The Challenge of Change

2012, the year of exposes, is now nearing its end. The stream of scams being exposed since 2010 flew into a veritable sea in 2012 as skeletons tumbled out of every cupboard in the corridors of power. The relentless unearthing of scams coupled with unmasking of political figures and families has revealed an ominous picture of an ever-expanding nexus between corporate power and political power which has popularly come to be known as the business-politics nexus. Capitalism in India remains mired in the murky depths of cronyism, and democracy is fast getting reduced to what can only be called a corporatocracy – government of the corporates, for the corporates, by the corporates. The Radia tape in which the richest Indian capitalist calls the oldest ruling party of India ‘aapni dukaan’ (own shop) revealed it most glaringly.

The competitive revelations have left both the Congress and the BJP, the two largest ruling parties heading two contending coalitions, almost at par. Scams are a great leveller – the Congress and the BJP both stand exposed as ‘dukaans’ (shops) doing brisk business in the name of ruling the country or different states. The business-politics nexus no longer means collaboration between business and politics, but increasingly the conversion of politics into business, convergence and coalescence of the two in the crucible of power. The Vadra-DLF deals and the operations of Gadkari’s Purti group of companies give us an idea of the intricate ways in which political influence is converted into corporate wealth. They also tell us how business bonhomie transcends the political divide. Thus BJP President Gadkari’s ‘social entrepreneurship’ thrives in Congress-ruled Maharashtra just as the Jindals of the Congress stable in Haryana merrily expand their business empire in BJP-ruled Jharkhand.
The revelations have thus clearly determined the agenda for a national political alternative. Corruption must be checked, and to combat corruption the expanding business-politics nexus must be reined in. The resources of the country must be saved from corporate plunder, placed under public control and utilised judiciously to fulfil the urgent needs of the people. Development must be defined not in terms of an abstract growth in GDP, but in terms of removal of poverty and answering the basic needs of the common people. The budgetary priorities must be reformulated to ensure a massive hike in public investment in agriculture, education and public health. And foreign investment, institutional as well as direct, must be subjected to strict regulation and made subservient to the goals of self-reliant, sustainable and people-oriented development.

The parties of the ruling classes are scary of the prospects of crystallisation of such a national agenda and popular mobilisation insisting on its implementation. Desperate attempts have therefore begun to rubbish the corruption charges and mislead the people. The Congress has launched a vigorous campaign to discredit the CAG by contrasting the figures of the latest 2G spectrum auction (about Rs 9,000 crore) to the estimates made by the CAG of the loss inflicted on the national exchequer because of the UPA-I’s act of free distribution of spectrum on the basis of a dubious ‘first-come-first-served’ policy. Can an auction held in 2012 in the backdrop of a global recession for an almost saturated 2G market be compared to an auction that could have been held four years ago when a euphoric India Inc and their global partners were dying for grabbing a share in a rapidly growing cellphone market in the world’s second most populous country? Yet the Congress believes it can rubbish the CAG and get itself absolved in the eyes of the people of the unprecedented corruption it has been charged with!

The other point on which the Congress seems determined to stick its neck out is the issue of inviting FDI in multi-brand retail. The party, that always tries to bask in the glory of the freedom movement, went to the extent of holding a public rally in support of FDI in retail, trying to sell the crisis-ridden Indian farmers and inflation-hit market-ravaged Indian consumers a deceptive dream of FDI-induced prosperity. Buoyed by the renewed victory of Barack Obama in US Presidential poll and his “India-is-a-big-part-of-my-plan” assurance to Manmohan Singh, the Congress that had earlier put the issue of FDI in retail on hold pending a national consensus now calls it a policy ‘cast in stone’ and dares the Indian people to try and oppose it! And to wriggle out of a possible showdown and defeat on the floor of Parliament on the issue of FDI, in a secretive way the UPA government enacted the execution of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab just a day before the winter session of Parliament was scheduled to begin.

If the Congress believes it can silence the people by citing the hanging of Kasab, the BJP has already begun to raise a shrill demand for the execution of Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri who has been convicted in the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament case on the basis of insufficient and questionable evidence. Narendra Modi, who is engaged in a high-tech electioneering extravaganza trying to come back to power for the third time in a row, has been quick to call for a speedy hanging of Afzal Guru. In Mumbai, the communal cousins of the BJP, the Shiv Sainiks, have demonstrated their readiness to keep alive the legacy of Bal Thackeray, the Hindutva advocate who openly admired and likened himself to Hitler, by shutting down Mumbai after Thackeray’s demise and vandalising the clinic of a doctor whose niece had posted a comment on Facebook to question the Mumbai shutdown. And the Mumbai police, dancing as usual to the tune of the SS, went to the extent of arresting Shaheen Dhada who posted the comment, and her friend Renu Srinivasan who liked it, accusing them of hurting the religious sentiment of others!

The contours of the impending battle are thus emerging quite clearly. The Congress and the BJP are once again unleashing an agenda of competitive communalism and jingoism to divert the attention of the people and prevent them from delivering a powerful mandate against the disastrous course of neo-liberalism. The people will have to fight back on both fronts and build a political alternative that rejects both neo-liberalism and communal jingoism and firmly upholds the banner of secularism, democracy and people’s welfare. The powerful assembly of tens of thousands of brave and fighting people in CPI(ML)’s “Parivartan Rally” in Patna on November 9, radiated the energy and enthusiasm for securing precisely such a meaningful change in the coming days. Defying the arrogance and conspiracies of the rulers, let us move on in bold and united steps.

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