Vol. XLIII No. 20 May 19, 2019
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Lok Sabha Election: A Crucial Battle

THE 17th Lok Sabha election, the notification for which has been issued, is going to be the most consequential election in the history of independent India.  Much is at stake.  This election will have a bearing on the future of the secular-democratic Republic as enshrined in the Constitution.

Five years of Modi rule have already weakened and eroded the basic principles on which the Constitution rests. An authoritarian Hindutva State looms ahead if the BJP succeeds in coming back to power.

Equally at stake is the vision of a Republic, as spelt out in the Preamble of the Constitution – providing social, economic and political justice for all its citizens.  The BJP government has acted profoundly in contravention of this principle of justice.  It has imposed a predatory neo-liberal regime which has heightened economic and social inequalities, increased the economic exploitation of the people and deprived the minorities and dalits of social and political justice. 

The elections are being held at a time when the economy is in the grip of a crisis in all sectors – agrarian, industry, trade and employment. 

It is, therefore, necessary to bring the focus on the main issues which are of concern to the people and their lives.  The agrarian crisis has wreaked havoc with the livelihood of the farmers.  According to the latest figures of the Central Statistics Office, farm income growth crashed to the lowest in 14 years during the last quarter of 2018 (October-December).  Rural wages growth in real terms was an abysmal 0.5 per cent between 2014-18.

As far as unemployment is concerned, the National Sample Survey study, which was suppressed by the Modi government, shows that the unemployment rate is at the highest level in the past 45 years.  According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate increased to 7.2 per cent in February this year, as compared to 5.9 per cent in February 2018. The disastrous impact of demonetisation on employment and livelihood has to be exposed. 

Crony capitalism is rampant as seen in the Rafale deal, where Anil Ambani’s company got a fat contract as an offset partner.  The Adani company has bagged all the contracts for the six airports which were put up for privatization, including the Thiruvananthapuram airport – a clear case of collusion. 

The Modi government took systematic steps to dismantle the public sector. It stepped up privatisation of the education and health sectors with serious consequences for the people. 

The country had never witnessed such a serious assault on all constitutional institutions and democratic rights of citizens as in the last five years of Modi rule.  The secular and democratic basis of the Republic was under assault with the minorities being targeted and subject to brutal attacks.

These are the issues which need to be taken up by the Opposition and an effective campaign launched to expose the anti-people character of the Modi government.

Faced with this all-round failure of the government’s performance, the BJP has fallen back on rousing jingoistic nationalism in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack.  It is making cynical use of the actions taken by the armed forces for its partisan political ends.  The theme is that only Modi can protect the country and national security is safe only in the hands of the BJP government.

This high-pitch campaign by the BJP and its corporate media supporters must not divert the attention of the opposition.  They must aggressively campaign on the vital issues concerning the people – unemployment, farmers’ distress, price rise, attacks on the rights of women, minorities, dalits and adivasis, attacks on democratic rights and the authoritarian assaults on democracy. 

While the main focus should be on the all-round failures of the Modi government, it does not mean that the issues of terrorism and national security are to be avoided.  The opposition should boldly question the efficacy of the Modi government’s sole reliance on military interventions to counter the terrorist threats from across the border.  How come the surgical strikes of September 2016 did not end the terrorist attacks and we saw the worst atrocity in Pulwama after that. Has the Balakot strike served the purpose?

Moreover, the manner in which Prime Minister Modi concluded the Rafale deal and promoted the interests of a crony capitalist, is, itself, a standing indictment of the way the BJP government compromised on national security.

Above all, the failure of the Modi government to politically tackle the Kashmir problem and its role in worsening the situation there must be highlighted. 

It is necessary to put forth an effective alternative policy platform which defends democracy and secularism without any compromise and sets out socio-economic policies which are a genuine alternative to the Modi government’s rightwing economic policies and reactionary social outlook.

This is something which many of the secular opposition parties are lacking in.  This must be taken up by the CPI(M) and the Left.  They should put forth such an alternative platform and rally all other secular and democratic forces around it. 

(March 13, 2019)