged in political activity for a continuous period of five years; and
- has, at the last general election in that State to the House of the People, or, as the case may be, to the Legislative Assembly of the State, returned-
either ( i ) at least one member to the House of the People for every twenty-five members of that House or any fraction of that number from that State;
or (ii) at least one member to the Legislative Assembly of that State for every thirty members of that Assembly or any fraction of that number;
(B) that the total number of valid votes polled by all the contesting candidates set up by such party at the last general election in the State to the House of the People, or as the case may be, to the Legislative Assembly of the State, is not less than six per cent of the total number of valid votes polled by all the contesting candidates at such general election in the State.
2. The conditions in Clause (A) or Clause (B) above shall not be deemed to have been fulfilled by a political party, if a member of the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State becomes a member of that political party after his election to that House or, as the case may be, that Assembly.
3. 'State’ includes the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
4. If a political party is treated as a recognised political party in four or more States, it shall be known as a `National Party’ throughout the whole of India, but only so long as that political party continues to fulfill thereafter the conditions for recognition in four or more States on the results of any subsequent general election either to the House of the People or to the Legislative Assembly of any State.
5. If a political party is treated as a recognised political party in less than four States, it should be known as a `State Party’ in the State or States in which it is so recognised, but only so long as that political party continues to fulfill thereafter the conditions for recognition on the results of any subsequent general election to the House of the People or, as the case may be, to the Legislative Assembly of the State, in the said State or States.
These are political parties which, participate in different elections all over India. For example, Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and some other parties.
A political party that participate, in different elections and receive certain amount of votes or seats in a state might be recognized as a state party by the Election Commission. Recognition as a state party gives the party the possibility to reserve a particular election symbol in the concerned state. After the issue of allocation of election symbol to BSP when it was recognised as a National Party (both the BSP and AGP were using Elephant as their election symbol, when BSP got the national recognition AGP objected to allocation of Elephant symbol to BSP which legally could use it in Assam; as a compromise BSP uses elephant all over India except in Assam), now Election commission does not allocate the symbol reserved for a state party to other parties recognised even in different state. A party might be recognized in more than one state. A party recognized in four states is automatically recognized as a national party. For example Shiv Sena participates only in Maharashtra, Telegu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, Akali Dal in Punjab, Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) in Tamil Nadu and there are other such state parties.
There are some small communist parties who participate only within one state. Some states have more than one state party. For example in Tamil Nadu another important state party is All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK). Because of these long party names many party names are abbreviated to their initials.
Some the political parties have their origin from before India's independence, for example, Indian National Congress, Forward Bloc, Akali Dal, National Conference and some other parties. Some of these parties were either social or political organization before India's independence and they became political parties after India's independence. But many of the present parties were established after India's independence. Members, who split from larger parties, established some of these parties. For example in the 1960s, Lok Dal was established by people who split from the Indian National Congress. Communist Party of India (Marxist) was established after the split in Communist Party of India and there are other such examples.
In Indian politics, there are political parties in which one person pulls all the strings. This feature existed even before India's independence, when Mahatma Gandhi was the father figure of the Indian National Congress until his death in 1948 even though he resigned from the Congress in 1933. Indira Gandhi for some period was in complete control of her party. Her party was also named, Congress (Indira). Shiv Sena is virtually owned by Bal Thakarey. Even when the Shiv Sena won the state elections in Maharashtra, Bal Thakarey handled the establishment of the state government but did not appoint himself as the Chief Minister .He appointed someone else to this post.
Some of these parties, like the Shiv Sena in which one person pulls all the strings, have their stronghold in the public not because of their leader but because of party ideology. While other parties are completely dependable on the respect the leader of the party has in the public.
Many of the large national parties have a pre-election agreement with smaller parties on joint candidates in some constituencies. This candidate belongs to one of the parties and the other party supports this candidate. This is done to prevent a possibility of parties, with common national agenda or common state agenda, nominate their own different candidates causing the splitting of the votes of their wing and so losing the constituency to the rival wing.
In Indian politics there are also many independent candidates. These candidates participate in election constituencies independently without the support of any party. In very few cases the larger parties also support independent candidates.
Another feature unique to Indian politics is the high number of film actors who join the Indian politics. The Indian cinema produces films in different languages. The largest and the most popular film industry is the Hindi language film industry. Many national parties recruit Hindi movie actors in their parties. While many state parties with state chauvinism attract local film industry actors in their parties. These actors do not only appear along side with the party politicians to attract the mob towards the politicians gatherings, but they even participate as candidates in elections. Some of the state parties in south India were established by former movie actors.
Evolution of Indian polity
From the 7th to the 11th century, lack of interaction between Indians and their Iranian cousins and others in Central Asia, conquered and dominated by Arab-led Islamic forces, made India inward looking and fossilized its caste-based polity. Indian polity lost its mobility, resilience and the capacity to synthesize and assimilate new ideas. It went on the defensive against the conquering Islamic religion and Muslim polity. It withdrew into its own shell and became frozen. And so it remained throughout the Muslim rule and British rule over Hindustan. The latter only perpetuated the static nature of Hindu polity, reducing Indian rulers as their aides, notwithstanding some social reform ripples. Indians never had a revolution, like the French, Americans, Russians or the Chinese. The Dharma (religion and duty), put one in one's place. A headman's son could aspire to be a headmen, an untouchable would remain an untouchable.
The process of peaceful massive social engineering through competitive party politics and reservations in favor of the disadvantaged since independence has unleased social, political and economic forces hitherto unseen in Indian history, in the process rearranging its polity. It shattered the Brahmin-imposed village autonomy based on a rigid hierarchy of priests, landowners, traders, artisans and untouchables, which had survived Muslim and British rule.
Soon, former bus conductors, petty smugglers, village pehelwans (wrestlers), and the progeny of peons could rise to the highest levels of government as chief ministers and cabinet ministers, as shown by the Lals of Haryana, the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh and others. Imagine the creative and other energies released into the system, with the profession of politics providing an ambitious and determined person, but poor, uneducated, socially and economically disadvantaged, the opportunity to work his or her way up the system.
Unfortunately, in this free-for-all environment, many criminal elements, after first helping the politicians in vote "gathering and controlling", like an Arab's camel, have moved into the tent (of power). And the system's inbuilt resilience for corrective action now appears to have been lost. After watching the slide into dishonesty, chicanery and total disregard for all civic norms, first the Election Commission and then the Supreme Court took some measures to strengthen these independent institutions, but without great success so far.
The "Hindu" perception of Dharma and the rule of law is often quite ambivalent. Hindus believe that by propitiating local deities and gods (now the local politician, now the police sub-inspector), one can escape punishment. It is hoped that recommendations for an independent Vigilance Commissioner, a Central Bureau of Investigation and an Enforcement Directorate will be fully implemented, and that the implementation of the rule of law will be further strengthened, with the proper checks and balances of a truly democratic system. The institutions of the judiciary and the media, so easily tempted by wily politicians, have to be above suspicion and exercise their duties without fear and favor.
Post-independence Brahmin dominance
Soon after independence in 1947, the lawyer-led Brahmin-dominated Congress party, with electoral support from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (dalits, former untouchables whom Mahatma Gandhi named Harijans - children of God) and post-partition defensive Muslims, ruled India, with the Brahmins monopolizing the levers of power.
Soon the number of Brahmins occupying senior government posts doubled. From the mid-1960s, at the ideological economic level, the new Congress elite was opposed by maharajas, big industrialists, traders, landlords and free marketeers through the Swantantra Party, and at the social level this elite was challenged by Jats, Yadavs, Ahirsa and Kurmis, that is, petty landlords and cultivators who had benefited the most from the post-independence abolition of zamindari (tax collection on land).
The challenge was first led by Chaudhary Charan Singh, a Jat, and then by various Lals of Haryana, Mirdhas of Rajasthan and the Yadavs of the cow belt. But this process left the dalits squeezed out. Prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, leading a minority coalition government, panicked in 1990 and resorted to the "Mandal card" (further reservations for other backward classes, OBCs) to outflank his deputy, the overbearing Devi Lal, leader of the Jats (not included in the OBC list). It was a devastating mistake.
The thoughtless reservation for OBCs has done incalculable harm to the Indian polity and the state. But it did initiate the loosening of the heterogeneous OBC grouping. Disenchanted with the "Yadavs only" policies of Laloo Yadav, the Kurmis in Bihar founded their own Samata Party. At the lowest rung of the ladder, the dalits, first organized by B R Ambedkar in the 1930s through the Republican Party of India, gathered under the umbrella of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Kansi Ram, and then under Mayawati (one name) in the north. But its leadership is neither astute nor temperate. The dalits are groaning from the weight of the creamy layer of Jatavs, Minas and others who have become the major beneficiary and the "new Brahmins". Non-Brahmins in Tamil Nadu, and land-owning elements in Telgu Desam, Kanara and the Maharathas had already asserted themselves against Brahmin domination. And the process of the heterogeneous and frozen polity being split into myriad pieces of castes and sub-castes still continues.
Is there still some hope? Only if the political class tries to reform the system, which at the moment seems most unlikely. It has itself become the problem. Many people say that MP (member of parliament) stands for maha pindari (big highway robber) or maha pakhandi (big fraud). Many politicians would certainly fit this description. Some say that elections only mean one set of the pindaris replacing another. During the state-supported pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 against Muslims, the ruling BJP would not admit to its crimes. Instead, it brought up the issue of how under Congress rule in 1984, after the assassination (by a Sikh) of then premier Indira Gandhi, many thousands of Sikhs were killed and burnt alive, mostly led by Congress goons who remain unpunished, to justify the murders and killings in Gujarat. And even the Supreme Court did not do its job, with Hindu criminals let off in collusion with a polarized bureaucracy and the police. As a result, many Muslims in India have started joining subversive organizations. The chickens will come home to roost.
It is amazing that Gujaratis have refused to learn from events in Sri Lanka, where similar government-led killings of Tamils led to the creation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and mayhem. Gujarat borders Pakistan and has a long coastline, traditionally used for smuggling contraband and arms. The Gujaratis have exposed their limited social, cultural and political acumen for short-term gains. They will pay a heavy price, but the politicians now back in power would already have made their millions - a Gujarati obsession. The true nature of Gujaratis has perhaps been hidden too long because of the persona of Mahatma Gandhi, a Gujarati.
