Lok Sabha elections held in April-May 2014 have resulted in BJP securing a majority of seats. It secured 282 seats and along with its NDA allies secured 336 seats in a house of 543 members. There are many a first in these election results which demand attention from the Party and the people.
This is the first time that the political arm of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has secured a clear majority of its own in Lok Sabha. BJP had been in power from 1998 to 2004 but it was through NDA and its own seats were only 182, much below majority mark. It had to adopt an agenda for governance and shelve its communal projects like construction of Ram Temple at the site of Babri Masjid, uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution relating to J&K.
Another significant feature of these elections that a ruling class party secured a majority of its own in Lok Sabha after nearly three decades. It was in 1984 that Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi secured 404 seats in Lok Sabha after assassination of Indira Gandhi.
It is also important that though BJP has secured a majority in Lok Sabha, it is much short of the majority in Rajya Sabha even along with its allies. This situation marks that while BJP would have complete control over executive power, its ability to pilot laws will be restricted.
These elections saw an increase in voting percentage (above 66 percent) bettering the earlier mark of 64% in 1984 elections. Voting percentage increased in almost all the states with Tripura having the highest and J&K having the lowest polling percentage.
These elections also saw unprecedented and open support of the corporate, domestic and foreign, to a Prime Ministerial candidate. They opened their coffers to pump huge money into Modi campaign and helped shape agenda through the big media controlled by them.
Increasing role of Money and Media power in Elections
There has been steady rise in the use of money and media power in elections. BJP spent a huge sum of money in these elections and even outspent ruling Congress many times over. The Election Commission has also helped increasing role of money power. It restricted inexpensive means of political propaganda and has increased permissible limits for expenditure to Rs. 70 lakh per candidate. EC has been most ineffective and unwilling to act against open communal propaganda against Muslims.
While these elections saw a singularly important role of corporate media with successful culmination of their Bring Modi campaign, the use of social media has also been conspicuous in these elections. Facebook, twitter and the like have become effective vehicles of propaganda. The increasing role of media is giving rise to increasing polarization among voters for main contestants for power and increasing marginalization of parties not in contention for power. There has been reduction in the vote share of smaller parties. Role of money, media and muscle power in elections along with other lacunae of the present election system has also been highlighted.
No wonder these most expensive elections have concluded with the victory of overwhelming majority of crorepatis and a large number of people with serious criminal cases.
Thanks to the first past the post system, BJP, having secured only 31% of the votes polled, has notched up a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha. This is the smallest vote share with which a party has ever secured a majority in the Lok Sabha. After two and a half decades a party has secured a majority in the Lok Sabha. Nearly 62% of the votes are cast against Modi and BJP leaving out additional about 7% polled by BJP’s NDA allies.
CPI(ML)-New Democracy in its Call on the occasion of Lok Sabha elections had highlighted the use of money, muscle and media in shaping the outcome of the elections, undemocratic nature of first past the post system and total lack of control of the people on such elected representatives after the election. Conduct of elections, election results and pronouncements of winning party vindicate these assessments of the Party.
Decimation of Congress
A significant aspect of the result is the decimation of Congress. As a cumulative effect of implementation of new economic policies, increasing economic difficulties of people, sharp rise in prices of essential commodities, increasing unemployment and rampant corruption with exposure of some mega scandals created a wave against Congress which swept away not only the Congress but even the regional parties aligned with it or supporting it. Its anti-people policies resulted in this wave against Congress which was channelized mostly by BJP but also by some regional parties of ruling classes which have been or had become anti-Congress. Inept leadership of the present generation of Nehru dynasty with their obsession with the family tree and sense of entitlement and total lack of concern about problems faced by the people, increased people’s sentiments against ruling Congress. Wherever Congress confronted BJP or even effective regional parties, it was routed. Its vote share declined to 19.4% and it suffered a historic low with only 44 seats.
This electoral decimation of Congress is not an ordinary election defeat. It has lost its organizational structure in Andhra Pradesh and substantial erosion of its organizational structure in Telengana, West Bengal, Odisha and Tamilnadu. In UP and Bihar it had lost its substantial organizational structure earlier. It is the first time that BJP has exceeded Congress vote share in elections. In earlier elections even when BJP secured more seats than Congress, Congress vote share always remained higher. Except in 1977, Congress had been the biggest vote getter in every Lok Sabha election.
