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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 33

Formation of an Alternative Front Cannot be Further Delayed

Saturday 2 August 2008, by K S Parthasarthy

We had pleaded last year that the Left parties should withdraw their support to the UPA, as soon as the UPA went ahead finalising the draft safeguards agreement with the IAEA without any consultation in the coordination committee of the Left and UPA, reneging on their commitment on this for the first time. But due to the difficulties that cropped up with the Nandigram fiasco, the CPM and the Left parties just postponed and delayed the issue for another day by prescribing an unrealistic condition that the UPA may go to the IAEA but should not operationalise the safeguard agreement before the coordination committee has a discussion over it. By this step, the Left actually gave sufficient time to the Congress to plan its strategy to wriggle out of the Left support. Even this reasonable suggestion did not have the agreement of the Prime Minister obviously as he had threatened to resign if he was not free to take forward the negotiations without any restrictions. It is clear he had his way, as it is now out that without waiting for a discussion inside the coordination committee, they have gone ahead with finalising and circulating to the members of the IAEA the draft safeguards agreement.

This is the second time that the UPA failed to keep up its word given to the Left inside the coordination committee. To cover up, they uttered another lie that the draft is a secret document and cannot be made public before it is shown to the members of the IAEA, as, even while the External Affairs Minister was giving his brief, the IAEA had broadcast it on its website and also declared they have no such need for secrecy. The UPA taunted the Left by saying if only they had joined the government it could have been shared, which is a lie, as they had not taken into confidence their own allies in the government. The compact of secrecy between the questioning Senators and their President, as well as the lack of transparency of the principal negotiators in India make the intent of the agreement utterly suspicious. All this leads one to wonder if the Congress party deliberately adopted this deceit so as to force the Left to withdraw its support on its own!

After enjoying power without responsibility for four long years, this minority government of the UPA and its leadership today suddenly finds itself captive of the Left which is getting all the blame for supporting a callous government that does not respond with any urgency to the sufferings of the people under the fast enveloping gloom of high price, inflation and food insecurity. Once again this Prime Minister threatened childishly to resign if he is not allowed to have his way. The Congress will pay a heavy price for maintaining this so-called apolitical “gentleman” as the Prime Minister.

It is clear there are widespread misgivings on this nuclear treaty within the BJP and Congress too. The Left is not talking of the right to conduct nuclear explosion at all, as it is firmly opposed to all nuclear weapons and is in favour of universal disarmament. But it opposes the double-talk of this government and the Government of the NDA that actually initiated the process of this agreement and now talks of renegotiating the terms.

We should not allow the compromise on our sovereignty—that is the agenda this deal, which should have been a normal commercial deal otherwise, conceals. This deal also throws a spanner in the works of our programme to become self-reliant in nuclear science and technology, without the assurance of technical cooperation and uninterrupted fuel supply. A simple step like signing the Nulcear Non- Proliferation Treaty could have done the whole job instead of this devious route, as an undertaking not to test and also proliferate is implied in this agreement anyway. That step would have boosted our image within the comity of nations. The great-power ambition of the bourgeoisie by possessing the bomb is indeed palpable! It is sheer greed of commercial opportunities that a 150 billion dollar nuclear and defence related trade which is expected to open up that drives them, sovereignty or no sovereignty.

Any discussion on whether this UPA Government should continue or not is not foregrounded only on the single issue of this nuclear deal, though it offers one of the important reasons. There are deeper issues. The UPA is trying in vain to hide its other problems behind this veil. The Congress, which failed to win the 2004 election, and following the election, even after cobbling up a hotchpotch of a combination called the UPA, still lacked a majority, entered into a solomon agreement with the Left parties, on the basis of certain principles of governance, to implement the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) which was expected to ameliorate the conditions of the masses to some extent quickly, in return for its support. But it has failed to pursue that programme in right earnest and even when pursued under pressure, it was done half-heartedly. On the contrary it has gone ahead pursuing its own agenda often going against the very grain of the NCMP. This marks yet another departure from the agreed terms for support. While the UPA went about implementing half-heartedly the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme under compulsion of the Left, it now boasts day in and day out that it is its own programme. The capitalist press, which attacked it in the beginning, suddenly finds virtues in it!

One important point in the NCMP is that it was agreed that the traditionally followed national independent foreign policy would be pursued vigorously without compromising national sovereignty and interests and it would not be distorted. But now, gradually, in the very footsteps of the NDA, this Prime Minister with great aplomb has moved to subvert that policy unashamedly and pushed India into the bear-hug of imperialist international monopoly capital of the West, often openly to the discomfort of his own Minister for External Affairs. It is clear now that the Congress was functioning unilaterally, as if it was its own one- party rule, without consulting even its own coalition partners and the supporting Left. It has once again been established that the Congress cannot be a trusted coalition partner. The very basis for extending support to this UPA has now been destroyed. By its untrustworthy behaviour and moving away from the agreed principles, the Congress has brought this situation upon itself and it alone is responsible for this political crisis.

