NOTWITHSTANDING the repeated assertions of this column that India's vast social plurality will necessarily manifest itself in a political multipolarity, both the BJP and the Congress began this election campaign asserting with bravado that Indian polity is essentially bipolar with each one of them being the pole around whom all other political parties will necessarily have to choose and align.
This was soon exposed as wishful thinking when many an erstwhile ally of the BJP deserted the NDA. The most `shocking' was the departure of the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa. Many UPA allies who continue to remain ministers in the union cabinet have parted ways with the Congress to form new groupings. Such developments are not, as suggested by some, mere expressions of opportunism and `positioning' by the regional parties but are a reflection of the pressure being mounted on them by their own mass following that is demanding relief from the overbearing economic burdens. This is nothing but the reflection of the fact that people are seeking an alternative. What this alternative is or needs to be has to be defined by the political leadership of the country.
It is only the Left that has consistently articulated the need for an alternative policy trajectory for the country in order to build a better India for its people. Given past experience, such an alternative policy trajectory can only be brought about by a non-Congress, non-BJP political alternative. The need of the hour, therefore, is for the installation of a non-Congress secular alternative government at the centre following these elections. The Left is focussed on pursuing this objective.
Soon after the third phase of the elections were over, the Congress suddenly started speaking in terms of a possible post-electoral understanding with the Left. This is nothing but an admission of the fact that the Congress has seen the writing on the wall that it cannot form the next government along with its existing allies.
The indispensability of the Left in the current Indian political situation has been articulated from other quarters as well. These include the current allies of both the BJP, like the JD(U), and the Congress, like the NCP and others. What is in store for the future, therefore, is a realignment of political forces leading to the emergence of a new secular combination post-elections. This would be nothing new in contemporary Indian politics. As noted in earlier column, the United Front was formed post 1996 elections, the NDA post 1998 elections and the UPA post 2004 elections. So shall be again post 2009 elections.
The Congress's overtures to the Left comes while it simultaneously justifies the India-US nuclear deal as being in supreme national interest. The Left's reasoning for withdrawing its outside support to the UPA government when the latter unilaterally insisted on going ahead with this deal is now vindicated by the latest pronouncements made by the US administration itself. As we go to press, the US assistant secretary of state, Rose Gottemoeller, told the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference at the UN headquarters that “Universal adherence to the NPT itself – including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea – remains a fundamental objective of the US”. Interacting with media persons, she said that, “The India-US civilian nuclear deal along with several other steps taken by New Delhi in the recent past has brought India closer to the NPT”. Bringing India into the NPT, she said, was “an important goal of US foreign policy”. She also showered praise on India's willingness to proceed with a fissile material cut off treaty and also its willingness to pursue the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and other important measures such as export controls on nuclear materials.
India has all along refused to endorse the NPT and the CTBT as these were discriminatory treaties that leave intact the monopoly of nuclear weapons with the P-5 (USA, UK, Russia, France and China) while debarring all other countries from possessing or developing nuclear weapons.
The NDA government led by Vajpayee had compromised India's position by agreeing to endorse the CTBT through a series of secret parleys between India's foreign minister and the US assistant secretary of state. Mercifully, this could not happen because the US Congress itself refused to ratify the CTBT then.
Now it is clear that while cementing the India-US nuclear deal, the UPA government led by Dr Manmohan Singh, has virtually surrendered to US imperialist pressures and committed India to ratify the NPT. This is tantamount to a complete negation of India's traditional proclamations of seeking universal nuclear disarmament and not allowing a discriminatory monopoly of nuclear weapons by the P-5. It was, in fact, under Rajiv Gandhi's prime ministership that India placed a timetable before the United Nations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from this planet and announced that India shall not endorse both the NPT and the CTBT till this goal has been achieved. The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government has negated this position of India in its urge to develop a strategic alliance with US imperialism by reducing India as its subordinate ally.
Thus, even on this score of restoring and maintaining India's place of pride in the international community by pursuing an independent foreign policy, the need is for an alternative secular government at the centre, post-elections. Apart from the need for an alternative policy trajectory in economic policies, for ensuring effective social justice and for resolutely combating both communalism and terrorism, the forging of a non-Congress secular combination to form the government at the centre acquires utmost urgency.