(Document adopted by Central Committee in its 13-15 December 1996 Session)
1. The UF Government has just completed its first six months in power. Though this is not the first time a coalition government has come to power at the Centre, the formation of this government has been widely construed to mark the arrival of coalition politics in India. This is probably because unlike the National Front days of 1989-90, the Janata Dal does not have a commanding presence in the present United Front and more importantly the range of parties is much wider this time with the Left Front and Federal Front rubbing shoulders with the Janata Dal and breakaway Congress groups in a single political combination.
But despite such euphoric rhetorics about the rise of a so-called coalition era, built into the prevailing political arrangement at the Centre is an unmistakable element of growing political instability and uncertainty. Even the most die-hard supporters of the present government do not expect it to run its full term.
2. Beyond the obvious element of political instability, we must not of course lose sight of the growing rightwing consolidation right within the United Front or more correctly within the UF-Congress framework. The most important aspect of this consolidation consists in the accelerating pace and widening scope of the ongoing economic reforms. This however does not mark any aberration or departure from the Common Minimum Programme, rather it constitutes the essential economic agenda of the CMP. And this has effectively exposed the bankruptcy of the social democratic belief that the cutting edge of the pro-imperialist reforms could be blunted if not neutralised or even reversed with a greater accent on immediate relief for the masses. Not only has there been no substantial increase in the quantum of relief or so-called social sector spending, but what is more sinister is that the ruling establishment has succeeded in utilising its pseudo concern for the uplift of the underprivileged and the unorganised as a camouflage for accentuating the attack on the existing rights and benefits of the relatively better organised sections of the working people.
3. While the UF government stands fully committed to accelerating the pace of economic reforms, ironically the economy is on a recession track and the mood in business and industry circles is far from upbeat. The share market remains in the grip of a slump, exports are sluggish and despite frenzied attempts to woo foreign capital, international investors are wary of making any major commitment in India in the prevailing situation of political instability. Faced with this hard economic reality, the clamour for stability has already started growing among different quarters of Indian big business. Sooner rather than later, this is bound to influence the course of political developments.
4. Defence of secularism was expected to be the strongest point of the UF government. But in six months the new government has done nothing to bring the vandals of Ayodhya or the perpetrators of post-Ayodhya riots to book. Deve Gowda on the contrary was seen to be sending friendly feelers to the Shiv Sena even going to the extent of having a personal meeting with Bal Thackeray and trying to pass it off as a mere courtesy call. Many in the UF openly discussed the need to treat Shiv Sena as just another regional party and induct it into the United Front via the Federal Front.
5. Federalism was peddled as another major virtue of the new dispensation. But beyond its promise of extending maximum possible autonomy to Jammu & Kashmir and the Independence Day announcement of the UF government’s resolve to grant statehood to Uttarakhand, there has been little evidence of any concrete political will on this score. The promise of maximum possible autonomy did play its part in generating a conducive atmosphere for a smooth conduct of Assembly elections in Kashmir, but beyond that the ground realities in this turbulent state have obviously not changed in any significant way. And with the Centre not displaying any serious urgency to spell out and implement its promised autonomy package leaving it all upto the state government’s initiative, whatever momentum may have been generated seems to be fast petering out. The government is also backtracking on the question of creating a separate Uttarakhand state.
Meanwhile, federalist sentiments have however begun to run high and separate statehood movements have received a new fillip not only in Jharkhand and Gorkhaland but also in Vidarbha and Chhattishgarh. With statehood movements thus flaring up on such a large scale, the demand for constituting a second States Reorganisation Commission has assumed a new relevance in the context of a federal restructuring of the Indian polity. While the UF government depending as it does on Congress support for its survival has its own compulsions for treading so cautiously or even backtracking on the issue of federalism, ironically it is the CPI(M), the selective and self-proclaimed champion of federalisation and more power to the sates, which is seen as posing the greatest obstacle to federalisation within an otherwise federal-minded United Front.
6. The UF government has also failed or rather refused to dissociate itself from the scam-tainted legacy of the Congress. As the Indian Bank revelations have clearly shown, the TMC has inherited more than its fair share of cheats and crooks from the Congress. C.M Ibrahim, Gowda’s right-hand man in the cabinet, is reported to have amassed bank loans worth Rs. 50 lakh and he has now appealed for a waiver. And Deve Gowda’s own role in the Cogentrix deal and his exceptionally close rapport with both Indian monopolies and foreign MNCs has already generated serious accusations. Clouds of corruption are also hanging heavy on several state governments run by the UF constituents. Almost every department of Bihar state government is associated with one scam or the other. Scams have also begun to surface in UP with the needle of suspicion pointing directly to the Samajwadi Party of Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Understandably enough, the Gowda government has adopted a very soft line on corruption. Despite the carefully cultivated hype over judicial activism or illusions about the CBI’s new-found investigative zeal, the UF government is seen to be going out of its way to shield top-order corrupt politicians of the category of Narasimha Rao and Laloo Yadav. The entire anti-corruption exercise of the establishment thus remains a clear hostage of dubious calculations of power-politics. However, even this highly selective kind of judicial or investigative activism has created an atmosphere of unease in the corridors of power and efforts are on to subvert the so-called due process of law in every possible way.