On the alibi of the privilege of the Cabinet to take important decisions, enter into treaties etc. this government is ignoring its allies, coalition partners and the Lok Sabha, and the Prime Minister is taking unilateral decisions in a dictatorial fashion and this is a matter of serious concern. We need to look into this aspect and restore the democratic powers of the Lok Sabha. Certainly a government heading a minority group, sustaining on outside support is not entitled to such privileges. Using this spurious claim of the right to take decisions, this government is moving with breakneck speed to integrate the US and Indian Armies through strategic cooperative agreements. It is apparent to anybody that an agreement on gas supply with Iran is in the supreme national interest. But this government gave up that opportunity under the orders of the US and is now, under growing domestic political pressure, pretending to reopen negotiations. This Prime Minister, camouflaged in suave and genteel manners but a hard nut to crack, stood side by side with Bush, the most unpopular war-monger President of the US now in his last lap in office, and declared that India would stand shoulder to shoulder with the US internationally! This Prime Minister is doing everything possible to drive the Indian economy to subserve US economic interests. While this ‘gentleman’ Prime Minister may not have a chance for a second term, his period of Prime Ministership will go down as the worst period of shameful surrender in post-independence Indian history, even as he carries forward, with more assertive postures and deepest commitment, the trend that was started by PVNR and later by Vajpayee, to reverse all that this nation stood for in the first four decades after Independence and put the reversal on a firm irreversible course towards the most reactionary capitalist path. He is sure to put India in enmity with her immediate neighbours , embrace the imperialist forces and align us against Russia and China. He shall not be allowed to have his way.

WHILE the Prime Minister and his economic Ministers and advisors are exhibiting undue haste for finalising this nuclear deal, they are sitting pretty without moving even their finger to take any viable and effective action to ward off the mounting pressure of inflation and price rise on the pretext that it is due to international reasons and they cannot do anything about it. The Left has indeed offered many suggestions like stopping forward trade in food and essential commodities. But these are not acceptable to them as those steps may adversely affect some peripheral interests of their domestic big business friends. That, in our system, anybody who has not faced directly the electorate anytime like our Prime Minister and earlier the Minister for External Affairs, can occupy high positions of power is worrisome for our democracy. It is time we amend the concerned rules to ensure that a PM must be a member of the Lok Sabha. Also it should be made mandatory that international treaties, major defence and commercial agreements must be approved by the Lok Sabha. We have noted the magnitude of the failures of the UPA. After all this if the Left continued to support the UPA, people would not have excused it. And it is perfectly correct that the Left withdrew its support without any reservation. That the Congress would adopt all possible tactics, ethical or otherwise, and go to even those who may not bother to surrender the nation’s sovereignty, to win the confidence vote was anticipated. There is no force in the argument that the Left will be voting with communal forces, thus compromising itself. If the general elections were not to so near, the BJP would have bailed out the UPA. Even now the abstentions and cross-votings by their members are suspect. The vote that the Left and other democratic parties cast against this confidence motion is a vote against international imperialism and domestic reactionary capital. Look at the share market. It could not restrain its jubilation. The vote of the Left was not merely against the nuclear deal. It was against the deal behind the deal. It is not the exclusive duty of the Left to combat communalism. Let it be exposed once and for all that the Congress does not fight communalism. A party that had a secret understanding with the BJP during the time of PVNR, a party that bribed the JMM to buy their vote, a party that even now bribed the JMM with ministerial posts and through many secret deals wooed the SP, has no moral right to advise the Left on their duty now. A party that is eager to become the running dog of international capital, cannot deceive the people by questioning the patriotism of the Left. The China card would not help them as they are incapable of “standing shoulder to shoulder” with our neighbours. It is not the nuclear deal that is anti-Islam but the suspect deal behind the deal that seems to force us to side with the US in its nefarious intentions against Iraq, Iran and Afghanisthan and even Pakistan. Even while maintaining its irreconcilable opposition to communalism, the Left should give highest priority to articulate its uncompromising struggle against imperialism and capitalism. The reactionary capital is engendering terrorism and communalism to mislead the masses.

The duty of the Left and democratic forces today is clear than ever before. It is to urgently formulate a coalition of Left and democratic forces, keeping out the Congress and BJP. This alternative third front should take shape well before the approaching elections. Every effort should be made to bring round all Left forces on this platform. Such a united front will produce a common agenda and manifesto first and place it before the electorate and ask for their support. This is a historic period. People are finally getting over their illusions about the Congress as well as the BJP. The role of the Left at this juncture is of highest historic responsibility. The alliance with Mayawati and move to bring together the Dalits, minorities and other toiling masses along with the Left and democratic political forces is an eminently commendable, workable step. We welcome it. n

The author is the Associate Editor Hosathu, a Kannada progressive monthly published from Bangalore.

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