India-Shining, UPA-Style: Paving the Way for BJP-NDA Comeback?

In May 2004, the electorate administered a stinging rebuff to the BJP-NDA and their arrogant claims of (corporate) ‘India Shining’ in cruel contrast to common man’s India starving, unemployed, suicidal, displaced and dispossessed. The UPA Government and its allies reaped a rich harvest of that popular resentment, and rode to power on a range of promises to the aam aadmi. Three years later, Assembly elections in state after state are showing a dramatic turning of the tables, with the BJP-NDA making a comeback in Uttarakhand and Punjab and seemingly set to make gains in UP as well, Shiv Sena sweeping BMC corporation polls in Mumbai and BJP, the MCD polls in Delhi. Further, back, the Congress and UPA had already lost Bihar and Karnataka to the BJP-NDA.
Only recently it seemed the BJP was at an all-time low – organisationally in disarray, lacking any attractive leadership, facing desertion in its ranks, and politically directionless. Even now its organisational troubles and its run of embarrassing exposures of its leaders in various instances of corruption continue. What accounts then for the saffron surge and its renewed trend towards ascendance?
The answer is fairly clear. With the UPA’s aam aadmi policies remaining either a mirage or on paper, with prices soaring, rural and urban joblessness unabated and rather intensified by eviction from the agrarian sector, with corporate land grab, the spate of farmers’ suicides and starvation deaths being the order of the day, people’s resentment is once again at a peak. The Congress-UPA regimes have made a virtual gift of comeback issues to the highly discredited BJP-NDA. In West Bengal too the warning bells are ringing; at least one top CPI(M) leader has had to admit that  weak and discredited right-wing Opposition has managed for once to lay hands on a genuine issue of loss of land and agrarian distress.
On the one hand, we are seeing a fresh wave of resistance struggles against corporate land grab and SEZs, for the implementation of the NREGA, against the assaults on workers’ rights. From the Hind Motor Factory workers to those of the BEST bus service in Mumbai, various working class struggles are at a peak, despite facing a severe crackdown. At the same time, the Sangh Parivar and the BJP are at work again, trying to revive its communal agenda. From Bangalore to Mau to Gorakhpur, saffron forces have renewed their virulent assault on minorities. BJP’s infamous CD displays a naked intention to demonise Muslims. From Gujarat to Bhopal, the Sangh Parivar is whipping up hysteria over inter-faith marriages. 
While the anti-people economic policies of the Congress, UPA as well other allies at the Centre as well as various States is helping the BJP and NDA to regain lost credibility and pose as champions of people’s anger, the attempts of the Congress and other ‘secular’ formations to ‘compete’ with the BJP is further creating ground for a saffron revival. First, the Congress-UPA played the ‘Vande Mataram’ game only to find the BJP playing it far more adroitly. Samajwadi Party’s tacit tango with the BJP in order to create a communal polarisation in UP resulted in the carnage at Mau and Gorakhpur. Then came Rahul Gandhi’s UP election roadshow. He first made a blatant bid to persuade Muslims of Congress’ secular credentials, explaining away the Babri Masjid demolition condoned by a Congress regime at the Centre, with the airy claim that ‘had a Gandhi been in power, the Babri Masjid would surely still be standing’. This claim of course flew in the face of history. It seems Rahul and the Congress hope for a benign amnesia – but how can we forget how the locks to the Masjid were broken and an idol installed in Nehru’s tenure? Or how Rajiv, right at the height of the Mandir frenzy, flagged off his election campaign at Ayodhya with the cry of ‘Ram Rajya’? Or Indira’s own cry at the VHP Ekatmata Yagna of ‘Hinduism in danger’ following the Meenakshipuram conversions?
Sure enough, Rahul lived up to the historic legacy of Congress’ pragmatic communalism with the boasting of yet another familial achievement – the ‘division of Pakistan’. It would be a mistake to see this as a faux-pas by a political novice – it is in fact a carefully calculated statement by Congress scriptwriters. This is corroborated by Manmohan Singh’s own declaration that Rahul is heir-apparent in UP, while Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s statement is even more revealing. Responding to BJP criticism of Rahul’s statement regarding Bangladesh, Singhvi pointed out that it was senior BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had praised former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as Goddess Durga after the 1971 war that led to the liberation of Bangladesh!

With Congress vying to beat BJP’s anti-Pakistan jingoism, with even the CPI(M) branding democratic peasants’ resistance as “communal” and with the BJP and Sangh on a fresh offensive, it seems the dark clouds of communalism loom ahead. Only powerful mass assertions and democratic movements against neo-liberal economic policies can dispel them.