BOTH the Congress and the BJP appear to have adopted a trajectory of discourse during this election campaign that focuses on non-issues and inanities rather than focus on the problems being faced by the country and the people. This appears to suit the electoral strategies of both since on the issues facing the people, particularly in the wake of the global economic recession and its impact on India, neither has anything substantial to offer as relief for the people. Both appear completely bereft on how to tackle this disastrous impact which has already seen the loss of over a crore of jobs, distress suicides and the sale of body organs by workers in misery to survive. Both seem to be in a complete state of denial on this score. Rather than placing before the people their proposals on how to tackle the situation, both have chosen to raise issues that have little consequence to the future direction of the policies that either may implement if elected.
It began with the BJP upping the ante through hate speeches in order to sharpen communal polarisation and thus seek to consolidate the so-called ‘Hindu vote bank’. The BJP's brazen defence of such speeches made in Philibit is compounded by its setting up of similar candidates, for instance in the Kandamahal constituency of Orissa. This particular candidate is wanted for the incendiary hate speeches that in the first place created the communally charged situation leading to the attacks on the Christian minorities. He is currently campaigning evading arrest and managing to escape the nets of the law and the police. Clearly, the BJP, as evidenced by the resurrection of the hardcore communal agenda in its manifesto, has decided to bank on communal polarisation as its electoral mascot.
This is now being followed by a verbal spat between the BJP's prime ministerial hopeful and the prime minister. The former has charged Dr Manmohan Singh as being a weak PM, who in reply brought out the embarrassing aspects of Advani's leadership in the past. These included the trading of terrorists at Kandahar, Advani's so-called helplessness at the demolition of the Babri Masjid and his remarks on Jinnah on his visit to Karachi. Not to be left behind the Congress president and her son, general secretary of the party, jumped to the defence of the prime minister attacking the chinks in Advani's many holed armour.
A comic sidelight came when Narendra Modi described the Congress as a “budiya” party. Priyanka Gandhi retorted by asking people if she was “budiya”. Modi promptly changed the description of the Congress party as being a “Gudia” party!
Is this the sort of discourse that one would expect in the world's largest democracy with nearly 75 crore voters? There is little concern or deliberate silence over the fact that in addition to the burdens of soaring unemployment imposed by the global recession, the people continue to suffer from a relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities that are necessary for their daily consumption and survival. Despite the government's decision to permit the duty free import of onions, a panic knee-jerk reaction with memories of a BJP rout in an earlier election on this score, the price levels have not ebbed.
It is clear that both the Congress and the BJP are avoiding any discussion on the basic issues affecting the people and their yearning for relief. It is precisely this factor that is strengthening the search among the people for a political alternative which can provide an alternative policy trajectory that can give them relief and a better livelihood.
In this context the prime minister's anti-communist diatribe during his brief visit to Kerala where he described the communists as always being on the wrong side of history is yet another effort to deflect the discussion from the issues raised by the Left concerning the country and the people's future. The prime minister has invoked the die hard anti-communist propaganda regarding their role during the Quit India movement of 1942. As regards the ‘role’ of the communists in the Quit India movement, it should suffice to note that when the country was celebrating its 50th anniversary on August 9, 1992, the then president of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma, addressing the midnight session of Indian parliament, said: “After large-scale strikes in mills in Kanpur, Jamshedpur and Ahmedabad, a despatch from Delhi dated September 5, 1942, to the secretary of state in London, reported about the Communist Party of India, ‘The behaviour of many of its members proves what has always been clear, namely, that it is composed of anti-British revolutionaries’.”
Need anything else be said? An elected president of independent India, speaking at an official celebration in Indian parliament, himself sets the record straight by establishing that communists were always “anti-British revolutionaries”.
The prime minister, however, in tune with the current political game they are playing in tandem with the BJP, was completely silent on the role of the RSS – whose political arm is today the BJP – during the Quit India movement. The Bombay Home Department, during the 1942 Quit India movement, observed: “The Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law and in particular has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942”. Even a former leading light, Nanaji Deshmukh, once raised the question, “Why did the RSS not take part in the liberation struggle as an organisation?”
It is necessary that people see through this political match fixing where both the BJP and the Congress seek electoral support without offering any alternative policy prescriptions that can provide relief to the people. Under such circumstances, where there is a deliberate effort to stay away from the basic issues and where the political difference between the two is blurred on the issue of providing relief to the people, it is only natural that extraneous factors such as money power should play an important role. The question they are posing before the people is not differences in policy but who can afford a higher price for the votes they may mobilise. The recent confiscation of two SUVs loaded with gunny bags filled with Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes totalling nearly Rs 12 crore by the police in Karnataka shows the extent to which both these parties have stooped in their political morality. Worse, is the fact that nobody has claimed this confiscated money and nobody knows where it was intended to be used.
Clearly, therefore, under these circumstances the Indian people must rise beyond the trap set by these parties and bring back the focus of these elections towards alternative policies aimed at strengthening India and providing relief to the people. It is such a shift in the discourse which the non-Congress secular alternative is projecting. This is being received well by the people as reflected by the fact that many long standing allies of both the BJP and the Congress have veered towards such an alternative. It is only such an alternative that can, in right earnest, address the basic issues facing the country and the people. The people in these elections must ensure that such a policy shift is made possible through the formation of a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative secular government post-elections 2009.