The same attitude prevails when the BJP and its allies are caught with their hand in the till. They start accusing the Congress and other parties of corruption in the past, as if to justify their own corruption now. And it continues unabated. The people of India continue to suffer as they have over centuries. The political class and their supporting "industry" have become a burden on the poor masses. Indian democracy has been reduced to ritual festivals and ministry formations, both occasions for free-for-all money exhorting. With many jaded film stars now in the cabinet, the tamasha (play acting) is now complete. That is all that the electorate mostly gets. During the recent elections, film stars were lured by political parties to gather crowds.
And it should be noted that the recent state election results have nothing to do with the so-called rise of women's power. Both Uma Bharati and Vasundhara Raje were forced by the BJP to become chief ministers - in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively. During the election campaigns, TV channels were saturated with advertisements projecting Vasundhara as a sincere, attractive and even glamorous chief ministerial aspirant. Uma Bharati was bluntly told by law minister Arun Jaitley to not over-exert herself and be mindful of her appearance. She should not, it was stressed, look either tired or disheveled.
Regardless of whoever is in power, though, the wheel of unending suffering of the Indian masses will continue after the next elections, and the next. So apart from defeating the current "rascals" in power, what purpose is served? The political class has totally destroyed the instruments of governance. And no country or corporate organization can last without good bureaucracy or administration. The Ottoman Empire, based on the merit system for recruitment and promotion, lasted for 600 years. When distortions entered the system, the empire rapidly declined and collapsed. The Roman Empire also lasted long because it, too, was initially based on merit. It was possible for a citizen from anywhere to become an emperor. So the attempt by some journalists to compare the US with the Roman Empire is incorrect.
In the Indian system, under the spreading
pernicious system of reservations, a variation of the Brahaminical caste system,
the Indian political class has institutionalized mediocrity and decay. The
loyalty of the bureaucracy and other levers of power is to individuals,
families, caste dynasties, and not to the state. In this situation, families and
One minister once even commented that the civilian head of a government department was only a servant of the political minister, who could ask the latter to prepare tea. Sadly, this is what really happens. The political class is delighted at the humiliation of the bureaucracy (but which only weakens the state) which it envies and hates. Now most bureaucrats become handmaidens of politicians and become minor pindaris themselves.
Apart from the judiciary, the media should keep a watch on political parties and the bureaucracy. There may be a free-for-all among the Indian media, but they have largely lost their mission and professional integrity. Many of them are compromised by study grants and well-paid visits to the West for seminars and short courses. Many media barons have an unholy relationship with politicians, not for principles, but for pelf and power. They feed on each other.
It is a matter of national shame that successive prime ministers have refused to pass a bill to appoint an ombudsman, who would be empowered to look into corruption and other charges against ministers and members of parliament and other politicians. Quite clearly, politicians are not interested in eradicating corruption among them. Many corruption trials have been going on for decades, with the courts functioning at a snail's pace as politicians are involved. And these scams are invariably used before elections to throw mud at an opponent.
Any "feel good" atmosphere that there might be in the country is mostly among the ruling political classes, its support industry and allied industrial and trading classes. The poor are still left to the whims and mercy of corrupt politicians and policemen.
The body of the fish rots only when its head gets infected. Unless cabinet ministers, members of parliament and other politicians are brought under the ambit of the law and the guilty punished, their ill-gotten wealth confiscated, there is little hope of India taking its place in the comity of fully-developed nations.
The elite talk of looking at half a glass of water and seeing it as half full, not half empty. Many people do not have a glass; some have never even seen one. Those who celebrated the recent state elections in a five-star hotel should ponder the fact that before the arrival of the British East India Company in the late 18th century, the sub-continent's share in world manufacturing was 24.5 percent in 1750 ( 32.8 percent for China ). But by the time the British had finished with India, the sub-continent's share had fallen to 1.7 percent (in 1900) and that of the British increased from 1.9 percent (in 1750) to 22.9 percent (in 1880) - Rise and fall of Big Powers by Professor Paul Kennedy.
The installation of a Vajpayee-led government and winning the first-ever vote of confidence (274 against 261) in March 1998 brought euphoria. It represented a millennium mark in the evolution of India's fast-churning polity since independence towards its more natural destiny. After Muslim Turks and others from Central Asia had established sultanates in and around Delhi in the early part of the second millennium, for the first time a Hindu government, tolerant and eclectic but espousing the aspirations of the over-whelming majority of the Hindu community, became rulers of Hindustan.
Apart from the BJP (179), the other coalition
partners were former fiery socialist and anti-foreign merchandise. George
Fernandes of the Samata Dal (12) , itself a splinter from Other Backward Castes
(OBC)-dominated secular Janata Dal party; Ram Krishan Hegde's Lok Shakti (3);
and Navin Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (9) ; Mamata Banerjee (7), who left the
Congress more for personal than ideological reasons; Surjit Singh Barnala ,
whose party Shiromani Akali Dal's (8) loyalty to the country was once
questioned, and Brahmin autocrat Jayalalitha of the All India Anna Dravid
Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK-18), an offshoot of the Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK),
originally established to counter Brahmin and North Indian domination over the
south. The DMK had even threatened to leave the Indian Union in the mid-1960s
when Hindi was sought to be imposed on south India.
These heterogeneous groups joined the government for power, but they diluted and kept in check the aggressive Hindutva (Hindu dominance) philosophy as espoused by BJP's fanatic and militant factions, the Rashtryia Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishal Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal. They also strengthened the BJP's tolerant mainstream wing, led by Vajpayee, which was quite happy to keep out of contentious issues such as a uniform civil code and the building of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya on the site of a razed mosque. The BJP's alliances and consensual approach highlighted that a coalition sensitive to the diversity of religions and regions, races and languages, castes and cultures, was preferable to an umbrella party like Congress.
But like the Congress party governments, the BJP government also included dynastic progenies, and pragmatic and opportunistic newcomers, while its pre-confidence vote maneuverings proved that the BJP had acquired all the ills and skills of the Congress in political horse-trading. Despite this, the installation of a BJP-led government was a major milestone in the unfolding evolution of Indian polity.
The big question was whether the Hindutva forces would mellow or create total disruption in the generally tolerant Hindu community ethos. The fragility and the future of the BJP-led government today, in spite of its uneven and divisive rule for nearly six years, resides in the persona of Vajpayee himself, as no one else in the party has his stature, credibility and acceptability at the "all India" level.
There was unease and fear among Muslims and even Christians whether the BJP-led government would steamroll their sense of security and interests. After all, the BJP had built up its strength with rathyatras (mobile "chariot" journeys ), including one by now Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani from Somnath to Ayodhya, invoking memories of the desecration, demolition and looting of a Hindu temple at Somnath by Muslim invader Mohammed Gaznavi. Advani's ride ended with the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, allegedly built on the site of a temple built for Hindu god Rama.
The rathyatras and the show of aggressive
Hindu fanatic force to demolish the mosque were to assert Hindu majoritarian
supremacy in the new political arithmetic after independence.
The demolition on December 6, 1992, was followed by serious communal riots all over India, Bombay, now known as Mumbai, being the most affected. Mostly Muslims, who had protested against the demolition, were victims. So they retaliated with revenge bombings in Mumbai, with support from Pakistan, causing the death of hundreds of people and a terrible loss of property. The ruling pro-Hindutva party government in Mumbai, which had won elections by polarizing the masses, later ignored the findings of a High Court judge, who held police officials and others responsible for the killings and arson against Muslims.
The islands of information technology and call
center prosperity in India are like the factories established by foreign
companies from the 16th to the 18th centuries. India cannot even assure
uninterrupted power supply to the citizens of its capital city Delhi.
Unless India transforms it polity, it will resemble the 11th century at the time of the invasions from the northwest, or during the last centuries of Moghul rule, when every job was for sale and groups of Marathas, Jats, Rohillas, Sikhs and invaders roamed around the country looting and inflicting misery on the suffering masses of Hindustan.
The head of the fish is in danger of becoming seriously infected, after which the body will rot.
Disinvestment – a legacy of the Congress
Disinvestment will create large-scale unemployment, Sonia Gandhi told her party men in 2002 in Delhi. In fact, she added, the entire capital of our country is being concentrated in a few hands, and this select group was trying to control the entire system.
Does Sonia Gandhi know what she is saying? She is accusing the government of selling the country’s national industries to big businessmen and that these people will end up controlling the economy as well as the polity of the country.
She seems to have forgotten that the disinvestment process was started by her own party, in fact, her blue-eyed boy, Manmohan Singh, who is known as the father of economic reforms'. He has never renounced his reform policies and would no doubt follow them if and when he or his party comes back to party, though it is doubtful whether it will be in our lifetime.
How can the Congress party say one thing in power and quite another out of it? Does the Congress party have any firm economic philosophy at all? Or does it believe in hunting with the hound and running with the hare, both at the same time?
The fact that other parties are also doing the same thing is no argument. BJP is in power not because of its economic policies but because of Hindutva. This has been proved again and again, most recently in Gujarat. Narendra Modi rarely spoke about economic policies. His main bait for the voters was that Hindutva was in mortal danger and only he could save it. When men fear for their lives they do not much care about economic policies.
Sonia Gandhi's Congress seems to be in total panic, and does not know which way to turn. Its clothes have been stolen by the BJP, which has appropriated its economic policies. The Congress cannot attack these policies as they are its own. It can, of course, attack BJP's Hindutva philosophy, but that will not pay any dividends, as the middle class is sold on it.
Actually, the Congress is not so much a party as a railway platform. Railway platforms are full of people who are alighting from, or catching trains. Scores of trains come and go, and so do people. When there are no trains, the platform is empty. This is what has happened to the Congress - its political platform is empty.
Almost everybody at one time used to belong to the Congress. Even Atal Behari Vajpayee was a Congressman and probably still is, at heart. All socialists, from Ram Manohar Lohia to Ashok Mehta, were Congressmen. Even Communists like Namboodripad were Congressmen. But at the end of the day, they caught their trains and were gone from the Congress platform. The Congress has split so many times, but it has always come around. But you need strong leaders to do so. When Subhash Chandra Bose left the Congress and went his own way, the party would have split, but for Mahatma Gandhi's leadership. He and Patel and Nehru kept going. When the party split again in 1969, it was Indira Gandhi who saved it. Nehru and Indira were strong leaders and the party preferred to go along with them.
