Lessons of 2005

A year that dawned on the ravages wrought by the December 26 tsunami is drawing to a close in the midst of a political tsunami that comes in smaller waves but seems bent on washing away whatever was left of the dignity and moral authority of the Indian Parliament. While the BJP, ‘the party with a difference’ credited with the highest number of ‘photographed MPs’, has shamelessly opposed the Bansal Committee’s recommendation to expel the bribe-takers, we must demand immediate prosecution and exemplary punishment of those fellows. One only hopes the Supreme Court does not come up in defence of the criminals, as it did in the JMM MPs bribery case in 1998 by ruling that bribe taking MPs can claim immunity from prosecution, as long as they have actually spoken or voted in Parliament in consideration of the bribe taken! We should also use the occasion to highlight the electors’ right to recall and the need to abolish the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), a hotbed of corruption.

If 2004 was marked by the ouster of NDA from power at the centre, 2005 has witnessed it inching back to a better power profile courtesy the Congress-led coalition. The UPA, a national alliance torn asunder at the state level under the impact of powerful centrifugal forces, suffered the first stroke in Bihar polls in February and the fatal second in November. If the RJD-Congress misrule and betrayal was the basic among many factors responsible for this, paradoxically it was the shortsighted manipulations of the Congressman in Governor’s house that helped the NDA ride smoothly to power. In Jharkhand too, the UPA faced the electorate a divided house and then added disgrace to defeat by shamelessly and unsuccessfully trying to grab power through the Governor’s manipulations. The story was no different in Goa , where the Congress had toppled the BJP government only to find that it did not have the support of enough legislators to run a government!

Generous help from the Congress notwithstanding, 2005 has not been a happy year for the saffron forces either. Both the Sangh Parivar and the Shiv Sena faced unprecedented levels of internal bickering and the crises have far from blown over.

The last year witnessed not only the usual neglect of agriculture and the countryside, but some glaring instances of urban mismanagement too. Both our ‘commercial capital’ and our most vaunted IT window to the world remained inundated under rain water for days on end, making life miserable for all, the poorer sections in particular. In the latter case ( Bangalore ) the authorities were all the more embarrassed because the city was then hosting an international IT extravaganza. The failure of crisis management was most pronounced in Chennai which saw more than 50 relief seekers trampled to death in two separate incidents. If the national capital was spared this type of rain-induced calamities, that was more than compensated by lethal blasts in November that killed nearly 100 persons. The blasts were essentially in the nature of those that had earlier rocked UK and Spain , countries which participated in the US-led aggression on Iraq and they announced the arrival of international terrorism on Indian soil. An uncouth fallout of India ’s growing identification with American global terrorism, the malady can be remedied only by adopting a foreign policy that is free from the American baggage and truly independent.

Internationally 2005 will be remembered for the expanding horizons of popular movements in various forms. In neighbouring Nepal , king Gyanendra clamped down a state of emergency to make short work of eliminating the Maoist challenge while the parliamentary parties were kept paralysed. What he achieved instead was his own isolation within and without the country and a powerful united opposition (which includes the Maoists) fighting for a full-fledged democratic republic. In America , President Bush’s approval ratings have dropped to new lows and several polls show that a majority of the public now regards the war as a mistake. Congressional opposition has also intensified significantly. Under pressure, the war-hawk has had to soften his tone a bit. In a recent speech he acknowledged that the U.S. military has suffered “setbacks” but asserted that successful training of Iraqi military and police forces will now allow U.S. troops to reduce their role in day-to-day combat operations and then to reduce the troops level itself.

At Hong Kong, the developed countries have been forced to allow one small concession (the phasing out of export subsidies on agricultural products by 2013, which however does not constitute a big gain for the developing nations because export subsidies constitute a very small part of the total subsidies that agriculture receives in the EU and US) in order to save the Doha round. Only subsequent discussions will determine whether the developing countries have given away too much under NAMA (which pertains to industrial tariffs), in the services sector and on intellectual property rights (TRIPS) in return for concessions in agriculture. Overall, the Hong Kong declaration maintained the present unequal trade regime and we must further intensify the battle to achieve something really meaningful.

Back home, the experience of 2005 has convinced the people of India that the ruling alliance is neither united nor progressive and that it is absolutely incapable of resisting the communal forces. They have also watched the UPA’s Left sponsors, caught in the contradictions of loyal opposition, pursuing a sterile, good-for-nothing “bark-but-don’t-bite” policy. Yet, in spite of the political confusion thus created, the masses have launched many struggles in many places, often braving Gurgaon-like atrocities and engaging in street fights with trigger-happy security forces. As far as our Party is concerned, the year began with the martyrdom of Central Committee member and Bagodor (Jharkhand) MLA Mahendra Singh, followed by immense sacrifices made by our comrades everywhere even as they carried the banner of revolutionary movement forward. The party witnessed healthy growth in several states including Andhra and Orissa and, enriched with the lessons of 2005, is all set to march valiantly ahead to scale new heights in people’s movements in 2006.