Congress-BJP Tango over

Pro-US Policies

I n the wake of George Bush's maiden India visit we are currently witnessing the beginning of a revealing political discourse between the two main parties of the Indian ruling classes. In a signed editorial in Sandesh, the monthly mouthpiece of her party, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has described the Bush visit as a remarkable achievement of the UPA government and charged parties opposing the visit and India's strategic partnership with the US with attempts to ‘communalise our foreign policy for short-term electoral gains'. This is not the first time the Congress has made such an accusation against detractors of its pro-US policies. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already levelled this allegation at the critics and opponents of his government's foreign policy following widespread opposition to India 's pro-US stand on the Iran issue.

What is remarkable in this allegation is the specific plank being invoked by the Congress to ‘rubbish' its opponents. Worldwide, Bush's campaign of permanent war is rightly being opposed by all peace-loving and progressive forces. Of course, inasmuch as the present war drive of US imperialism is directed predominantly against Muslim countries and marked by non-stop vilification of Islam, there is a visible participation of Muslims in protests against US imperialism. India is no exception, and recent anti-imperialist protests in India have indeed been marked by a high degree of Muslim presence and participation. It should be noted that the Congress has chosen to attack precisely this aspect of pronounced Muslim participation and the consequent prospect of the community coming in closer political contact with the Left. The bogey of ‘communalisation' of foreign policy is a stick with which the Congress hopes to beat back the Left as well as the Muslim community.

With the Congress caught painting the Muslim community and the Left with the ‘communal' brush borrowed from the RSS, an otherwise gloomy and ideologically disheartened BJP has an obvious cause for cheer. Advani has naturally lost no time in backing the Congress on this issue and challenging it to show similar courage and wisdom on the domestic front. He has also offered to play ball with the Congress to promote ‘bipartisan consensus' in a bipolar polity, if only the Congress could shun its politics of ‘minorityism' or ‘Muslim appeasement'. Advani has no hesitation in admitting that but for this one ‘irritant' the two parties already share considerable common ground in matters of politics and governance.

Advani's confession regarding a growing Congress-BJP convergence may not be in tune with the BJP's earlier pretension of being a party with a difference, but it is nonetheless corroborated by events and facts in real life. In fact, it is now widely recognized that even on this one issue of ‘communalism', there is no Chinese wall separating the two parties. While BJP dissidents complain about Congressisation of the BJP, Congress leaders are trying to outsmart the BJP by perfecting the theory and practice of what is now commonly designated as soft Hindutva! The BJP and the Congress are both ardent advocates of a bipolar polity, only the Congress does not yet have the tactical freedom to state it openly as it has to rely in Parliament on the numerical strength of the Left.

How does the CPI(M) respond to this Congress-BJP discourse of bipartisan consensus in a bipolar polity? People's Democracy, the weekly central organ of the CPI(M), is upset over Sonia's remarks in Sandesh. “While Sonia Gandhi supporting the government's stand on India-US relations is understandable, it is unfortunate that the “communal” tag is being attributed to those who are opposed to the government's volte face on the Iran nuclear issue and are against the strategic alliance with the United States,” laments the CPI(M). Obviously, it is beyond the CPI(M) to return the ‘communal' compliments to the Congress and expose the united comprador-communal colours of the BJP-Congress show of nationalistic pretensions.

Ironically, while the CPI(M) finds Sonia's defence of her government's stand understandable (do we see here an implicit expectation of Sonia playing a different ‘coalition dharma' and discharging a ‘corrective' role vis-à-vis her party's government?), it sees in Advani's offer of BJP-Congress cooperation a conspiracy to distance the Congress from the Left! The unstated CPI(M) response to the BJP's ‘mischievous' offer therefore is a resolve to cling more closely to the Congress, even if that means suffering a few more ‘anti-communal' admonitions from the Congress president!

“In seeking to distance the Congress from the Left, the RSS/BJP hope to weaken the process of consolidation of the secular democratic republic,” runs the CPI(M) argument. In other words, the CPI(M) would like us to believe that its strategic partnership with the Congress is facilitating a grand secular democratic consolidation. But real life shows that a CPI(M)-Congress partnership is clearly unable to prevent or restrict the growing bipartisan consensus between the Congress and the BJP. So much so that the Congress now accuses any party opposing its pro-US course of ‘communalising the foreign policy debate for narrow electoral gains'! True, the BJP at the moment is out of power, but the Congress has now amply demonstrated that it is capable of pursuing and ‘defending' pro-imperialist economic and foreign policies in a manner that can clearly put the BJP to shame! What a fine example of secular democratic consolidation!