But now, things are different. The Congress is without a leader and, what is worse, without a distinct philosophy. What does the party stand for? Does it stand for socialism? No, it doesn't. There is no connection whatsoever between Manmohan Singh's economic policies and Socialism. You cannot de-nationalise government units and say that you are a Socialist. The BJP can do it, because it has never had anything to do with Socialism, though at one time, when Vajpayee was its president, it did flirt with Gandhian Socialism. But the flirtation did not last long. And one must remember that Vajpayee had spent some time in the Congress, and it was natural for him to turn to Socialism and Gandhi when in trouble.
Sonia Gandhi is a foreigner and may not be conversant with Indian history, even as recent as six years ago. The party's downfall began with liberalisation and economic reforms. Manmohan Singh was hailed in the west as a saviour, for he did what the west wanted him to do - open up India's markets to them. He thus became a hero in the west, even as his own party began to crumble at home. The party has lost half its strength in the Lok Sabha since 1996. A party that once had as many as 440 seats in the lower house, now has a quarter of that number.
The Congress has lost credibility as a party of the common man because of its economic policies. The reforms have helped the rising middle class, particularly the upper middle class, not the common man. The policies created large-scale unemployment and the death of industries. Small industries have been devastated and millions of people have been thrown on the streets. The rich have become so rich that some newspapers now devote a whole page -page 3 - to their doings. The creation of a new and arrogant super-rich class is a direct end-result of Manmohan Singh's policies.
It is not just disinvestment but the whole approach underlying the new market driven policies that has alienated the common man. For the first time, there is abundant supply of everything but no incomes to match supply. Basic things like drinking water and cheap grains are in short supply. India should export water, but very soon we shall be forced to import it. In fact, we are already importing it. In five-star hotels, the kind that are frequented by businessmen and their mistresses masquerading as models and starlets, you are now offered Evian mineral water that is imported from France. Can you imagine a country like India, with her swollen rivers, importing water from France? We used to read that Motilal Nehru used to get his laundry done in France. Why, we do not know; maybe because he had too much money to burn. Maybe because the Sangam waters in Allahabad were not good enough for the Nehru family. But now we are importing water from the same France - not laundry but water - for consumption by the moneyed class, the same class that now goes for imported wines and imported cigarettes, not to speak of imported women.
Sonia Gandhi has singled out disinvestment as a factor against employment. But all imports create unemployment. So does globalization. All big companies have laid off workers by the thousands. Tata Steel now has only half the number of workers it had five or six years ago. So does almost every other big company. This has made these companies efficient, but it has driven thousands, probably lakhs of people, on the streets. You may say that this is what globalization is all about, but why should only the poor pay the price of globalization? India is not unique in this. Almost all countries are suffering from the same plague. India is slowly going the way of Latin America - first economic collapse, then anarchy, then revolutions. What then? Dictatorship?
It is the Congress that is responsible for this, for it is the Congress party, under Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, which signed up as a paid-up member of globalization. The media went ga-ga over it, because it benefited most from it. Their salaries went up ten-fold. So did the salaries of men and women in the financial sector. We became so selfish and greedy that we could not see beyond our nose and were mesmerized by the new phenomenon of liberalization and globalization.
The net result was that the common voter refused to vote for the Congress. Why should he? He was made to pay the costs of liberalization while the benefits went to the top, as they always do. The common man took his revenge and went after the Congress with a hatchet. Even Manmohan Singh was defeated roundly in south Delhi, a predominantly middle class locality which threw him out.
There is nothing wrong with globalization or liberalization. They are facts of life. But we did not manage them properly. We should have seen to it that the benefits went to all classes, not just to the rich and the powerful. This called for management quality of a high order, precisely what we lack.
It is ridiculous for Sonia Gandhi and others of her ilk to go around criticizing disinvestment, as if they had heard of it for the first time. What matters is what they propose to do about it. If they are honest about it, Singh & Co should confess that they were wrong and they have no intention of proceeding with it, if and when they return to power. Of course, they will do nothing of the kind. They have invested too much political capital in liberalisation and are also too much dependent on the west to go back on it. It is not disinvestment that is causing all the trouble. It is the very idea of globalization, which Manmohan Singh & Co have embraced so enthusiastically and without realising its social consequences.
It is all right for the BJP because economic policies are not an important item on its agenda. Nobody votes for the BJP for its economic policies. The BJP's main agenda is political agenda of Hindutva and this is going to yield massive dividends for a long time to come, until the voters tire of it. There can be too much of a good thing and voters will eventually tire of Hindutva just as they tired of Socialism. There are fashions in politics as in haute couture but as long as Hindutva is in fashion, there is little that Sonia Gandhi & Co can do about it.
Hindutva gives the BJP a firm identity, and identities are very crucial in politics. BJP will always be known as a Hindu nationalist party, and since this is a Hindu country, this identity is important. The Congress used to be the sole nationalist party in India, more nationalist than even BJP. But it has forfeited this identity following wrong policies. Befriending multinationals is not exactly a nationalistic occupation. Multinationals are the biggest enemies of nationalism. When Manmohan Singh & Co tried to curry favor with multinationals, they killed their own party.
Let the Congress denounce multinationals. The Congress can still do it and walk over to the side of nationalists. It was after all the Congress which, under another Gandhi, used to have Swadeshi as its slogan. Times have changed and Swadeshi cannot be what it used to be. But it is still a powerful slogan, provided it can be defined in modern terms. If the Congress can do it, it will find a new identity for itself. If it cannot do so, it will continue to be just another small party, with a long and historic past, but without a future.
BJP has already launched its campaign
The Bharatiya Janata Party, at its national executive committee meeting, virtually launched its election campaign for the forthcoming elections in four states and the general elections. True to its character, full of sound and fury, the campaign appears all bluster with little substance.
Painting a glowing picture of the Vajpayee government's "achievements", the meeting celebrated Vajpayee's survival in office for the last five years! It, of course, chose not to mention the fact that he had lost the vote of confidence once and occupied the post in a caretaker capacity for an unprecedently long time, thanks to the Kargil conflict!
On every other substantive issue facing the country, the so-called "achievements", not surprisingly spoke very little. There was no reference to the dismal economic situation of the country and the consequent mounting sufferings of the people. Almost admitting this reality, the prime minister warned the party that speeches and manifestoes are not the ideal recipe for electoral successes. What counted in the end was the people's perception of government performance.
Recognising that on this count the disenchantment amongst the people is near complete, the BJP national executive endorsed the hardcore communal agenda as its only plank to sustain its electoral support. In other words, the BJP has committedly declared that it shall engage itself in vote bank politics (a charge it levels against all other parties) by polarizing the society on communal lines.
This will only strengthen the process of raking up issues which have the potential for communal polarisation -- Ayodhya, cow protection, abolition of Article 370, uniform civil code and every other conceivable issue like the Bhojshala in Madhya Pradesh.
Such a disastrous recipe is to be accompanied by a communal ideological offensive. The glorification of Savarkar and Hegdewar is a case in point. The over-energetic Information and Broadcasting minister declared that the government's publications division will now bring out a series of publication glorifying these "heroes"! The whole country is aware of the fact that the RSS and all its frontal organisations not only did not take part in the freedom struggle, but objectively helped the British prolong its rule. Savarkar's immense disservice to the country has been repeatedly exposed in these columns. The effort is to create new icons that will buttress the communal agenda which seeks eventually the fascistic transformation of the modern Indian republic. This is a process that seeks to transform the secular democratic character of the Indian republic into a fascistic "Hindu Rashtra".
Naturally, for such an agenda to unfold, the BJP may well jettison its allies in the NDA. Already the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the BJP president and other senior leaders have declared, in no uncertain terms, that they would rather go it alone without the encumbrances of allies. Such is the pathetic state of the allies that they can neither do not exercise any restraint on the BJP nor can they adhere to any principle. That is, if they have anything left except clinging on to power to share the spoils of office! The NDA, during these five years, has been truly reduced to be the national disaster alliance.
The launch of this new offensive against the country and the people is being couched under the slogan "shaktisali Bharat, shaktisali bhajpa" (powerful India, powerful BJP). Clearly, given its track record in office and the agenda that it now seeks to unfold, the more powerful, the BJP becomes the weaker is the Indian republic. A powerful India that celebrates its diversity and cherishes its plurality can strengthen itself only by weakening the ideology and the practice of the BJP. For the sake of India, i.e., Bharat, for the sake of transforming it into a powerful country, it is, therefore, of utmost necessity to defeat the RSS/BJP politics both ideologically and electorally.
"Being in the opposition is the best game in town," wrote a British statesman in the early nineteenth century. From now on, the opposition parties in India's Parliament and all those opposed to the anti-secular, anti-democratic, chauvinistic and anti-people policies of the government led by the Hindu Right will have tremendous opportunities to gain the upper hand and dictate terms in the polity.
Among the dominant themes in contemporary India has been the BJP’s phenomenal rise. The subject is held together by a set of assumptions about the party’s ‘nationalist’ ideology, its skills in cobbling a coalition in New Delhi, and its voicing the interests of large sections of our people. In recent months, analysts have knocked down these convenient assumptions. The BJP cloak, untidied by its own supporters, is all but shredded into pieces.
Ideology, says a historian of Indian nationalism, provides a good tool for fine carving, but it does not make big buildings. Despite its loud protestations, the BJP is no longer a credible party grounded in common aims. As its policies have been laid bare, what was once mistakenly projected as a ‘principled’ party appears as nothing of the sort. Promising a clean and efficient government, the spurious unities that had emerged almost two years ago, have collapsed. Today, more than ever before, there is a palpable gap between what the BJP politicians claimed to represent and what they really stand for. Hence the drubbing in Assembly and Parliamentary elections, and the belated endeavours to refurbish the party’s image.
Criminalisation and corruption of politics
The growing criminalisation and corruption of politics in India, the desire of the masses of people to put an end to it and the inability of the bourgeoisie to provide any solution, reflect the acuteness of the crisis of Indian parliamentary democracy. It is a factor that is contributing to the further deepening of the crisis of political theory and practice in India.