Reduction in the strength of Regional Parties : Decline of Caste-based parties
The regional parties too have declined to some extent not so much in their share of votes as in their share of seats. Among the regional parties, particularly those which were aligned or supportive of Congress, especially caste based parties of UP and Bihar, suffered the most. BSP suffered decline in vote share and failed to win a single seat. Caste mobilization of these parties was met by micromanagement of castes by BJP through so-called social engineering. Mobilization of caste groupings like backwards and dalits has been weakened by mobilization of individual member castes of these groupings for securing their share of power. While consolidating its upper caste votes, BJP split the votes of other castes by aligning with parties of numerically smaller castes among backwards and dalits. Even Modi cast himself as belonging to a backward caste for the purpose.
In a way this election signifies end of the era of caste based parties though not of caste based politics as major parties of the ruling classes move to further fragment the mobilization of castes by these parties. In fact, these parties have been born out of the mobilization of lower castes, dalits and backwards, against Brahmannical social order. When upper castes were politically ruling, these mobilizations signified mobilization of these social groups. However, when these parties came to power, these caste groupings were broken as these parties wedded to the protection of the interests of ruling classes did not do anything to address the root cause of caste oppression in the society, particularly semifeudal agrarian relations. In fact these parties of ruling classes rely on elites of these social groups to harness their votes and only promote their interests which are mostly at variance with that of the common people of these castes. On the other hand, their rule signified ascendency of a particular caste group thereby alienating the other castes of the same group. The rise of elite among these castes also intensified struggle among them for loaves of power, giving rise to emergence of several parties every one of them dominated by a particular caste group. It led to fragmentation of backwards and dalits among these parties. These parties, particularly in UP and Bihar, which had substantial number of Muslims, also targeted Muslims as their vote banks thanks to the rise of Hindutva RSS-BJP. However, they did nothing to help Muslims, one of the most destitute social group in India, hoping to get their votes due to their opposition to BJP. Decline of Congress and rise of BJP from end of the ninth decade of last century was co-terminus with rise and strengthening of these parties. The present election signify a new situation pointing to the task and opportunity of fighting caste oppression under the leadership of revolutionary forces i.e. fighting caste oppression on the basis of class unity.
Regional parties based on the regional interests, however, did not register this decline. Moreover, in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh, ruling class politics too has come to be dominated by regional parties. The regional parties of South and East, notably, AIADMK, TMC, BJD, did well, increasing both their vote shares and seats. While TRS won in Telengana by claiming all the credit for creation of Telengana, TDP won narrowly over YSRCP in Andhra. Congress lost heavily in Telengana and was wiped out in Seemandhra (Andhra Pradesh).
Such regional parties operate on the basis of contradiction between centre and states which is also an expression of the contradiction different national groups have with central authorities which play on the differences between different national and regional groups to perpetuate their power. These parties try to bargain for more sops from the Centre. There is also a drive of big corporate who want a strong central govt. to serve their interests by allowing their usurpation of natural resources of different states and all facilities for their investments throughout India.
Modi led BJP positioned itself
Modi led BJP positioned itself to take advantage of this situation by propagating that they could bring “good days” i.e. a bright future to attract especially educated youth. They projected development plank as their main agenda while deepening communal divide in UP, Bihar and also in Assam and West Bengal. The elevation of Modi as Prime Ministerial candidate was inaugurated with communal killings of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar in UP and bomb blasts in Patna rally of Modi and subsequent large scale arrests of Muslim youth. BJP raised in Assam and West Bengal the bogey of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. A concoction of development and communalism was served to the people to galvanize upper castes and mobilize parts of other sections. This mix of service to corporate and Hindutva served the ruling classes of India, the big capitalists and big landlords, admirably. All this would not have succeeded but for massive infusion of money by foreign and Indian corporate and all out efforts of corporate controlled media in manufacturing a Modi wave.
