India is bracing up for Lok Sabha polls under the dark shadows of a deepening economic crisis that our ruling elite has managed to import from the United States of America. The UPA government's response to the crisis/recession has been essentially two-pronged. First, they are shifting the burden onto the shoulders of the common people while pampering the corporate biggies. Soon after the financial tsunami struck India, the government announced tax cuts to the tune of some 50,000 Cr rupees and in the recently held Indian Labour Conference Pranab Mukherjee suggested wage cuts as a pretext for avoiding job cuts -- this at a time when corporate honchos are taking astronomical sums -- anywhere between rupees 20 to 50 crore -- as what is now called compensation! In the name of stimulus spending the interim budget has left a gap of 5.5 percent of gross domestic product in the coming fiscal year, way above the three per cent estimate made earlier. This will further worsen stagflation: the deadly double curse of price rise combined with economic stagnation and slowdown. The government says spending to revive the economy is more important now than worrying about the deficit. This would really make sense if the funds were utilised for facilitating employment in badly affected segments like textiles, gems and jewellery, leather, construction, retail trade etc.; for helping farmers of crops like cotton, rubber and coffee who are facing sharp price falls; and for expanding the scope of NREGA as well as introducing similar schemes for the urban poor. But the focus of the interim budget is not on expanding the home market by augmenting people's purchasing power; it is on corporate welfare and unproductive sectors. Thus defence expenditure has been raised by a whopping 35 per cent on top of a 10 per cent increase last year, the major chunk of which will flow out to arms exporters like the US and Israel rather than creating effective demand within the country.
The second plank of the government’s policy orientation continues to be dependence on and concessions to footloose foreign capital. To cite one recent example, it is actively considering a proposal to lift restrictions on foreign investors to buy up stakes in its domestic airlines. True to tradition dating back to the early 1990s, the Congress-led government is utilising the crisis for selling out the country’s residual economic sovereignty to imperialist powers. Naturally this is accompanied by further erosion of our political independence, the direct FBI involvement in Mumbai investigations after the terrorist attacks being a case in point. The real meaning of "strategic partnership" between India and the US is thus getting clearer.
Economic woes and imperialist intervention apart, the pre-poll scene is marked by the growing menace of communalism. LK Advani in his inaugural election rally at Gorakhpur responded to the loud chants of “Jai Sri Ram” by saying that this will be realised only after the Ram temple is built in Ayodhya. Advani’s promises of Mandir and hanging of Afzal Guru indicate the BJP’s overtly communal plank in the coming election. Advani was audacious enough even to claim that Muslims were very happy in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, where they reportedly enjoyed the highest per capita income in the country.
It is against these and other enemies like draconian laws and the repressive state that popular resistance must be intensified. A vigorous election campaign of genuine left and democratic forces focusing on people’s issues can serve as a very good instrument for this.
Resist the ravaging expedition of unbridled capital !
Uphold the banner of self-reliance and people’s welfare against the present reign of elitist and pro-US policies!
Champion the cause of people’s unity and democracy against the twin threats of communalism and terrorism! March forward to raise the people’s voice inside Parliament !