The domination of the polity by criminal and corrupt parties and individuals has become an accepted fact in the fiftieth year of the Indian Republic. The response of the ruling circles is to lament about it, on the one hand, and to use the occasion to settle scores with their rivals, on the other hand. As a result of the acute rivalry, leading political figures of the major parties in the Parliament are getting exposed for corrupt and criminal deeds, one after another. However, the quality of the system remains the same. The economy continues to be a system of plundering the land and labour of the people by Indian and international monopolies, while political power continues to reside in the hands of an exclusive caste of politicians and "recognised" political parties, to the exclusion of the vast majority.
"It is upto the major parties not to field criminals as candidates", says the Election Commission. In other words, it is being revealed for all to see that under the existing political system, while the people have the right to vote they have no means to effect any control over the selection or conduct of their elected representatives; they have to place their hopes in the very parties that are criminalising the polity in the first place!
At the end of a 65-hour marathon debate in the Parliament at the end of August, an agenda was adopted unanimously by all the parliamentary parties. This "Agenda for India" is supposed to reflect the commitment of these parties to de-criminalise politics ansd ensure probity in public life. However, it is being openly admitted even in the bourgeois media that this agenda has nothing of substance to offer to the people.
The broad masses of people who were left out of this "historic debate" are supposed to believe that even though the polity will remain dominated by the same parties as before, serving the same vested interests in society, they will henceforth not field criminals as candidates. After fifty years of betrayal of promises by these parties, the people are being asked to place their faith in yet another promise, that these parties will henceforth eschew criminal and corrupt activities.
While the Prime Minister and other esteemed Members of Parliament called for a "war against criminalisation and corruption", not one of them specified exactly what was the source of the problem and against whom should this "war" be directed. The Prime Minister announced during the parliamentary debate that he was with the Election Commission on the issue of tackling criminalisation of politics. In other words, he believes that action should be confined to the legal sphere of banning criminals from the electoral arena, creating the impression that there is nothing wrong with the political system; only some individuals are misusing the system.
The "Agenda for India", to which all the parliamentary parties are signatories, has not been set by the people of India. It has been set by the Members of Parliament, acting as trustees of the people. But who gave these MPs the power to set the agenda in the name of the people? Did the people give this power to them in the first place?
It is often said that the people deserve the leaders they have because it is the people who elected them in the first place. At the same time, it cannot be denied that the people had no say in selecting I.K.Gujral to be the Prime Minister. Nor did they have any say in selecting Deve Gowda or any of the others who have been Prime Minister over the past fifty years. In fact, it can be said that none of the Members of Parliament who act in the name of the whole people have been selected by the people. They were selected by the leadership or "high command" of the "recognised" political parties, as effective vote gatherers. What this reveals is that the people of India do not in fact enjoy the "right to elect and be elected", which is accepted as the hall mark of modern democratic systems. They only have the right to caste their vote for one of the candidates in whose selection they had no say.
One of the key problems of political theory that demands a solution at the present time is that the Indian State claims that it is democratic because it is a trustee of the Indian people, while the people have no trust in this trustee who was not appointed by them in the first place. The Members of Parliament did not address this crucial problem of political theory. They pretended that a practical solution could be found to the problem of criminalisation without addressing the fundamental problem of theory. This was only to be expected because they are part of the problem; hence it would be foolish to expect them to address the root of the problem, let alone give rise to any solution.
Once this much is recognised, it becomes clear that it is the broad masses of people who have to give rise to the solution. It is the workers, peasants, women and youth of all nationalities and regions of India who have to set the agenda for putting an end to the criminalisation and corruption of politics. Any political party that is truly committed to solve this problem will have to organise and enable the people to set the agenda and carry it out, rather than merging with the privileged caste of trustees who rule in the name of the people.
As long as the people have no say in the selection of candidates for election, they do not have the right to elect and be elected. Hence the people's agenda will need to assert the right of the electors to select the candidates. The question of selection can no longer be left in the hands of a privileged elite who claim to be the trustees of the people. This also implies that political parties need to be subordinated to the will of the people, instead of the people being subordinated to the will of the political parties and their respective high commands.
The increasing exposure of the criminal and arbitrary nature of political power and the alienation of the people from this power is making it extremely difficult for the bourgeoisie to rule in the old way. It is forced to address the demand for the renewal of democracy and the cleansing of the polity. However, the bourgeoisie is afraid of making a clean break with the past and starting afresh. It is afraid of qualitative change. It refuses to address the problems posed by Indian political theory at this time. It is hoping to tide over the crisis with some minor adjustments, some legal reforms in the electoral process, while the fundamental nature of the system is preserved. Such an approach will only prolong and intensify the crisis further, as the criminalisation of politics will continue to grow rapidly.
The criminalisation of politics is a reflection of, and a factor that aggravates the crisis of the political system, which in turn is rooted in the economic crisis of Indian capitalism. Only a qualitative change that transforms the system from its very roots can resolve this crisis in favour of the people.
In the realm of political theory, enlightened Indian minds need to reject the notion of the State as a trustee and thereby negate the need for the European political institutions that have been implanted on Indian society. They have to develop modern Indian political theory and institutions that would enable the Indian people to govern themselves and to get rid of capitalism and all forms of exploitation and oppression of persons by persons.
In the sphere of practical politics, the broad masses of people need to assert their right to control the selection of candidates, demanding that this cannot be left in the hands of political parties. United political action on this question would be an important step in the direction of empowering the people so as to achieve the qualitative transformation of society.
Political Parties of India
Existence of political parties is regarded as an essential requirement of Democracy. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that one cannot exist without the other. It is clear that we have had experience of not only the working of political parties but also of their effective functioning within the legislatures and outside. The existence of political parties and their free functioning is a barometer of the presence or absence of democracy in a country. In short, political parties are essential for democracy. The presence of political parties indicates a mark of political modernization. If we examine the party system in India we notice a strong and well-built party system suited to her conditions.
The party system being a part of a larger system is related to social, economic, cultural, regional and legal life. It is essentially a sub-system of the political framework and provides the motive force for the political machine.
CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF PARTIES
1. All the parties at present can trace their earlier origins to the Indian National Congress.
2. India has Multiple Party system with the dominance of a single political party.
3. The parties are characterized by fragmentation, splits, polarisation, mergers and defections etc.
4. There are no clear-cut ideological differences in the politics and programmes of parties. All parties subscribe to democracy, socialism, secularism and non-alignment.
5. Parties center round personalities rather than ideologies.
The Congress Party
The Congress party is called a party of consensus since it represents diverse interests and accommodates various interests in its fold. The decisions the party arrived at are such that they accommodate different views and are acceptable to a great majority of its members. Yet at the same time the party within it has interests that are antagonistic to each other. These factions are the parts of the party and are within the party. Though its members are never permanent, still the party feels the pressure of these factions. It does not allow these factions to strain an issue or issues to split the party. All the political parties in the country have expressed their faith and belief in the democratic principle of coming to power only through elections. Such an acceptance of competitive electoral process to seek power not only increases our faith in their democratic character but also strengthens and promotes the democratic structure of society.
The Congress party was formed on December 28, 1885 and it celebrated its centenary in 1985. The party, before it became a major political force, passed through four important periods: the age of petition and appeal, the age of constitutional liberalism, the age of uncompromising extremism and the age of non-cooperation before it reached the age of political power. In a way it would be correct to say that the history of the Congress party is the history of the freedom struggle as the Congress was more a national movement than just a political party.
The basic unit at the grassroots level is not clearly stated in the party constitution. The committee below the District Congress committee is variously called Block or Constituency or Subordinate Congress or Taluka Congress Committee to be decided by the Pradesh Congress Committee. The basic unit at the grassroots level has remained the old Mandal Congress Committee. Immediately above these is the District congress Committee (DCC). Four of its members are indirectly elected, a few co-opted and the rest are the Congress leaders of the district.
The Pradesh Congress Committee is constituted in a similar manner. Each Pradesh Congress Committee is entitled to send one-eighth of its membership to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) by indirect election. The highest and the most powerful body of the Congreess is the Working Committee consisting of the President of the Congress and Twenty members of whom ten are elected by the AICC and the rest nominated by the President.
The Working Committee is represented by top leaders of the Congress party. It is responsible to the AICC.It has the power to form a new Pradesh Committee or abolish an existing one. It receives the annual reports from the Pradesh Congress Committees.It may even suspend PCC for violation of the party Constitution or for disobeying the directives. It cantrols the party finances.It sets up sub-committees and a few members constitute the Parliamentary Board. The Central Election Committee is composed of a few members of the CWC and seven mebmers elected by the AICC.
The Congress goals are greatly influenced by Gandhian principles and formal adoption of Democracy and Socialism.The party does not have a scientific and clear ideology because of its willingness to compromise and accommodate various interests.
The Communist Party Of India
The Communist party of India is a part of the World Communist Movement .The party existed in the country even during pre-independece days. Though the party has been recognised as a national party its influence is limited to the States of West Bengal, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. In the World Communist Movement there was ideological schism going on between the Soviet Union and China.This led to a split in the party in1964. The Communist Party of India is ideologically close to the Soviet Union, while the CPI(M) is a follower of the China camp.
The party organisation is based on its constitution framed in 1958 at the Amritsar Conference.The Constitution was changed to throw away the militant revolutionary ideology and accept Parliamentary Democracy as the method to achieve the party goals. The party structure, in theory is based on democratic centralism wchich rests on two principles (1)Central leadership based on intra-party democracy, and (2) intra-party democracy based on centralised leadership.Intre-party democracy means freedom to debate within the party to check its action.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist)
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) was formed as a result of split in the Communist Party of India in the year 1964. The split was the result of the increasing schism in the Soviet Union-China relations as well as because of the conflicting evaluations by the communists of the economic and political situations within the country. Further, one group favored support to Nehru's government whereas the other demanded tough opposition to the reactionary Congress. These ideological differences reached a point of no return and finally the dissidents held a separate convention at Tenali in July 1964. Thus they got separated from the Dange Group(CPI) under the leadership of Jyoti Basu, E.M.S. Namboodiripad and others. The communist party of India (M) was formed in 1964. The CPM has established its stronghold in Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Assam, though its influence has been declining over the years.
