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President situation and the role of the Left - The Observer

Chaturanan Mishra ()
March 7, 1998

Title: President situation and the role of the Left
Author: Chaturanan Mishra
Publication: The Observer
Date: March 7, 1998

The election manifesto of the Communist Party of India in 1996
rightly assessed that a situation had developed in India when the
Left could be a partner in power at the Centre. Despite a big
setback in the elections this year, this assessment still remains
valid, but this does not mean that the Left should immediately
either participate or support a coalition led by the Congress. It
is true that contrary to the assessment of the Left. the Congress
under Ms Sonia Gandhi has improved its position. It has shown the
capacity to recapture power in States like Maharashtra and
Rajasthan. But, this alone does not create a situation in which
the Left should, at the national level, accept the leadership of
the Congress.

It is true that the victory of the Laloos, the Sukh Rams and the
Jayalalithas creates an impression that corruption is no issue
for the electorate but this is only a surface view. There are
different reasons in different regions for the victory of
individuals charged with corruption. In no case can the nation
afford to go with corruption. At least the Left, which so far is
clean, should not be a party to this and should bear with
temporary loss.

The only ground on which the Left may think of supporting a
coalition led by the Congress is to prevent the BJP from
capturing power at the Centre. We know how the BJP subverts the
Constitution of India and infiltrates in administration. The
Janata Party Government in 1978 broke up on this issue
essentially.

However, the present reality is that a large portion of the
electorate wants the BJP to be in power at the Centre and they
say we want to see what the BJP can do. If we stop the BJP in its
tracks, the electorate will be vengeful and then one will not be
able to do anything. It is better to allow them to come to power
and see how they behave. They will be part of a coalition and
hence any subversion of the Constitution will not be a secret
thing. The Opposition will be strong enough to cheek this.

The BJP has the capacity of flexibility and may put aside issues
like a Common Civil Code, Article 370, Mandir, Mathura and Kashi.
The hard core of the BJP may still insist on action on these and
there could be a crisis as in Gujarat. But the BJP caged in a
constitutional framework cannot fulfil the desire of the hard
core. This situation will help secularism tremendously and this
cannot happen without the BJP being in power. Without power they
will continue to preach a communal line.

Once the BJP comes to power, the bulk of Muslim voters who behave
like bonded labourers of Muslim communal leaders will be open to
mainstream Politics. This will strengthen secularism in India.
Hindu communalism also gets inspiration from this type of
behaviour from the Muslim electorate. This will stop once fear of
BJP rule vanishes.

Another advantage of BJP rule will be the coming together of
Congress and the UF in the Opposition. Being there, both will
have to work out how to fight communalism and casteism.

The United Front Government committed a serious mistake by
concentrating only on economic reform and development programmes.
This left the field open for BJP and casteist leaders,
particularly in the Hindi belt, which cost the UF heavily. The
same mistake is likely to

be committed if a Congress-led Government is formed at the
Centre. Nobody should forget that in the present polity of our
country, communalism and casteism is the main enemy. We have
failed to cheek it by the old method or by economic reforms
alone.

A divided secular force is no match for either BJP or casteist
forces. Only by being in the Opposition can Congress and the UF
evolve proper ways of checking it. The BJP has no economic
programme to remove the miseries of the people and hence within a
short time the illusions of our people will get shattered. The
BJP in power will expose itself on the economic front also, with
Swadeshi votaries and Fernandes clashing with the corporate
sector (which has helped the BJP so much). If the party goes by
the will of the corporate sector, India will go the Korean and
Indonesian way. But strong opposition by the UF and Congress can
stop this.

This Lok Sabha election has exposed the weakness of the Left
parties, particularly in the Hindi belt. For years in this belt,
the Left has been facing erosion of its mass base. Instead of
fighting this, it has been leaning on the crutches of this or
that casteist party having regional influence. The effect of
this is that the Left forces are badly divided and cannot unite
like the Communist Party of Nepal. Secondly, they should give up
the role of ministry making or manipulation for some time at
least. Thirdly, and most importantly, they should give up
sectarianism, outdated old ideas and style of work, and reorient
themselves as per the new situation. They should take up the
cause of farmers in general and small and marginal ones in
particular.

The cause of the people below the poverty line is neglected
because the Left thinks it is not a "class" issue. Issues like
housing and drinking water, rural roads, etc, are not taken up
seriously. How to get large funds for housing and Involve
insurance companies in the enterprise has never been worked out.
Making proper arrangements for drinking water is not an
impossible task. This is just to give a few examples.

The Left can work better in the Opposition and in these matters
and not just by supporting a Congress-led Government.

After the defeat of the Congress in the 1996 elections, the Left
has done a very creditable job of filling the power vacuum and
providing an alternative at the Centre.

The Left organised the United Front and its Government worked
better than any Congress Government. The Left must see that this
unity of the UF is maintained and that the UF in Opposition
extends its base in the Hindi belt by fighting communalism and
casteism. The UF still has eight State Governments at its
command. They should provide an alternative of which the Left is
an inseparable part. This will also prevent Congressmen going
over to the BJP and win provide the basis for UF and Congress
cooperation after some time.

(The author is Union Agriculture Minister and CPI National
Executive member)


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