Corporate drive and Modi Wave
These elections took place in the aftermath of effects of world financial-economic crisis on Indian economy with resultant low growth particularly over the last two years. The low growth and resultant low revenue, falling exports, deteriorating balance of payment situation, rising debt burden of Indian corporate, increasing profit repatriation of foreign MNCs, compulsory imports under WTO regime and rising luxury imports put a heavy burden on Indian currency. The UPA Govt. had become desperate to somehow attract FDI and even opened retail trade for FDI. But these efforts were not enough. Foreign and Indian corporate wanted to secure rich mineral resources of India but this ran into problems due to people’s movements and consequent actions of the different wings of the state. Moreover, the past allocations of natural resources like 2G and coal blocks became symbols of corruption. Inability of UPA Govt. to dole out natural resources to corporate was on open display while exposure of Neera Radia tapes brought big corporate into ‘disrepute’ by highlighting their role in formation of govt. and influencing its policies. With increasing corporate desperation for securing and UPA inability at delivering, corporate sponsored the “Bring Modi Campaign”. Big propaganda was launched in favour of Gujarat model of development which is characterized by low wages of workers, quick and forcible displacement of peasants and low spending on social sectors, all issues of prime interest to corporate. With Congress dumping Manmohan Singh for third term, the race was increasingly projected as a one horse race with Modi as the only candidate in the field. While his blunders were ignored, his bluffs were lapped up. BJP swept north, west and central India. As a result BJP did significantly raise its vote share and marked its all India presence for the first time.
Advent of Modi was also helped by the top echelons of different wings of the state, which did not permit any scrutiny into fake encounters under Modi in Gujarat, into snoopgate etc. Open support from corporate big wigs, top bureaucrats and top officials of intelligence and security agencies to Modi points to their choice.
As a Modi victory looked increasing probable, the share market rallied with FIIs contributing most to the rally. There has been influx of more than 16 billion $ in Indian equities and bonds from foreign investors over the last six months. Today foreign companies own 22% of the stock listed in Mumbai stock exchange. The enthusiasm of MNCs of western companies has been no less than Indian corporate as they look to corner important part of Indian pie. While BJP manifesto lists opposition to FDI in retail trade, enthusiastic investment of Arkansas based retail giant of USA, Walmart, has been noted by some commentators.
AAP’s gamble does not pay off
Another organization hyped by the media, AAP, did not do so well as it did not receive the same uncritical indulgence from the corporate media as earlier. The corporate did not want anything to hinder their Bring Modi campaign. AAP had resigned their Delhi Govt. to avoid fighting these elections on the basis of performance of their Govt. in Delhi and to make their Jan Lokpal an all India issue. However, this gamble was unsuccessful not so much due to its inherent weakness as due to media propagating Modi. They lost all seats in Delhi though somewhat improving their vote share at the expense of Congress. However, they did remarkably well in Punjab, winning four seats there due to strong public sentiment against ruling Akalis and to strong pitch by NRIs in its favour particularly citing AAP’s Delhi Govt.’s announcement of setting up of SIT in anti-Sikh genocide of 1984 and people’s strong sentiment against drugs’ trade and rampant corruption e.g. in sand trade, with higher urbanization there being of help. Its opportunistic attempt to again form Govt. in Delhi has been dumped by Congress which had earlier supported AAP due to then coming elections.
Further decline of parliamentary left
Of particular note has been further decline of parliamentary left which could only win 10 seats: CPM 9 (5 Kerala, 2 Tripura and 2 West Bengal), CPI 1 (Kerala), besides two independents (both in Kerala) supported by them. In fact Kerala is the only state where ruling Congress, facing ‘Left’ parties as the main electoral adversaries, could withstand the wave against it. In Bengal their vote share further declined while they could only marginally improve in Kerala. Only in Tripura ‘Left’ stood their ground. As noted by our Political Resolution decline of revisionist parties has continued and illusions about their parliamentary path have been further dispelled. They did not draw any lessons from their successive defeats and were unwilling to even admit their mistakes and make corrections. They continued with forging fronts with other ruling class parties. Ruling classes and big corporate media will intensify their campaign against revolutionary Marxism, socialism and working class movement in the country showing declining performance of parliamentary left parties.
These elections also saw increased involvement of educated middle classes, youth and professionals. As most of them have rallied behind Modi led BJP, these sections are very impatient and may as quickly turn against Modi and BJP. The issue of unemployment is a critical issue for this section and their disillusionment with Govt. on this score may not take long to set in.
Need to dispel illusions
With voting percentage going up, people’s illusions with present system need to be systematically overcome by educating them about insincerity of these parties towards people’s problems and by building their struggles. More than 6 million people have voted NOTA. This depicts a rising trend of disillusionment with ruling class parties while still having illusions with the present system. Dispelling illusions about the system is dialectically interconnected with struggles for alternate system.