The history of the socialist parties is one of splits and merges. The origin of the soclialist party is traced back to the group of socilaist called congress Socialist within the congress party led by Jayapraksash Narayan, M.R.Masani, Ashok Mehta, and others.The party was formed in 1948 and thereafter the history of the Socialist Parties has been one of splits and mergers as well as constant changes in the names of the party, such as Prajas Socialist party, socialist party, Samyukta Socialist party and again socialist party. In 1975 Samyukta socialist party and Praja Socialit party merged and formed the socialist party and those who called themselves and lohiaites joined the Bharatheeya lokdal. The socialist party one of the constituent parties that formed the Janatha Party in 1977.
There was a constant identity in the organizational set up of the Praja Socialist Party and Samyukta Socialist Party .The National Conferencew was the highest party organ which met once a year. Its function was to elect the Party executive and to lay down the policy and programme for the ensuing year.
All India Muslim League
All India Muslim League was formed in 1906 to protect the interests of the Muslim Community in India.Starting with a request for seperate representation in the Legislatures, the League become vocal in its demand for Pakistan under the leadership of M.A.Jinnah.This demand had to be conceded at the time of the Indian Independence and seperate Pakistan was created in 1947.It is continuing to represent Muslims even after independence.
The oldest national party in India is the Indian National Congress (INC). In was established in 1885 as a pro-British Indian organization. The real purpose of the British in establishing this organization was to continue to rule India with the help of liberal and pro-British Indians. Later on this organization became the main voice of India's freedom struggle.
Among its founders were Surendranath Benarjee, Dadabhai Naoroji and Justice M. G. Ranade. Before founding of the Congress, Justice M. G. Ranade had established an organization based on the ideas of the Brahmo Samaj with the aim of social and religious reforms in India. One of Ranade's disciples, G. K. Gokhale, became the leader of Indian National Congress till 1915. Gandhijee considered Gokhale as his political guru. Mahatma Gandhi, more than any other Indian, is identified with modern India's creation.
After India's independence, the British passed the administration of India to the leaders of the Indian National Congress. Mahatma Gandhi who was the father figure of the Congress party, suggested to transform the Indian National Congress into a charity organization, because the main cause of the Congress party was achieved. But the other leaders of the Congress did not accept his proposal and the Indian National Congress became a political party with a secular, socialist and democratic tendency.
During its independence, two Congress leaders Jawarharlal Nehru and Vallabbhai Patel wanted to be the first Prime Minister of India. Nehru, who was younger, was secular and socialist oriented, while Patel was more Hindu nationalist oriented. Mahatma Gandhi wanted the young Jawarharlal Nehru to be India's first Prime Minister and therefore Patel withdrew his candidacy.
Before independence the Congress was a roof organization and it included many factions. After independence the Congress leaders changed the structure of the party and established a new political agenda. The different factions in the Congress could either join the new agenda or leave the Congress. Some left the Congress and established other political parties outside the Congress. And so some new political parties were established among them the Socialist Party of India and Forward Bloc .
Until 1950 the Congress was under the influence of these two leaders. After Patel's death in 1950, Congress came under full influence of Jawarharlal Nehru. Nehru died in 1964, without appointing an heir. The party chose Lal Bahadur Shastri as the new leader. In 1966 Shastri arrived in Tashkent, in former Soviet Union to sign a cease-fire agreement with Pakistan. Shastri died in his sleep in Tashkent. After Shastri's death, some Congress leaders competed for the leadership of the party. Surprisingly the inter party election was won by the less favorite candidate, Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi was Jawarharlal Nehru's daughter (and had no family relations with Mahatma Gandhi). Some of the veteran members of the Congress did not accept her leadership and they tried to dispose her of. In 1969 the Congress split up into two parties.
The veteran members of the Congress established the Congress (O) party, while Indian National Congress was recognized as Congress (R). Of these two parties the INC was the larger and dominant party. The Congress (O) was no threat to Indira Gandhi's Congress.
Indira Gandhi was a very centralist leader. She pulled all the strings in the party and was seen as the dictator of her party. She planned to inherit her party to her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi. Between the years 1975-77 Indira Gandhi proclaimed emergency rule. During this period many of Gandhi's political rivals were arrested and put behind the bars. Censorship was enforced on Indian press. The justice system was restricted and turned into 'puppet show' of the government. The people also suffered a lot from this emergency rule. Under the birth control policy many people were forced to have sterilization. Even so Indira Gandhi was sure that the Indian people supported her because her general intention of making India a better place and so she declared elections in 1977.
Her party lost the 1977 elections to the Janata Party. A few months after the Congress defeat in the elections, another split occured in the Congress party. The party of Indira Gandhi was called Congress ( I ), because of the initial of her name. During this period many more splits and coalitions occurred within the different Congress parties. One such party of the Congress during this period was established by former Congress member Sharad Pawar. He even established a government in the state of Maharashtra with this party which later on was known as Congress (S). Another party was established in Uttar Pradesh. Some of these new party members including it establishers like Sharad Pawar returned later on to the Congress (I) party and the party was renamed Indian National Congress.
But there are others who left the INC at different periods and established parties outside the Congress and have a name Congress in their party name. For example West Bengal Trinamool Congress was established by Mumta Benarjee in West Bengal before the 1998 elections. Tamil Maanila Congress was established by Moopanar in Tamil Nadu. And there are more other such parties. There were some Congress members who resigned from the Congress and established parties without having the name Congress in their party name. For example Lok Dal which, was established in the 1960s by Charan Singh and Janata Dal which was established by VP Singh after resigning from the INC in the late 1980s. Before the 1999 elections some senior members of the INC were forced to resign because they questioned the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. These people have created the National Congress Party to participate in 1999 elections.
Sonia Gandhi who lead the INC in the 1999 elections is the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, the elder son of Indira Gandhi. She was born in Italy to a European Christian family. She met Rajiv Gandhi in England and married him. Indira Gandhi intended to inherit her party to her younger son Sanjay. But Sanjay died in a plane crash in 1980. So Indira Gandhi forced her elder son, who had no interest in politics, to resign from his job as a pilot and join politics. In 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Rajiv Gandhi was proclaimed her heir. He was Prime Minister of India until 1989. In the 1991 election campaign a suicide bomber assassinated him. The Congress appointed Narsimha Rao as its new leader. After losing the 1996 elections Rao resigned. For sometime Sitaram Kesari was the leader, but many Congress members saw in Sonia Gandhi as the new leader and gave her lot of respect. They thought that the Congress needs a 'Gandhi' as its leader to attract votes.
The Sources Of Leftist Language
Leftist professors and publicists claim that their language got formulated in the course of India's fight for freedom from British rule. They also claim that this language was used in the field at various stages of the struggle for freedom. This is a plain and a big lie. The annals of that freedom struggle provide no evidence that this language was used in India's politics till the late thirties of this century. Some prominent words of this language were totally absent from India's political parlance prior to that time. Some other words which we do find in that parlance were used to convey meanings that were entirely different from the meanings they acquired at a later stage. And even when these words became current in their present-day sense their consumption was confined to a small Leftist coterie inside and outside the freedom movement. It was only after the attainment of independence that this parlance spread like a plague, particularly during the period when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru dominated the Indian political scene.
The record has, therefore, to be put straight. We have to go back to the actual political parlance which obtained in this country at different stages of the struggle for freedom. In the process, we shall discover not only the stage at which Leftist language was interpolated into India's parlance but also the source from which this language was smuggled.
First Phase Of A Liberal Language
India's fight for freedom started several decades before the Indian National Congress was founded in 1885. It assumed the form of a large-scale rebellion in North India in 1857. The rebellion failed and the repression that followed was brutal as well as widespread. But what is pertinent for our purposes at present is that throughout this period the British were talking about the white man's burden in the midst of a "primitive society."
For almost two decades after 1857, national effort had perforce to be confined to religious revival, social reform and cultural renaissance. The Indian National Congress, although founded by an Englishman, became a part of this broad national effort. The religious, social and cultural movements were more powerful and pervasive. In fact, it were these non-political movements which shaped the political attitudes of different people who participated in Congress activities stages of the freedom movement.
The political parlance at this first stage consisted almost entirely of such phrases as were current in 19th century British liberalism. A majority of Englishmen and their press in this country did not look kindly at what they regarded as "the pretensions of natives and niggers". They started dubbing the Congress as a "Hindu organisation dominated by Bengali Babus". Some Muslim politicians, who fancied themselves as successors of erstwhile ruling race, picked up these jibes. Their leader, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, did some sabre-rattling on behalf of his community. The Congressmen on their part tried to prove that the Congress was not a Hindu but a National organisation. The invited some prominent and willing Muslim gentlemen to preside over some annual sessions of the Congress, and paid the railway fare and other expenses of some Muslim delegates.
The only significant development at this stage was the juxtaposition of the word "Hindu" against the word "National". So far, the two words had meant one and the same thing. This was the commencement of that political parlance which in, due course, reduced the national society to a mere "majority community" as against the "Muslim minority". Both Hindu and Muslim politicians were participating in this parlance. But the word communal had not yet become an abusive political label. This word was used in its normal and neutral sense and that, too, when some one referred to the communal question for settling which some constitutional devices had to be sought for and found.
Second Stage Of National Self-Assertion
The next stage was reached after the Partition of Bengal in 1905. The radical nationalist forces which had been maturing in the meanwhile leaped to be forefront. The old guard of the Congress felt the ground slipping from under its feet. It swam with the current to a certain distance. But basically it was not happy with this new turn of events. The show-down came at Surat in 1907. The old guard was able to save the situation for itself. However, the victory it won proved temporary as was to be seen very soon.
Some new words now appeared in the political parlance of India. The old guard started describing itself as Moderates while it denounced the other side as Extremists. But the label which the new entrants used for themselves was Nationalists. This description included the revolutionaries with whom the Nationalists had close links and whom the old guard as well as the British rulers dreaded as Territories.
The Nationalists had to pass through the fire of British repression. But they survived the storm to capture the Congress after a few years. The Moderates had to withdraw from the national organisation to form their Liberal Federation. Meanwhile, the Nationalists had greatly impressed a new generation of Muslim politicians by the methods they used and the power they exercised over the mass mind. The Muslim politicians now started thinking loudly of joining hands with the Nationalists in order to settle their own parochial and pan-Islamic scores with the British.
