Congress Sheds Crocodile Tears even as Suicides and Blasts Continue to Rock the Country

Addressing a conclave of Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states at Nainital, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh called for greater care and sensitivity in handling the issues of agrarian crisis and terrorism so that peasants and Muslims do not feel alienated. The Congress evidently believes that these are merely a matter of public relations and occasional expression of concern and periodic announcement of certain cosmetic measures will help the party avert the kind of disastrous denouement that befell the earlier ‘reform regimes' headed by Narsimha Rao and Vajpayee. On the eve of the forthcoming round of Assembly elections, the Congress therefore chose the Nainital conclave to launch yet another PR exercise to ‘reassure' the growing army of angry farmers and aggrieved and alienated Muslims. The country has thus been treated to yet another spectacle of speeches and assurances, the only ‘concrete' assurance being a promise to reduce the interest rate charged on cooperative loans advanced to farmers in a few states!

The sheer futility of the exercise was brutally exposed once again by reports coming in from Vidarbha. Even as the Congress High Command and the party's Chief Ministerial brigade were busy confabulating over national security, newspapers reported 11 more suicides from the districts of Buldhana, Yavatmal, Amravati , Wardha, Washim and Akola . This meant 97 suicides in the region in the first three weeks of September alone and 298 suicides since Manmohan Singh's highly publicised visit to Vidarbha and announcement of the great Vidarbha package in July ( Hindustan Times , 25 September, 2006)! Maharashtra is the home state of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and in Nainital Sonia Gandhi reassured the whole country that the “agriculture minister is working in an extremely effective manner ... (and) the minister and the PM are doing their best” ( Indian Express , 25 September, 2006).

Evidently, over the last two and a half years the Congress has failed to even scratch the surface of India 's deepening agrarian crisis. In fact, the policies of the Congress-led UPA government have only led to a further aggravation of the crisis. Any serious attempt to stop the suicides should have started with a reversal of the present agricultural policies, a complete moratorium on recovery of past loans, provision of subsidised inputs and easy and adequate interest-free credit, and massive hike in public investment in agriculture. The government does not have the will or courage to do any of that; instead it is busy delivering further blows to agriculture by pursuing the same killer policies much more aggressively, importing food grains at rates way above the support prices and robbing farmers of their lands in the name of creating Special Economic Zones. Along with suicides, starvation deaths are also continuing unabated, testifying to the utter failure of the much publicised National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and ‘Targeted' Public Distribution System.

As for the alienation of the Muslim community (actually the Congress is worried about the growing alienation of the party from the Muslim electorate of which Sonia Gandhi had a first-hand personal experience during her recent post-blast visit to Malegaon), this too is a product of the Congress policies and not the outcome of any isolated incident. The Congress has tagged the UPA's anti-terrorist campaign to the US-led ‘global war on terror' and the Bush brigade continues to demonise Islam in the name of ‘Islamic terrorism' and ‘Islamic fascism'. The so-called Anti-Terrorism Squad in Maharashtra is operating in a fashion that seems to have been copied straight from the American or Western practice of ‘racial profiling' and ‘communal targeting' – harassing, humiliating and terrorising Muslims on every possible pretext. And the police force does not operate in a political vacuum; it obeys the political commands of the ruling establishment. It was Sonia Gandhi who started the business of describing the anti-imperialist anti-Bush protests of the Indian people as an act of ‘Muslim appeasement'. Long before the recent blasts, Muslims in Malegaon have been systematically targeted and persecuted by the state and communal forces for boycotting American goods. Not content with slandering anti-imperialism as Muslim communalism, the UPA government has also gone to the extent of once again subjecting Muslims to the RSS-dictated test of ‘patriotism' by ordering countrywide celebration of a fictitious centenary of Vande Mataram.

The defeat of the NDA in May 2004 was the upshot of an electoral earthquake triggered primarily by the twin phenomena of farmers' suicides and the Gujarat genocide. The BJP had failed to anticipate this earthquake as it was busy ‘carpet-bombing' itself with the propaganda blitzkrieg of India Shining! The Congress is pursuing the same policy-format with a different PR packaging – it has replaced India Shining by Bharat Nirman, moistening this propaganda quite liberally with periodic outpourings of crocodile tears! But truth is not only stranger than fiction; it is also stronger. Vidarbha and Malegaon could always play spoilsport for the crocodile conclave whether in Nainital or Delhi .

- DB