7. There is of course more to the phenomenon of judicial activism than settlement of mutual scores on the issue of corruption. With the credibility of the executive hitting an all-time low, the judiciary as a whole has begun to assert its role with a new-found zeal. Strongly worded verdicts are being issued on a whole gamut of subjects ranging from political morality and corruption to child labour and environment. While the judiciary fancies this exercise as a rescue or cleansing operation and large sections of the middle classes are indeed enamoured of this judicial intervention, the process has unmistakably yielded a vast wealth of exposure material on different aspects of the system. We should try and use all these exposure materials in the interest of furthering the revolutionary movement and only in this process can we effectively counter and dispel the illusions being generated by this whole phenomenon.
8. True to their traditional fondness for the Indian ruling class establishment’s foreign policy stance, the two communist parties have once again started showering full-throated praises on the Gowda government’s performance on the external affairs front. The government’s refusal to sign the CTBT is held out as the ultimate hallmark of its anti-imperialist foreign policy and its poor showing in the election for the membership of UN Security Council is sought to be rationalised or even glorified as the price paid for retaining the country’s sovereign option on CTBT. Deve Gowda’s patently uninspiring and lack-lustre trips to Harare and Rome are also propagated as major foreign policy successes, as exercises raising the country’s declining global profile.
It must be understood that the Indian ruling classes’ stand on CTBT or NPT is not prompted by any anti-imperialist policy thrust, it is rather derived from their regional perspective and threat perceptions vis-a-vis Pakistan and China. Their refusal to toe the imperialist line on NPT or CTBT has not therefore been anyway contradictory to their overwhelming submission to the imperialist economic agenda. The Singapore meeting of the commerce ministers of WTO countries has clearly revealed that having already more than complied with every existing requirement of the WTO, the government of India has now also begun to succumb to imperialist pressures on linking the issue of trade with areas like labour standards and foreign investment. Moreover, India’s poor showing at the hustings for the Security Council seat does not seem to be a fallout of the Indian stand on CTBT. If anything, it only demonstrated India’s pathetic isolation from large sections of Third World countries and her failure to wage any kind of resistance to imperialist pressures in the international arena.
9. Following its farcical maiden tryst with power at the Centre, the BJP seems to have suffered a certain loss of initiative. The fall of the Gujarat government has certainly been a blow for the party. But its biggest setback in recent times has come in Uttar Pradesh. The three-way division in vote in the recent Assembly election in UP was widely considered to be the best or ideal situation for the BJP to regain power. Yet the party could not even manage to repeat its 1993 performance in terms of either vote-share or number of seats. The continuing political imbroglio in UP reflects a deeper social stalemate — with the upper caste constituency siding with the BJP, backwards and Muslims staying largely with the SP and dalits sticking to the BSP, the social polarisation in UP politics seems to have reached a point of saturation in the short term. It would however be a folly to underestimate the BJP danger. Even in its present position, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar as a whole represent a serious fascist threat. Moreover, with the decline of the Congress and the failure of the JD and its allies to grow into a stable centrist formation, there are still considerable chances of the BJP emerging as the rallying centre of all rightwing and centre-right forces and making a renewed bid for power at the Centre.
10. Due to the inherent opportunism of the UF arrangement, Left and democratic forces have however failed to derive any advantage from the current containment or relative stagnation or setback of BJP. The only party to have benefited from the declining fortunes of BJP is the Congress. Through a calculated alliance with the BSP, the Congress has succeeded in bringing about a partial revival in UP. Even though its votes have not improved to any significant extent — the forward base which had deserted it and opted for the BJP has not yet changed its position while the backwards and minorities continue to side primarily with the JD in Bihar and SP in UP — its overall stock has certainly improved and from what looked like a point of near-irrelevance the party seems to have again hit the comeback trail.
The departure of Narasimha Rao from Congress presidentship has paved the way for reunification of the Congress. Two smaller splinter groups have already merged with the parent party, the Congress (Tiwari) has also officially resolved to return home. Leaders of the TMC have also made it clear that while not contemplating an immediate return to Congress, it and for that matter even the DMK, are not averse to joining hands with the Congress in running the government. With the reunification of the Congress, the balance within the UF-Congress framework is bound to change further in favour of the Congress and possibilities of various rightwing realignments at the Centre around a regrouped Congress are also growing simultaneously.