It is a different story that the Nationalists led by Lokamanya Tilak failed to diagnose the motivations of Muslim politicians, and made several big concessions on issues of crucial importance when they signed the Congress-League Pact at Lucknow in 1916. So far as the political parlance of this period is concerned, the Nationalists were still known as Nationalists. Their opponents of earlier years, the Moderates, had suck into oblivion, particularly after the advent of Mahatma Gandhi on the national political scene. Nobody had yet thought of calling the Nationalists by any other name. No word of the present-day political parlance had yet gained acceptance in the relevant writings and speeches of this period.
Third Stage Of Soviet Subversion
The language of nationalism, which had triumphed after a long struggle, was soon to be subverted by an alien and anti-national language. This new language had been coined by Lenin. It started stealing into India in the wake of the Bolshevik coup d'etat in Russia in November, 1917. In subsequent years, the flow of finance from the Soviet Union became progressively more plentiful for the promotion of this language in India.
A Communist Party of India - A Section of the Communist International had been floated in far-off Tashkent in October, 1920. The national movement would not have noticed the party for quite some time but for several conspiracy cases which the British government of India launched against the Party with great fanfare between 1924 and 1929. The language in which the comrades spoke in the courts attracted the attention of old-time revolutionaries. Most of them were men of action rather men of thought. Their battlecry so far had been Bande Mataram. Now they took to shouting Inquilab Zindabad also.
Later on, the British government made another major contribution to the spread of Leftist language. It imposed a ban on the Communist party and proscribed the circulation of Communist literature thus bestowing an aura of martydom and mystery on both. On the other hand it made the same Communist literature easily available to revolutionaries rotting in its jails in order to wean them away from the path of what it described as terrorism. Many of these sterling patriots became convinced Communists while they were still in prison. When they came out, they swelled the ranks of the Communist Party and started serving the interests of Communist imperialism. But in the eyes of the public at large, they still retained the stature which they had earned in the service of the motherland.
Conveyor-Belts of Communist Language
But, in spite of all these favourable factors, Communist language would have remained confined to party cadres had it not been espoused and popularised by an important leader inside the national movement. That was Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who had presided over a momentous session of the Indian National Congress in 1929. Because of his westernised upbringing and education, he had always felt ill-at-ease with the language of nationalism which had its sources in India's own history and cultural heritage. He was also dissatified with the language of 19th century Western liberalism which he had so far shared with the British. The Communaist language therefore, came to him as a great relief. He lapped it up immediately and digested it in large doses.
Pandit Nehru also would have ploughed a lonely furrow in the national movement if Communist thought and language had not in the meanwhile sperad to all prestigious seats of learning in the West. We shall not go into the reason of this spread-out. Suffice it to say that, in many respects, communism was only a continuation of Capitalist thought-processes with which the West had been familiar for a long time. What is relevant for our purpose at present is that many Indians who went to Western universities in the late twenties and early thirties imbibed Communist thought and came back talking Communist language. Some of them became professors in Indian universities and passed on the lore to their students. Some others became journalists and political workers who processed Indian politics in terms of Communist categories and made Communist language popular among an increasing number of politically conscious people. All this had a multiplier effect. And by the middle of the thirties, Pandit Nehru had a solid bastion of support inside as well outside the national movement, particularly among the English-educated intelligentsia.
Thus by the time Pandit Nehru became Congress president for the second time in 1936, the whole political atmosphere had became chock-full of Communist catchphrases -- bourgeois and proletarian, class struggle and class collaboration, revolution and counter-revolution, bourgeois nationalsim and proletarian internationalism, bourgeois democracy and proletarian dictatorship, progressive role and reactionary resistance, fascist forces and the democratic front, etc. Many a periodical and pamphlet published in English and other Indian languages was spreading the Communist jargon with an accelerated speed.
This was a highly technical, almost an esoteric language. Lenin had used common parlance words to convey his own Communist meanings and messages. No one who was not conversant with the Leninist lore could decipher this language with the help of a dictionary. It was small wonder, therefore, that the Nationalists led by Mahatma Gandhi failed to understand the nature, purpose and role of this language, though they suspected it as something insidious. Some Nationalists picked up parts of this language in order to sound in tune with the times. Some others were thrown on the defensive when they were lambasted by this language.
Communists Identified: But Not Communist Language
The Communists were found out as a Soviet fifth-column by the Socialists in 1939-40 and by the Indian National Congress as a whole during 1942-45. They were expelled from the national organisation in 1945. But Communist thought and language were neither re-examined nor purged simultaneously or in subsequent years. The dominance of Pandit Nehru for 17 years in the post-independence period widened the field for Communist language. The only difference observable after the death of Pandit Nehru is that while the patriarch was a sincere fellow-traveller, his progeny plays the game purely for purposes of democracy.
Several political parties have been formed by factions which have walked out of the Congress. But these splits have taken place solely on the basis of personalities and seldom on the basis of ideology. The new parties have severed their links with the Congress organisation but not with is known as `Congress culture.' And this culture consists almost entirely of the same catch-phrases which were once popularised by Pandit Nehru.
There has been only one political party which has grown outside the Congress and which started with an ideology and language of its own. But over the years, this party also has tended to shed its ideological identity. It has picked up progressively India's prevailing political parlance. This parlance is supposed to be the only gateway to popular vote and political power which, we are told privately, will be used for nationalist purposes. The road to hell is often paved with good intentions.
Leftist Language : A Language Of Imperialism
There is no truth whatsoever in the Leftist claim that India's prevailing political parlance took shape in the course of India's fight for freedom against British imperialism. On the contraty, this parlance was imported from the Soviet Union by a Soviet fifth-column and with the help of Soviet finances. And it became predominant only towards the fag end of the freedom struggle. A close scrutiny of the Leftist language shows that it has an affinity with the languages used earlier by Islamic, Christian and British imperialism. That should surprise no one. The language of imperialism is the same in all ages and everywhere. India has been able to save herself from total subversion so far only because the spirit of nationalism has surfaced again and again. But that spirit cannot serve for long unless it evolves and speaks in its own language.
The failure of political imagination is what is most distressing about today’s India. It is a failure of both the left and the right, at the local as well as the global arena, and it is a failing all the more ironic because it comes hidden behind the celebration of Indian democracy. Perhaps the tragedy actually begins there.
At one time, politics was one of the most open of India’s clubs—more accessible than the bureaucracy, the educational system, or even the market. Politics allowed new groups and new imaginations to enact their aspirations in a hopeful landscape. This same political domain had a tremendous ability to absorb disorder, confident that disorder was the beginning of a new equilibrium. In fact, the cycle from disorder to new order added to the democratic imagination, which was how a Laldenga of the Mizo underground could surface as a chief minister through a democratic electoral process.
Indeed, the politics of those initial years turned the American journalist Selig Harrison and his book India, the Most Dangerous Decades (1960) into laughing stocks. Harrison had failed to realise that the new entrants and their demands did not constitute noise, or even unwelcome music. Rather, they were voices demanding representation in the festival of politics. Instead of a Cartesian exercise, a binary of either-ors, Indian politics as represented then by the Congress party was a mosaic of adjustable pieces. Besides, in the early days, identity was not a problem in India. One could live in a forest of individualities and still believe in the garden of citizenship. There was also an overall consensus about nation, state, unity, socialism, rights, and even non-alignment.
Back then, Indians would take pride in defence minister Krishna Menon’s performance at the United Nations and the cosmopolitan confidence he exuded. We also knew he was the founder of the Penguin series. One remembers Menon telling an American, "Don’t tell me about my English. I learnt it, you just picked it up." The celebration was short-lived, however, and soon enough the wrapping of confidence broke. This happened for several reasons.
The 1962 Chinese attack in the Northeast and Ladakh was the harbinger. It showed that our seeming self-assurance was not an endocarp but a veneer. The Emergency years which came more than a decade later—and still under-studied and repressed within—showed that Indira Gandhi on her part had indeed internalised the Selig Harrison Syndrome. The Emergency was more than a period of temporary dictatorship; it was a solvent, which ate into our institutions. Banks, universities, trade unions, the judiciary, parliament, bureaucracy, all tumbled like nine pins and we have still not been able to put our institutions together again.
We interpreted the pathology of that time in a personalised way, psychoanalysing the Nehru dynasty, reading dystopias into the original utopia. But no one understood that the Emergency had institutionalised itself. India was no longer a command economy of dictatorship, but represented a Keynesian plurality where Bihar, the Northeast, Kashmir, Punjab, all offered a variety of everyday totalitarianisms.
And now, there is no dearth of indicators to tell us where we are at the end of more than five decades of Independence. Firstly, our glorious development projects became quietly ethnocidal, to the extent that India created over 40 million refugees from development projects. There are more refugees from the pax of development than from all the wars fought after Independence. Secondly, India has over one million paramilitary troops dedicated for internal order and control. All awards for gallantry the Indian army got between the 1972 war and the unfortunate Sri Lankan encounter are said to be for action against our own people. To these indicators, we can add the following: the Law Commission reports that there are over 90 million cases pending in Indian courts. Assuming two families per case, one in five Indians alive is today involved in litigation.
Faced with such data, how do we still call ourselves the world’s largest democracy? Like cloth that shrinks, obviously we have shrunk the concept of democracy. To use another metaphor, India’s democracy was once like the coconut. One cannot define a coconut "as a palm tree that gives oil". That is too monocultural, too illiterate a definition to embrace what is after all the tree of life. But that is precisely what we did to democracy, reducing it to mean nothing more than elections and electoral politics. With the help of the mass media and its attention span of "five unendurable minutes", politics has got reduced to facile terms such as the "incumbency effect", "swing factor", a few graphs, and some adolescents pontificating around it. The violence, the negotiations, the ideologies, the struggles of politics never figures.
Several factors aided this decline of the institution of politics. To begin with, the Congress itself declined. It had started out as the glue or enzyme of India’s polity, something more than a rainbow coalition, for it allowed colours to mix and produce new hues. The Congress, like some strange Periodic table, at one time incorporated every category of Indian politics—Muslim, Dalit, Brahmin, tribal, ethnical, secular, non-secular, socialist, capitalist. It was truly multi-ethnic, multi-economic, multi-cultural. A bit like Hinduism, it was both invertebrate and yet distinctive and protean. The decline of the Congress was devastating, for everyone in its rainbow stripes held the makings of another party. And so the Janata took other backward classes, the Bahujan Samaj Party gobbled the Dalits, the Muslims moved away.