Issues of importance : Challenges before the people
While bourgeois parliamentary elections are periodic selection to manage the affairs of state on behalf of ruling classes, these selections at times signal changes in course, which are of importance to the people. Ruling classes are projecting that they have overcome their political instability with a party, BJP, having secured a majority in Lok Sabha after two and a half decades. However the conflict between various organs of state, between centre and states (BJP and its allies currently having state Govts. in about one fifth of India) and between different ruling class parties and between different groups among them continues. It should also be noted that BJP and NDA are a minority in Rajya Sabha. Besides rallying of foreign and domestic corporate behind Modi is temporary and their divisions will soon manifest themselves. In this regard one should note how the overwhelming verdict of 1984 soon dissipated into bitter fight between sections of ruling classes and their political representatives.
With BJP Govt. installed at the Centre, there are many challenges before the Indian people and also communist revolutionaries of India. Corporate, both foreign and domestic, whose support has been instrumental in bringing Modi to power, wish to gain control of the mineral rich parts of central and eastern India. They are already pushing for quick action on this as the biggest source of their quick profits and greatest prospective earner of foreign exchange. Modi led Govt. will move to forcibly displace the people from these areas. Modi Govt. has started the process of changing Land Acquisition Act (LARR) and diluting Forest Rights Act (FRA). Modi had during the campaign talked loudly of his intention of increasing attacks on the people resisting this loot and plunder and he had targeted communist revolutionaries for the purpose. He had even accused the ruling Congress of being soft on Naxalites thereby clearly signaling his design of intensifying attacks on communist revolutionaries. Increased outlay on Anti-Naxal operations, increased forces for these operations and declarations of new Union Home Minister all point in this direction.
His advent to power has increased importance for defense of democratic rights of the people and support to people’s resistance against displacement. His advent to power has increased importance of defending the democratic rights of struggling people. Democratic rights movement will face fresh and increased challenges both from the pro-corporate agenda of the Govt. and Hindutva organizations’ attacks against minorities, dalits and women.
Attacks on the anti-landlord struggles of poor and landless peasants by the Govt. and landlords will increase further. This trend will get further boost under Modi and communist revolutionaries working among these sections will be main target of attack.
Even while BJP has declared its opposition to FDI in retail, Modi has been in favour of it. Moreover, BJP has often gone against its manifesto promises. Not only FDI in retail, there will be increase in foreign investment in different fields particularly handing over of agriculture to foreign and Indian corporate. Modi and BJP have talked of promoting FDI in defense production. There will be increased dumping of foreign waste, increased opening to MNCs’ GM seeds and involvement of foreign companies in the vast agricultural sector in India.
Modi led BJP Govt. will more energetically push neoliberal agenda even where Manmohan Singh had failed to advance. Modi led Govt. will further cut spending on social sector, do away with welfare schemes and cut the govt. expenditure. As Modi had told ET in an interview, he would continue Manmohan Singh’s policies only pushing them further where Manmohan Singh had faced obstruction. Like in his Gujarat model, where social spending has been low and conditions of poor people really abysmal, Modi led Govt. is likely to scrap/tone down many such schemes.
However, this crisis accentuated by neoliberal policies will deepen further. Modi Govt. will handle this crisis by further shifting the burden of this crisis on to the shoulders of the common people in the name of containing fiscal deficit by cutting on subsidies and balancing the books. This will result in increasing charges of electricity, water and other public services, fares and other utilities. Recent decision of steep rise in railway passenger fares by 14.2% and of the freight by 6.5% is an example of what is in store. This is the course to be taken by a “strong and stable” govt. Ruling classes need a strong govt. to attack the people.
Indian ruling classes, particularly corporate, have been asking the Govt. to dilute labour laws in the name of reforming them. Anyway, through judiciary many of these aspects are being implemented and there has been increasing contractualization of labour force in the country. With both BJP and Congress in favour of it, this issue will be on agenda though NDA does not enjoy majority in Rajya Sabha. Lot of workers will deteriorate further with unorganized workers bearing the brunt of it. Already Rajasthan Govt. has made some of these changes in labour laws which are anti-worker.
