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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 1 New Delhi December 22, 2018 [Annual Number]

An Initial Victory and the Struggle Ahead

Sunday 23 December 2018, by Barun Das Gupta

Will the BJP learn any lesson from its resounding defeat in the Hindi heartland which has been its bastion since its inception? The cow-vigilantism of its self-appointed gau-rakshaks who proclaimed that the life of a cow is more valuable than that of a man, that bovicide is a greater crime than homicide, have been taught a lesson by the voters of the cow belt.

It is surprising how in the span of just four-and-a-half years the political party, that swept the polls in 2014, squandered the fund of goodwill so quickly and alienated itself from every section of the society—the peasants, the workers, the young people, the Dalits, the Rajputs, the Jats and the adivasis. In Chhattisgarh the Congress secured a two-thirds majority, in Rajasthan a convincing win and in Madhya Pradesh after a day-long see-saw battle, the BJP had to kiss the dust. The BJP may take some comfort from the fact that it did put up a fight in Madhya Pradesh, but it cannot hide the massive landslide it has suffered in the number of seats it could win (108 against 165 in 2013).

The election results of the five State Assemblies spread as far apart as Mizoram in the extreme North-East to Telangana in the south have proved the innate strength of the democratic polity founded and reared by Jawaharlal Nehru. It has been conclusively proved that Indian democracy can withstand a relentless attack on its foundations for full four- and-a-half years—and still survive and prove indestructible.

The people have rejected the BJP. Which means they have rejected its politics of Hindutva that seeks to turn secular India into a Hindu Rashtra. The people have rejected its politics of communalism, of communal polarisation, of putting the cow above man, of subverting every institution of the state created by the Constitution, and, most insidious of all, of its attempts at subverting the judiciary and making it a pliant tool in the hands of the ruling party. The distress of the farmers, the distress of the workers who have been thrown out of job by the double whammy of demonetisation and the GST, the distress of the jobless youth who were given the false promise of employment at the rate of two crores a year for five years, the distress of the academic community and intellectuals who have been consistently attacked, humiliated and intimidated and dubbed as “urban Naxals”— all these congealed to make a mighty force to defeat the BJP.

The election campaign of the two parties— the BJP and the Congress—brought out the difference in their politics. While Narendra Modi and Amit Shah concentrated all their fire on the Congress “family” in a language neither decent nor civilised, the Congress and its chief campaigner, Rahul Gandhi, exposed the false promises made by Modi during his election campaign of 2014, the alleged corruption in the Rafale aircraft deal, the double whammy he dealt to the economy of the country by demonetisation and introduction of the GST which resulted in the closure of thousands of MSMEs throwing tens of thousands of people out of job. Instead of creating new jobs, Modi took away the jobs of thousands of workers. The hypocritical claim that demonetisation was mean to unearth black money stood exposed as almost cent per cent of the high denomination notes demonetised came back to the RBI. Modi’s histrionics calling the electoral battle as one between a kamdaar and a namdaar failed to sway the people who made Rahul Gandhi the inamdaar. 

The elections have been taken as the ‘semi-final’ battle. The result will definitely impact the ‘final’ to be played in 2019. The Congress has emerged triumphant out of the battle with flying colours. Rahul Gandhi, whom the BJP used to call disparagingly as ‘Pappu” or novice, has proved his leadership quality. Even in States where the Congress has won a majority, Rahul is trying to forge unity with other non-BJP parties so as to weld all Opposition parties into a solid phalanx that will take on the BJP next year. On their part, the SP and BSP in MP have made it clear that they are not going to support the BJP under any circumstances. The fond dream of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to make India a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ has vanished like a midday mirage.

But the victory should not make the Congress rest on its oars. A far bigger and sustained ideological campaign will have to be fought against the poisonous Hindutva philosophy of the RSS which is the mother of all the organisations that make up the bigger ‘Sangh Parivar’. It should be borne in mind that whether the BJP wins or loses an electoral battle, the RSS will go on working silently at the grassroots level, as it has been doing for the last nine decades and more, spreading its communal agenda and trying to win ever new adherents to it. Unfortunately, those who swear by secularism have done precious little over the years and decades to combat the RSS ideology at the ground level.

Now the time has come to instil the ideal of secularism among the masses, especially in the younger generation. There are various ways of doing it like holding essay competitions among the students on themes like “Why I believe in secularism”. To root out for good the menace of communalism from the minds of the people such a long-drawn battle has to be fought with the zeal with which the RSS workers work at the grassroots level. As Jawaharlal Nehru never tired of cautioning the people, the threat posed by the communalism of the majority community is the biggest threat to the country.

At the same time, the Congress will have to strive consciously to restore its image as a Left-of-Centre party that champions the cause of the deprived and the dispossessed, the lowliest and the lost. Rahul Gandhi has already set the tone by his unsparing attack on the suit-book-ki sarkar which the Narendra Modi Government is. In its moment of triumph the Congress must take concrete steps to convince the people that it will undo all the negative things the Modi Government has done—from the winding up of the Planning Commission to opening up the economy to foreign freebooting investors who want to make a fast buck and repatriate the profit by investing in restaurant chains or shopping malls or online shopping business.

The struggle against the Modi Government and the pernicious “ideology’ of the Sangh Parivar is essentially a relentless battle against communal fascism that wants to destroy our country. It is to be hoped that the Left will shed its blind anti-Congressism and join the united battle against communal fascism being fought under the leadership of the Congress.

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.

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