Even as the Congress failed, politics got criminalised. Once, the gangster and the politician were distinct, but today in large parts of India they are bonding into one. Over one-third MLAs and MPs in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have criminal records, including many charged with rape and murder. These gangsters wear their records as epaulettes, operating from jails with mobile phones. As the CBI reported after the Bombay blast of 1993, the underworld dons, Dawood Ibrahim and Haji Mastan, would both have won elections hands down.
The diminishing idea of politics is reinforced in the lethally antiseptic confines of foundations and international agencies. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and even well-meaning groups such as the United Nations’ specialised agencies, have developed what may be called the "Goodboy Theory of Democracy" (GBT). Using an indicator technique, the GBT’s speciality is to reduce the wider web of democracy into single strands. Thus, human right is reduced to child labour. Anticipating the manna of grants, hundreds of ngos suddenly turned advocates against child labour. There is no one left to understand the complexities of issues, and so on.
The GBT demands that all treaties must be honoured no matter how iniquitous they may be. So, whether it is the CTBT, or the WTO, or even the whole slew of human rights treaties that US has forgotten to sign, India must be a dutiful signatory. The GBT also argues that rights are a complement to the market and that what sustains the democracy is the market. The marketisation of democracy commodifies rights and destroys the commons that sustain the life-world of so many marginal groups.
The Goodboy Theory of Democracy is accompanied by a homogenisation of Indian citizenship. In the debates within the Constituent Assembly half a century ago, citizenship was seen as an enabling device to allow the individual to participate in wider economic and cultural processes. But the static notion of citizenship that has evolved blinds one to the variety of margins and marginals, which are seen to be outside the pale of citizenship. To the list of traditional marginals—tribals, landless peasants, women, Dalits—we must now add displaced groups, slum-dwellers, old people, and all those rendered obsolescent by the development process.
The proliferation of marginalities in India is accompanied by the privileging of two forms of citizenship, the middle class and the non-resident Indian. Today, India boasts of a well-to-do middle class that is the size of Europe’s population. Besides the fact that this middle class must be ‘making it’ at someone else’s cost, its emergence raises paradoxes of democracy that the psephologists and political theorists have not yet tackled. As the late C.V. Seshadri, the eminent scientist, used to say, "I hate politicians who can’t count, whose rhetoric says every Indian should be literate. Good intentions." Seshadri would add the paradox that if all Indians could read, there would not be a single tree left in the country. These Zen paradoxes of democracy remain to be resolved.
Beyond the obviousness of the middle class as consumer citizens, one must also take note that, demographically, besides the large proportion of the elderly, most of India is under 30. Even advertisement agencies do not quite know what this category needs. But one thing is clear, they will be chased by the ghosts of unemployment even as they dream of Nike shoes and Benneton colours.
The NRI as the extra-territorial citizen has taken up a considerable part of the Indian imagination. Even Hindi movies now cater to NRI nostalgia, with hybrid blends of hamburgers, conjeevarams and the Silicon Valley. This imagination of the diasporic Indian needs careful study, for its lobby's works more effectively in India than abroad. It enacts the imaginary of Khalistan more ably in Canada and the grape farms of California than in Punjab itself. But what is bloodless and virtual in one place becomes bloody and terroristic in the other. Unlike their remittances, the violence of the NRI is not accountable.
Neither the political economy nor the displaced dreams of the diaspora has been fully understood. The NRIs’ global success and their need to transform local politics or economics warrant a wider scrutiny and debate. Meanwhile, the NRI involvement in Indian politics reminds one of a wry rejoinder that M.N. Srinivas, the doyen of Indian sociology, made years ago to Kathleen Gough, a ‘revolutionary’ anthropologist. "We shall shed blood and make a revolution," said Gough. Srinivas, silent till then, drawled in his Oxford–Kannada English, "Yess Katha leen, our blood, your revolution."
So how do the pundits, and the polity as a whole, respond to these issues? The fact is political analyses in India is in a terribly distressing state. Not one issue is followed to the full, while simultaneously we have joined the global celebration of democracy inaugurated by groups like National Endowment for Democracy. The psephologists crow that democracy = elections + social movements, an equation that can be considered as illiterate as Soviets + electrification = communism. What the illiteracy of the first forgets is institution building, the issue of governance, the decline of the commons, and the reduction of the democratic imagination to matters of security and individual rights.
There is another kind of impoverishment here, the impoverishment of the global ideas of democracy, which have become homo-genised. The Lowest Common Multiple Theory of Democracy fails to realise that transitions to democratic rule in Nigeria or South Africa, the possible transitions to normalcy in Sri Lanka, the return to democracy in Eastern Europe or Nepal, the threats to democracy in India or Indonesia—are all different stories. The mechanical indicator approach de-sensitises the observer to the real problems of these countries. It blinds us to the new globalisation of evil as evidenced in low intensity warfare, the new terrorism a la the LTTE, or even to the irresponsibility of finance capital.
Our democracy experts sometimes fail to read even their own data. For instance, electoral surveys indicate that the Indian people make a clear-cut distinction between elections and governance. They celebrate elections as a festival of freedom in it, but the public is at least clear about the fact that a vote in elections is no guarantee of governance. Secondly, the voters have understood that local parties respond better to local problems than the national groupings, and it is in this context that we have to view the new arrival in our midst—coalitionalism.
Firstly, coalitionalism is not the politics of instability. It may instead be likened to one of those recent, and very successful, multi-starrer Hindi potboilers. The Amir Khans, the Shahrukh Khans might dominate but the Anupam Khers, the Nana Patekars, the Gulshan Grovers and even the Johny Levers have crucial roles in the script. The Congress might have declined but the Congress model has been reborn as an overarching model of coalition politics. Certainly, this coalition model is noisy, like the Congress model preceding it, but the din hides a certain basic stability.
Thus, today, India operates in terms of a multiplicity of two-party systems. No national party can survive without local alliances, yet each state has a clear-cut two–party system: Akali Dal-Congress in Punjab, Marxists-Congress in Kerala, Shiv Sena-BJP vs. Congress in Maharashtra, Congress-BJP in Gujarat. What we have here is not instability but a decentralisation that India’s federal system has long been seeking but has not been able to achieve. Coalitionalism has created more innovative possibilities for decentralisation than dozen administrative reform reports.
While democracy is thus here to stay, snug as a second–skin on the body politic, the tensions are real. Our notions of justice, marginality, community, secularism, security and development need a spring cleaning, if not a desperate exorcism. Mere agitationist politics around any one of these issues will not do, nor will ngo alliances created to seduce funds from Western foundations desperate for political correctness before anything else.
Look at the range of political actors and the limits to political imagination. The left parties have long exhibited signs of autism, as seen in their extraordinary inability to respond to the events of Eastern Europe. There has also been an image change, which comes from a transition in leadership. Instead of the dignified honesty of an A.K. Gopalan or E.M.S. Namboodripad, the party is entangled in the middleman dealings of H.K. Surjeet. Radicalism has escaped the party and the trade unions, and now, if it exists anywhere, it is among the ngos, where left radicals have added to the democratic imagination and the human rights movement. The left today has little to say on globalisation, and Vandana Shiva and Suman Sahai perform better on gene piracy, or at Seattle.
The Marxist imagination, like the museumised Gandhian imagination, needs to rework itself around concrete issues. These could be entitlement to water, the protection of workers in industries closed for polluting, or around unorganised groups like construction workers and fisherfolk. But red is colour-blind to green, and the desperately needed marriage of political economy and ecology has begun in divorce.
For its part, the Congress is a national party determined to live in nostalgia. It lacks strategy, yes; but most of all, it is paralysed by the grand emptiness of Sonia. If the left is autistic, the Congress suffers from aphasia. And neither the Congress nor the left even knows how to harness the secular imagination. Someone does, and unfortunately it is Laloo Prasad Yadav. He can use secularism without blushing, he can bellow secularism. He loves doing it, and the populist imagination dances to his call.
But the real dangers of Indian democracy lie in its two most powerful forces—populism and communalism. The Bharatiya Janata Party represents the latter, but it is naive to treat the BJP as a singular entity. In fact, treating the party as a parliamentary incarnation is like playing out the virtual fantasies of Vajpayee as a roseless Nehru, and Advani as a still-potential Sardar Patel. It allows one to play out inane Vajpayee vs. RSS scripts. There is no real contradiction here, for at the structural level the BJP is not a Janus-faced entity but a four-headed one. There is the BJP itself as the parliamentary phase, the RSS as ideological wing, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad as the cultural police for the diasporic NRI, and the Bajrang Dal making up the lumpen wing—a potential fascist mob.
The level of support for the BJP goes far beyond its own parties members, and includes a wide penumbra of middle class and even tribal support. The party plays on every kind of fear, from the historical to the futuristic. It promises to defeat the Moghuls all over again, even while loudly tackling the inanities of Deepa Mehta. But the crucial point is that this BJP quartet always initiates and sets the discourse. And it has an actor for every occasion.
The RSS cadres cut deep into the countryside—they were among the heroes of the Andhra and the Orissa cyclones. The organisation caters to the lumpenism of unemployed youth on the one hand, and on the other, it plays the opera of Pokhran-II—with such stunning brilliance that it collectively stiffens the middle class penis into orgiastic joy. It is slick in its debates not because it has the argument but because it has an unerring sense of its opponents’ weakness. Both the left and secular forces find themselves tongue-tied, even though the RSS is more illiterate than they are.
The RSS historians are no match for the Thapars, Habibs or Sumit Sarkars but instead of debating history, they are drawn into a maze of files, procedural details, account books, audits, time-tables, little to do with the quality of thinking. When attacked by a BJP sympathiser at a conference in Canada, a left-leaning historian went into a tortured explanation as to how the left academics were merely "erratically nepotistic", whereas those of the RSS were "consistently nepotistic". True, but if the historian had half the street-sharpness of a Govindacharya or an Arun Shourie, he would, rather than apologise for the pseudo-secularism of the left, have attacked the pseudo-swadeshism of the RSS-BJP-VHP composite. In this manner, time and again, the left-seculars have let the debate be determined by the BJP and allowed it to appropriate terms like "nationalist" and "patriotic".
The right, like Ronald Reagan earlier in another democracy, creates its own soap opera of righteousness, while the left has to work overtime confessing to errors. But beyond its RSS ideology—to call it "culture" would be to give it too much credit—the BJP has few ideas of its own. It is an appropriator of discourses that others have invented. Its swadeshism would have turned Gandhi violent, but it is precisely to a diasporic nationalism that it appeals to. It creates an ersatz nationalism, a machismo that strengthens every supine middle class spirit convincing them that the subaltern has struck back.