Generating employment will be the biggest challenge before Modi Govt. Organized employment has been going down in the country. With only infrastructure projects without promoting manufacture and developing agriculture no appreciable increase in employment for the long term can be made. Modi led BJP has been very short on details, only promising “good days”. Youth, particularly educated youth will turn against the Govt. and that too not before long.
BJP has promised interlinking of rivers which is bound to create large scale displacement, spoiling of productive land and would threaten riparian rights of states. This ill conceived project, facing dissention within BJP and NDA, needs to be opposed.
RSS backed Modi Govt. will move to implement its Hindutva agenda though in a gradual manner. Minorities, particularly Muslims, will be further marginalized. Muslim youth will be further targeted in anti-terror campaign as Hindutva chieftains become bosses of security agencies where such bias is already well ingrained. Attacks on educated Muslim youth will intensify further. Recent killing of a Muslim youth in Pune by Hindutva organization is a pointer. This will become a major arena for struggle for democratic rights as well. Attempts will be made to saffronize the curriculum and communal distortion of history taught to students.
With Modi govt. unable to fulfill its promises and increasing burden on the people, it is but natural that people will turn against the Govt. and come out in struggles. Modi govt. will try to disrupt the people’s unity and distract them from these issues by intensifying its communal campaign. There is systematic anti-Muslim campaign by BJP in UP. Hence, whatever the protestations of Modi govt. communist revolutionaries and struggling people should remain vigilant about it. Gujarat is an example where Muslims have been systematically terrorized into submission and excluded from social life.
RSS-BJP have traditionally been opposed to reservation. Though they may not scrap it nor may be able to do so, there will be increasing dilution of its implementation and more and more jobs and institutions may be taken out of its ambit.
Modi Govt. will increase alignment with US and western imperialist powers and may further carry forward the strategic partnership with US imperialism. In this regard it will continue Manmohan Singh’s policies. Participation in US pivot to Asia, in its encircling China campaign, may increase further. Modi govt. will deepen relations with Japan and others also hoping to attract more investment from these countries. Modi Govt. will deepen its relations with Zionist Israel particularly defense and economic relations. Relations with Pakistan will be tumultuous while Modi Govt. will be under increased pressure to increase its security footprints in Afghanistan. Its anti-terror emphasis may be used to increase Indian role in security operations in that country. At a time when US imperialism is facing increased challenges, US need of Indian rulers is more. However, in the multi-polar world, Modi Govt. will keep relations with other imperialist powers as well. To that extent the foreign policy of Manmohan Singh Govt. will continue with change in emphasis in select spheres.
During his recent visit to Bhutan Modi coined B4B slogan (meaning Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat) which essentially means Bhutan for Bharat thus betraying his Govt.’s big brotherly attitude towards small neighbouring countries.
These challenges also tell us of the areas of our attention in immediate future. Modi Govt. does pose a challenge to the progressive and democratic forces. We have to demarcate areas of attention, decide on concrete steps and implement them seriously.
In order to meet this challenge and play our role, we should increase focus on work in strategic areas to build areas of sustained resistance. It is clear that without developing such areas we cannot exercise any significant influence at all India level.
With a view to policies which are going to be implemented by Modi govt. we should build and strengthen resistance against displacement, including that of tribals. We should build and support movements against FDI, against corporatization of agriculture, against cuts in social spending, price-rise, unemployment, corruption and drugs and against increasing burden on the people. We should work towards unleashing workers’ and peasants’ struggles. We should in particular build and participate in struggles against changes in labour laws.
Emphasis should be given to strengthening of democratic rights’ struggles and movement and to systematic efforts at combating attacks on minorities. We should apprise the people of these dangers, prepare for launching their struggles and mobilizing all we can in these struggles.
In view of the emerging situation, we should give due emphasis to developing joint struggles on people’s issues, against attacks on the people, their struggles and their democratic rights. This is going to emerge as an important arena of struggle in the coming time particularly at the level of mass organizations to combat the attacks of the Govt.
Increased emphasis on improving our intervention in social media and better propagation of our views should also be an area of attention.
There is also increased need of ideological work to counter ideological offensive of the reactionary ruling classes. The ideological offensive must be combated energetically and creatively drawing upon examples from the history of Indian people’s struggles. We must redouble our efforts among intelligentsia and students.
June 30, 2014