11. The revival and reunification of the Congress and growing rightwing consolidation within the UF has led to a steady marginalisation of the Left. The two communist parties’ opportunist and obsessive defence of the UF government has prevented them from mounting any significant pressure on the government on any major issue and reduced them to the status of a poor appendage despite the fact that numerically the Left constitutes one of the biggest blocs within the UF.
The political ineffectiveness of the two communist parties has been reinforced by a matching ideological bankruptcy. The CPI(M)’s welcome refusal to join the Gowda cabinet did not lead to any clear ideological demarcation of the Left from the centre-right trends within the UF. While not joining the cabinet the CPI(M) is very much involved in the affairs of the government and EMS has even gone to the extent of glorifying the UF as a united front of genuine democratic forces, as a front between the proletariat and progressive sections of the Indian bourgeoisie, as an aid to class struggle and what not. Under such circumstances, the inner-party debate has only succeeded in ensuring a pragmatic safe distance between the party’s official line and EMS orthodoxy. The CPI which was not known to have encountered any serious inner-party resistance on its way to the government is now reportedly contemplating a new line which would bid good-bye to the politics of mass agitations and make the party specialise as a vehicle or implementing agency for official developmental programmes. The party has also entered into a formal alliance with the Congress in Punjab. It contested the recent municipal elections in Chandigarh as an electoral partner of the Congress. For all practical purposes, the party seems to have returned to its pre-77 political line.
But aware of the essential fragility and growing uncertainty of the UF experiment, the Left parties have of late also started voicing some amount of public criticism of the government. Their recent moves in Bihar and attempts to reactivate the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions and Platform of Mass Organisations are all prompted by this pragmatic politics of survival.
12. As the country completes the first fifty years of Independence, the system is facing its worst crisis of credibility. The shadow of the crisis looms large over the entire political establishment including the two communist parties which are nowadays increasingly identified with the establishment. This has placed our movement with its glorious record of sacrifice and resolute struggle for revolutionary transformation in a favourable situation and it falls on our shoulders to make the most of this situation and advance the movement in bold steps.
Our first task in the coming year will be to organise a mass exposure campaign against the UF government. In this context, the CC will shortly issue a booklet on six months of the Gowda government. There is tremendous mass resentment all over the country on issues like corruption and price-rise. Agitations are also going on on issues pertaining to economic policies, on major demands of different sections of the people — notably on the demands for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures, comprehensive legislation for agricultural labourers and for incorporation of the right to work as a fundamental right — and on the question of statehood in Jharkhand and other areas. On behalf of the Party and our network of mass oprganisations we have already begun to play an active role on almost all these issues. Concerted efforts must be made in 1997 to raise our fighting profile on all these major questions. The crusade against corruption must be concentrated in Bihar because it is in Bihar where the issue has assumed most explosive proportions with the corrupt still ruling the roost.
The 50th anniversary of India’s Independence will provide us with a great opportunity to develop public opinion in favour of a revolutionary resolution of the currently deepening crisis. To this end the Party shall launch a major propaganda offensive in the coming year. Seminars and conventions will be organised in state capitals and other major centres and efforts should be made to enlist the support and participation of various like-minded forces in this campaign.
13. While the overall situation is unmistakably favourable and we must make vigorous all-out efforts to make the most of this situation, the state and the entire network of reaction are also trying to hem us in from all possible directions. Repression has always been a constant companion of our movement, but the attack has definitely become intensified at the present juncture. While in Bihar the state is colluding with private armies like Ranveer Sena to suppress our movement, in states like Assam and Andhra we find ourselves at the receiving end of the ongoing state repression against groups like ULFA and PWG. Even in Left-ruled West Bengal our comrades are being subjected to brutal third degree police torture for daring to protest against the infamous police official Runu Guha Niyogi’s writings in the Ananda Bazar Patrika glorifying his own acts of torture and maligning Comrade Charu Mazumdar and other martyred leaders of our movement.
This intensification of state repression is going on simultaneously with judicial activism. These apparently contradictory developments form two strands of the system’s organic response to the acute structural crisis it is facing at the moment. It was at a similar juncture of deepening crisis that Naxalbari had flared up in the late 60s and early 70s and the ongoing spate of intensified repression only reveals the state’s desperation to prevent a resurrection of the revolutionary movement in today’s crisis-ridden situation. While stepping up our activities in different directions, we must also exercise greater vigilance and take all-out initiative to counter the state’s strategy of repression.
14. Towards the end of 1997 we shall be organising our 6th Party Congress and an International Seminar on Marxism. While making every effort to ensure the success of these two events we shall take this opportunity to bring the revolutionary peasant movement of Bihar into national focus and forge a broad fighting unity of revolutionary Left ranks. Let us rise to the occasion and establish CPI(ML) as the rallying centre for people’s struggles and as the most reliable vehicle of change and emancipation for our great people.Home > Liberation Main Page > Index Page January 1997 > ARTICLE