The Congress, its sense of coalitions, invents the foreign policy of the BJP by the Janata—only the BJP is able to package them better. Whether it is the vitriol of Uma Bharati, or the realism of Advani, or the think-tank chutzpah of Govindacharya, or the suaveness of Arun Jaitley, it has it all. As a result, the BJP has helped the RSS to burrow itself deep into the capillaries of our society, into media, teaching, social work and business. In all this, the supreme irony—and tragedy—is that neither the Congress nor the left, sticking blindly to their mechanistic secularism, realises that their real ally is religion. Hinduism can easily defeat Hindutva, armed with a programme of reform. But where are the secularists when they are needed to come up with innovative answers?
The other soap opera of depoliticisation in India is to be found in the post–Mandal politics of Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Bihar. There is an elite trend among the "Fab–India Socialists" (after their designer kurtas) who see Laloo Prasad as spearheading a democratic imagination. They see him as epitomising Mandalism, the ideology of the other-backward-classes, rising phoenix-like out of the movement led by the socialist Jai Prakash Narayan. He also embodies a "folk socialism", according to these aficionados of "electoral politics". He is secular, he is shrewd, he challenges Delhi, and he is news. But Laloo represents the de-institutionali-sation of democratic politics. He represents the limits of Mandalism, which beyond populism and corruption has no theory of distributive justice.
If the BJP captures ersatz nationalism to create Indian pride, Laloo Prasad harnesses a similar sense of pride—dignity for Bihar and the downtrodden. There is deep cynicism here, in the feeling that since no politician fulfills the promise of development, Laloo Prasad at least creates the participatory soap opera of local pride. The problem is, the former chief minister offers little else. He is anti-women, anti-tribal, and incarnates the politics of casteism at its worst. Mandalism, rather than becoming a search for equality, becomes a casteist nightmare. If Sanjay Gandhi represented the other extremity of his grandfather’s Nehruvianism, Laloo Prasad is the end of JP’s socialist dreams.
A lot has been said of the Marxist politician and the Congress functionary, but the socialist has not received the same attention. It is necessary to engage with the nature of the socialist personality and his/her politics. There is a link between the bloated ego of individual socialists and the populism they represent. They are fascinated by politics but represent at best a version of politicking. They love the grammar of factionalism and eventually have the least to offer, individually or collectively. One needs a deeper psychoanalytical portrait here to understand the limits of the Mandal imagination. Some have called it, Toffler-like, as the third wave of politics. But it is important to study whether it is a "creative" wave of Mandalism or a truncated bullyboy version of politics. For there would be cause for genuine sadness and erosion of hope if the real choice were to be between Laloo Prasad and the RSS.
Where then do the possibilities lie in terms of politicians, movements, and currents? What are the future dangers? The response can be couched once again in terms of the failure of the political.
India has recently suffered a spate of natural disasters—floods, earthquakes and cyclones. We have repeatedly celebrated Amartya Sen’s homilies that famines cannot exist for long in a democracy, that the power of democracy is such that famines and cyclones, like truth, will out. Of late, one has begun to wonder if there are not certain dents in the popular reading of Sen. The floods in Bihar wiped out innumerable villages, which have disappeared both physically and from the imagination. Beyond the demands of disaster tourism, the cyclone in Orissa has by now been forgotten. Popular anger dismissed the Gomang government, but it was all a political waste as the issues of continuing survival and rehabilitation never came up. Orissa will soon be as forgotten as Bhopal.
There is then the politics of displacement around Narmada and other development projects, where the displaced realise that they have no means of articulation within electoral politics. Certainly, the defeated and the marginal exude ethical power when it is magnified by the likes of Baba Amte and Medha Patkar, but this alone is unable to get them redress. Clearly, what we need to do now is recast Gandhian politics to present times, for its ability to so effectively combine ethics and politics.
Then we have the depoliticisation of debate on the major treaties and laws, which will willy-nilly affect the people. Whethe it is the bill for privatisation of insurance before Parliament, the CTBT, or the WTO, they all share one weakness in common. They have been the subjects of expert committees and NGO campaigns, but have all singularly failed to permeate the popular imagination.
There is a thundering silence on defence and war. National security appears a zone of silence that our dissenting peace groups have been unable to penetrate. The nuclearisation of India and Pakistan, the very nature of terror and low-intensity warfare, all demand a range of political responses, but this is where Indian democracy is at its weakest. There is failure of the imagination on a crucial aspect—the more India decentralises, the stronger will be its sense of unity and centre. But this understanding will be remote as long as even the seemingly committed movements continue to treat issues of war and violence with forceps.
Finally, while the average Indian mind is both curious and cosmopolitan, it tends to be empty of empathy when it comes to the regional neighbourhood. The notion of neighbour, so crucial to a globalising democracy, is just not there. As a polity, as state, as civil society, our role in enhancing the democratic possibilities of South Asia has been negligible. We believe we are a superpower but we still operate with the mind—the pettiness and arrogance—of a Patwari. Imagine, if we could replay the politics of water with Nepal, dream a new ecological collaboration with Bangladesh, create a university in exile for refugees from Burma, or even create negotiable spaces for Sri Lanka. Indian democracy as an imagination cannot grow amidst a stereotyping of the neighbourhood.
But the biggest failure of India lies in its inability to meet, on behalf of its one billion people, the onslaught of globalisation. Often serving as an ngo to the powers-that-be, the Indian state has been absent-minded about its power. The rhetorical outbursts of politicians and bureaucrats fail to hide the fact that the homework, which the WTO and other negotiations demand, have not been done. But an even larger failure in this arena is that of academe and the ngos themselves. It is a failure to understand the institutional demands of this globalisation process.
There is the usual noise about the budget when it is announced, and Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha is graded like a not-too intelligent student, as someone who has to survive a round of "guess questions". But what one misses is a real sense of what makes up the country’s political economy: the dynamics of the parallel economies, the pressures on the domestic economy, the devastation of the commons, the problem of the biomass economy, and finally, the notion of economics itself which has no language to gauge the issues of suffering or displacement.
Indeed, globalisation has caught an entire generation of radicals flatfooted. Dissent has become difficult and co-option easy. Hundreds of ngos now function as extension counters of the global regime. Their behaviour as a phenomenon has no sense of irony. It is thus that a senior activist can study the impact of foreign funding on the Indian economy and society—with foreign money. But if you look out at the academic and activistic landscape, there is little critique of unemployment, and little sense that the cost of education, energy, health and transport will all increase. There is no demand for a social audit of globalisation, and no feel for the institutional stresses it is going to create.
The universities are being told to privatise, but what this mean in real terms is the marginalisation and immiseration of the social sciences and the humanities. The turfs for dissent and plurality are being systematically uprooted, in the federally funded Indian Council for Historical Research, the Indian Council for Social Science Research and the Indian Council for Philosophical Research. All this is being justified as a result of it being the right’s turn to misbehave, but there is a fundamental destruction of institutions underway, institutions which have a critical role to play in the study of Indian society of the past and the future.
What we need is a third force, a web of resistance that can reformulate the Indian problematic, re-energise the imagination of Indian democracy. Where then do the possibilities lie? There are little crystal seeds of innovation all over. There is the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and its struggle to create transparency by demanding the right to information from the state in Rajasthan. There are Chandrababu Naidu’s efforts to render cyberspace democratic. One must also mention his gallant efforts to rescue neighbouring Orissa after the cyclone struck, moving quickly to restore the possibility of governance in Bhubaneswar. There is Digvijay Singh seeking to institutionalise panchayati raj local government in Madhya Pradesh. There is the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee attempting to create a less-polluted Delhi even if it has to still balance the tensions of ecology and justice.
We require a means to link together this rumour of possibilities, this gossip of alternatives. Dissent and dreaming have to be re-kindled. There has to be a new vision of the political—beyond the aridity of the RSS with its quack swadeshi and the lazy crudities of socialism. The possibilities lie in connecting the varieties of decency, honesty, inventiveness, the search for alternatives, and the networks of little radicalisms into a new web of politics. For the sake of India’s billion population, we have to reinvent the political like Gandhi did. Every thinking woman and man must turn scientist, politician, activist, philosopher, not as the Marxist dream of a leisure-time, but as a prelude to the new dreams of democracy.
India is one of the great compost heaps for the renewal of ideas. As a civilization, as a nation, it has been one of the greatest clearinghouses for ideas and inventions. We have to reinvent ourselves to renew our democracy.
BJP Bharatiya Janata Party
CPI Communist Party of India
CPM Communist Party of India (Marxist)
INC Indian National Congress
JD Janata Dal
SAP Samata Party
NDA National Democratic Alliance
AC Arunachal Congress
ADMK All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
AGP Asom Gana Parishad
ASDC Autonomous State Demanding Committee
AIMIM All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen
AIRJP All India Rashtriya Janata Party
BJD Biju Janata Dal
BSP Bahujan Samaj Party
DMK Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
FBL All India Forward Bloc (FBL)
FPM Federal Party of Manipur
HLD(R) Haryana Lok Dal (Rashtriya)
HVP Haryana Vikas Party
JDS Janata Dal (Secular)
JDU Janata Dal (United)
JKN Jammu & Kashmir National Conference
JMM Jharkhand Mukti Morcha
KEC Kerala Congress
KEC(M) Kerala Congress (M)
LS Lok Shakti
MSCP Manipur State Congress Party
MAG Maharashtrawadi Gomantak
MDMK Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
MNF Mizo National Front
MPP Manipur People's Party
MUL Muslim League Kerala State Committee
NCP Nationalist Congress Party
PMK Pattali Makkal Katchi
PWPI Peasants and Workers Party of India
RJD Rashtriya Janata Dal
RPI Republican Party of India
RSP Revolutionary Socialist Party
SAD Shiromani Akali Dal
SDF Sikkim Democratic Front
SHS Shiv Sena
SJP Samajwadi Janata Party
SP Samajwadi Party
TDP Telegu Desam Party
UDP United Democratic Party
UGDP United Goans Democratic Party
UMFA United Minorities Front, Assam
WBTC West Bengal Trinamul Congress