UPA Has Won a Tainted Trust Vote – It Must Now Be Defeated by the Might of People’s Struggles

Amidst widespread allegations and counter-allegations of horse-trading and an unprecedented televised flashing of cash right inside Parliament, the parliamentary showdown over the nuclear deal has ended rather tamely in favour of the Congress. The final tally of numbers indicates cross-voting or calculated abstention or absence by nearly two dozen opposition MPs, giving the government a total strength of 275 votes, a lead of 19 votes over the combined opposition.

While the lure of money and the spoils of office obviously played a huge role in determining the numbers, the real reason for the Congress victory certainly lay in the ruling classes’ essentially united commitment to the cause of strategic partnership with the US. Not only did the UPA expose its true colours as the Unashamed Partners of America, the BJP too provided ample evidence of its well-known loyalty to Washington. In the course of his speech, Advani reiterated his party’s abiding commitment to strategic ties with the US and promised only to ‘renegotiate’ the deal on being voted to power, ostensibly to make sure that India had the leeway for a possible Pokhran-III.

The Congress conveniently delinked the nuclear deal from its real essence of being the centrepiece of New Delhi’s growing strategic partnership with Washington, projecting it as just another innocent idea for electricity generation. The Hyde Act which explicitly demands compulsory congruence of Indian foreign policy with the global interests of the US and annual certification of the same by the US President was conveniently glossed over as just another American Act with no adverse implication for the future of India. The marginal contribution of nuclear power to India’s overall energy matrix – it accounts for less than 3% after sixty years of Independence and is projected to go up only to 7% by 2020 – was hugely inflated to project the nuclear deal as a sure passport to an illuminated future and the concerns expressed by sizable sections of India’s own nuclear scientists were simply brushed aside. Indeed, the word imperialism was virtually absent in the proceedings of the two-day debate and spokesmen and defenders of the government revelled in the presumed glow of India’s new-found status as a junior strategic partner of the US.

The Congress may have won the so-called trust vote in parliament, but in the process it has immensely exposed itself and the rot in the system. The real battle in the court of the people has just begun and fiasco just concluded in Parliament must be used as useful fuel to stoke the fire of popular anger. The existing Indian constitution does not require parliamentary ratification of major international treaties, let alone any popular referendum. A few wise men making up the council of ministers can impose any treaty on the country, be it the case of making India subservient to the unequal clauses of WTO or placing the country at the strategic disposal of the American superpower. Yet if the nuclear deal got debated several times in Parliament and the government had to resort to all kinds of manipulations, monetary or otherwise, to cobble a victory it only reflects the groundswell of popular opposition already generated by the deal.

In spite of all the pro-deal hype generated by the ruling classes and their political and intellectual representatives and media managers, the people of the country have enough understanding of the real meaning of imperialism, US imperialism at that. Two hundred years of colonial rule may have schooled and trained a comprador ruling class in India, but the people have not forgotten the pain and humiliation of colonial bondage and they are certainly not enthralled by the spectacle of the growing imperialist invasion of our economy and steady erosion of our sovereignty and autonomy to pursue policies in our own national interest. If the idea of the nuclear deal has already generated so much debate in the country, real life experience of all its ominous implications is surely capable of steeling a much more powerful patriotic-democratic resistance in the coming days.

To strengthen the resistance of the people and the country to the growing imperialist offensive and the pro-imperialist treachery of the ruling classes, the anti-imperialist forces and especially the Left ranks must draw appropriate lessons from the most telling and educative experience of the UPA-Left alliance. The CPI(M)-led Left provided crucial support to the UPA government since its inception to July 9, 2008. The alliance was initially sought to be justified in the name of the political compulsion of keeping the BJP out of power, and subsequently the Left leadership began claiming a series of additional gains including slowing down of neo-liberal reforms, passage of pro-people pro-poor legislations and even success in stopping the UPA from going ahead with the operationalisation of the nuclear deal! All these claims now stand exposed as empty self-deceptive boasts – unaffordably expensive illusions that have only allowed the Congress to have its way while allowing the CPI(M) to have its say! Over the last few years, the BJP has come to power in state after state, and it is now crystal clear that the operationalisation of the deal was never halted even as the CPI(M) kept exchanging notes with the government.

Indeed, forces like the SP, RJD and DMK that that enabled the Congress to sail through the trust vote also provided a telling example of the utter futility of the CPI(M)’s theory and practice of the ‘secular front’. All these years the CPI(M) delinked ‘secularism’ from democracy and anti-imperialism and grounded its entire tactical line around the single-point agenda of somehow keeping the BJP out of power. The line has now boomeranged on the CPI(M) with the Congress and most of CPI(M)’s staunch allies – only the other day the CPI(M)’s Coimbatore Congress identified the SP as a friendly force and a key component of a third front – now accusing the CPI(M) of weakening the ‘secular’ cause! The allegations are coming not just from outside but also from within. While the maverick West Bengal minister Subhas Chakraborty, a known Jyoti Basu protégé and newly inducted member of the party’s West Bengal secretariat, has accused the CPI(M) centre of deviating from the party line adopted in the recent Coimbatore Congress of the party, the defiant chuckle of Somnath Chatterjee kept mocking at the CPI(M)’s tactical line through the two days of televised trust vote debate.

The lessons for the Left are therefore clear enough. Secularism and anti-imperialism must be treated as inseparable aspects of any minimum democratic programme. Any opportunist delinking of different aspects of a democratic programme to suit immediate parliamentary needs can only prove fatal and counter-productive for the Left movement. It has also been established beyond doubt that any Left party that attaches topmost priority to the task of running stable governments within a bourgeois system, delinking those governments from the agenda of people’s movement and any kind of Left orientation in the name of adjusting with limitations imposed by a globalising state; that starts taking pride in becoming responsible and efficient parties of governance even going to the extent of perpetrating state terror and mass killings to uphold the banner of bourgeois efficiency and responsibility cannot master the language and role of a democratic opposition.

To use metaphors from the CPI(M)’s own rhetoric, it kept barking while threatening to bite, but by the time it chose to bite it discovered it had lost the very teeth needed to bite. A CPI(M) parliamentarian bravely claimed in the course of the debate that it had given the Congress a debit card, but the Congress did not know its limits of withdrawal. The CPI(M) should realise that the Congress has cleverly emptied the entire parliamentary account of the CPI(M), leaving the latter with the stark choice of either lamenting or celebrating its new state of bankruptcy!

The parliamentary fiasco of a tainted trust vote is over; it is now time to intensify the real people’s battle in every nook and corner of this huge country. July 23, 2008 marks the centenary of the first great political strike of the Indian working class. Hundred years ago, the workers of Bombay had risen in glorious revolt against the unjust jail sentence given to Bal Gangadhar Tilak by the then British colonial rulers. Today the working people and patriotic-democratic intelligentsia of the entire country must rise against the pro-imperialist and anti-democratic treachery perpetrated by the ruling classes and their thoroughly corrupt and opportunist political representatives. The UPA government has survived the trust vote, but its anti-people pro-imperialist policies must be resisted and defeated by the united resolve and strength of an awakened people. Revolutionary communists must take the plunge to intensify and win this crucial battle in the days to come.

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