Your Ad Here

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

History in transition

Of late, following Anna Hazare's agitation, the Congress has become the favourite punching bag of the media and a section of intellectuals. Columnists are declaring not just the beginning of the dec-line of India's Grand Old Party (GOP), but also the fading lustre of Rahul Gandhi, the youth icon projected by the Congress as the face of the future. So much so that a normal, political initiative - in the form of a fast - by Narendra Modi is being represented as a game-changer of sorts.

Recently, two articles in the national media compared Rahul's present situation to that of Rajiv Gandhi during the Bofors controversy, and - in an amazing leap of fantasy - to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor. Even a neutral observer can see that, if nothing else, both these comparisons are unfair. A little reality check and historical account taking, begin- ning from the 1990s, will perhaps put issues in perspective.

The last decade of the previous century began the rollback of a left-of-centre, pro-people, secular-reformist agenda in Indian politics. It culminated in the right-wing NDA government coming to power in the late 1990s. Class disparities, rule of the rich and communalism solidified under NDA rule. It was the Congress campaign slogan of the 2004 elections that brought the aam admi theme back to Indian politics.

During the UPA-I regime the Right to Information Act was followed by NREGA and other reforms. Besides checking misuse of power by elites, these measures redistributed wealth earned by the nation during a decade of reforms amongst the poorest of the poor.

No major communal riot took place during the tenure of UPA-I. In fact, the late Hemant Karkare exposed the involvement of RSS-type forces in bomb blasts. Brakes were applied to the persecution of innocent Muslims in the wake of terror attacks. It was because of the firm adherence to secularism by UPA-I and the Congress party under Sonia Gandhi that even after repeated blasts affecting places of Hindu and Muslim worship, and a 26/11 type condition of extreme communal polarisation, the body politic remained secular.

Indian people reposed their faith again in the Congress in 2009. But just when UPA-II was about to introduce - in the form of right to education and right to food - the next set of distributive reforms, a conspiracy of a very high order became operational.

It seems that, at this point, right-wing, reactionary socio-political forces realised that the Congress president and Rahul are attempting a revival of the left-of-centre secular agenda, albeit in a modern, 21 {+s} {+t} century form. Political parties like the BJP were anyway unhappy with the way RSS-related forces got caught in 2010 for the Ajmer and Samjhauta Express blasts. In fact, the name of a top RSS functionary emerged as a possible driving force behind terror attacks.

In alliance with a section within the establishment nurtured during the RSS-led infiltration of the bureaucracy, corporate sector, security services, judiciary and the media in the 1980s and 1990s, the sangh parivar masterminded the cons-piracy. In villages, it got the support of old and new landed elites who seethed with fury as they saw the wages of the rural workforce rise like never before due to NREGA. In cities, strong proponents of Indian-style crony capitalism - angling for economic privatisation that would directly hit the poor - also saw their interests threatened by the Congress's proactive, pro-poor measures.

Since a direct attack on pro-poor policies would have favoured the Congress, real issues were sought to be obfuscated by raising the anti-corruption bogey. This was a convenient slogan around which the criminal and the corporate, the corrupt and the communal, the hoarder and the zamindar, the dalal and the executive, could all coalesce in an anti-Congress front. In this, care was taken to fire with the guns kept on the shoulders of idealist elements disillusioned by the very system Sonia and Rahul were trying to reform.

Rahul became the enemy of the Indian status quo because he sided with farmers against the builder-corporate mafia. To guarantee the rights of adivasis over forests and forest produce, he locked horns with corporate forces. Keeping away from the builder mafia, he sympathised with the urban poor. To give relief to the rural poor, he encouraged independent Left forces in UP to take on corruption in central Acts and schemes like NREGA under Mayawati's regime.

Thus, pro-rich, right-wing forces banded together to demean and attack Rahul. He has been called a man without his own views, a dumb scion and now, of course, Bahadur Shah Zafar. But the pro-rich element forget that when Indira Gandhi first became the prime minister she too was derided as a 'goongi gudiya' - a dumb doll with no views of her own - by a powerful pro-big business faction within the Congress, termed 'the Syndicate' by the media. This faction comprised formidable leaders and regional satraps like Morarji Desai, S Nijalin-gappa, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, S K Patil, Atulya Ghosh and K Kamaraj. Even Sonia, till she proved her mettle by making her opponents bite the dust in the 2004 elections, was called - besides a foreigner - a dumb widow et al.

For distinctly class reasons, a large, powerful section both within and outside the Congress does not want to see Rahul rise as a leader. But with the help of the Indian people, pro-poor, Left-secular intellectuals, and grounded leaders, Rahul will beat this new syndicate.


Post a Comment