The communists in India have preferred strategy to ideology. The occasions have been few, but they have regretted them. At the time of independence, they supported the demand of partition. Subsequently they admitted that they wrongly backed the Muslim League which represented Muslims alone. Marxism, they woefully recalled, demanded a secular approach.
At a congress in Kerala this week, the communists have departed from their vehement opposition to the BJP and instead support the party if the Congress faces the prospect of defeat. The communists have put the BJP and the Congress at par. They have even said that they would not side with the Congress to swell its strength to defeat the BJP which till yesterday represented the communal forces inimical to national interest.
The communists are justified in attacking the Congress for the scams which have cost the public exchequer billions of rupees. The communists are also correct in averring that the Congress has done little to improve the lot of minorities. But where they go wrong is when they put the two parties on the same footing. The Congress, with all its faults, has never propagated against secularism, nor has it accepted the guidance of a body like the RSS which stands for Hindu Rashtriya.
The Congress can be apportioned blame for diluting the principles of pluralism and liberalism. But the BJP has never claimed to be pursuing them. Its credentials have never been liberal from its very birth, when it was called the Jana Sangh. However, it is heartening to know that the communists will not have anything to do with the Congress.
Yet, they must admit that they have been guilty of giving the Congress the veneer of being progressive, whether it was the government of Mrs Indira Gandhi or that of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Communists were partners in the first UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government. The Marxists saved it from defeat in parliament several times.
What will the communists do now when the Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by the Supreme Court, has exonerated Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi from the charge of planned killings of Muslims in the state? True, though one member of SIT Ramachandran has not absolved Modi, the majority has given the clean chit. The state elections are due this year. Surely, the communists are not going to pull their punches because their criticism may help the Congress.
The entire strategy of communists is faulty. It cannot afford to stay silent on matters like communalism even if the beneficiary is the Congress. And how can a responsible party like that of the communists allow the Congress to get away with the murders of Sikhs in Delhi? The state machinery was used to connive at the murders as the Modi government did in Gujarat. The communists have to stand by the victims and the minorities without caring whether the Congress is defeated or the BJP wins.
The communists are on a strong ground when they talk about a democratic alternative. But the problem with them is that they always want to dominate the formation. And seldom do they see beyond the existing regional parties which are parochial, casteist and even communal. These parties have failed to deliver justice in their own state as they have neither the cadres nor convictions to meet all-India challenges. How can they become an alternative?
The communists have to shed their pride and prejudice to work with the grassroots activists who are spread all over the country. Their ideology is also pro-left but they are not dogmatic or rigid. They find a common denominator among themselves to work together. But they do not compromise with communal casteist elements at any cost. The communists’ willingness to shake hands with the BJP may come in the way of joint action which the activists are proposing to initiate.
Postmortems by the Congress and the BJP of reverses in UP election have not made them any wiser. They are stuck to their old thinking that some rebels cut into the official candidates’ votes or that the party wrangling were responsible for defeat. There are at best rationalizations by the two parties to sustain hope among their followers. The fact is that both parties have lost their way and do not know the direction.
Neither the Congress nor the BJP realizes that they are increasingly becoming irrelevant and look like the once-upon parties. Their statements and activities suggest that they have nothing new to offer. They go on indulging endlessly in the same slogans, the same exhortations and the same promises. The UP election, and the one held earlier in Bihar, have proved that the voters find regional parties closer to their heart and more familiar with their aspirations.
The biggest thing which has hit the two is the voters’ doubt about their integrity. They find them mixed up with the mafias and underhand deals. Manmohan Singh’s regime has been full of scams. A new one appears even before the old one recedes into the background. The BJP’s corruption in Karnataka, both economic and moral, is a continuing saga. One party blames the other but both of them, more so the Congress, are mired deep in corruption and black money. The 2G spectrum scam has reached the countryside as the Bofors gun scandal did.
Both parties need to have something like the Kamaraj Plan. In 1963, when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to get rid of his critics in the wake of the debacle at the hands of China, he used Congress president K. Kamaraj’s proposal to force the ministers leave their cabinet berths and work in the organization. It was like Mao’s cultural revolution to let ministers and top bureaucrats soil their hands by working in the countryside. Both parties have mostly the same faces for many years. A Kamaraj plan may cleanse the stables of the parties and throw up new faces as well as ideas.
Yet an overhauling alone will not do. The parties have to change their support to the governments’ lassie fare policies. The BJP openly favours economic reforms which have been detrimental to the people of country. The communists have also extended their support to a few. The result is that the rich have become richer and the poor poorer. The criticism by the BJP on price rise or anti-poor has no meaning when the party arrays its support behind the Congress to have disastrous bills passed. What comes out is that the BJP and the Congress are the two sides of the same coin. EOM