Tuesday, April 21, 2015

G Pramod Kumar - Rahul Gandhi’s Parliament speech exposes giant chink in Modi’s rightwing armour

The bourgeois is a bourgeois, for the benefit of the working class
 - Marx & Engels, the Communist Manifesto

Ever since Modi came to power, all one has heard in terms of his poll-plank of development was creation of an atmosphere conducive to Indian and global businesses.

NB - The first tenet of the market-fundamentalists' Religion of Capitalism is that the state must never interfere with the operation of Market Forces. Market Forces are supposedly the paramount medicine for all social problems. So may we be bold enough to ask why State power under the command of Narendra Modi is intervening in the 'natural' operation of Market Forces (Peace be Unto Them)? Isn't this what the economists of the Friedman-Thatcher school name 'socialism'? Why not let buyer and seller negotiate the correct price, why not let prices find their own level etc? Why is the State using a colonial era law to grab land at designated prices only to make it available to corporates? Why not let the corporates negotiate with the peasants directly? Whatever happened to 'laissez-faire' economics? Isn't this a case of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor? : DS
There is some strong deficiency in Indian politics that makes Rahul Gandhi’s speech against the Modi government a stand-out performance. Even with a sparse presence of supporters in Parliament, and his habitual absentee-landlordism, he made the occasion appear big — his voice amplified by a certain audacity, sarcasm and purposiveness. BJP, at least temporarily, was caught off guard and appeared stung.

The deficiency that made Rahul’s performance appear stronger than what it was was the absence of a concerted voice against Modi’s alleged affinity towards the corporates, and the Sangh’s agenda of Hindutva. Any meaningful opposition to the BJP needs to target this twin agenda that bespeaks a truly right wing politics. The principal reason for this is the decimation of the Congress and other opposition parties by the BJP and former’s lack of imagination to marshal available resources meaningfully.

By picking on the right issue that can make Modi look vulnerable, and devising a language in which he accused the BJP government to be a"suit-boot ki sarkar” and “bade logon ki sarkar," and charged Modi with repaying his debt to corporates with the land of the farmers, Rahul made his maiden speech this season a veritable test attack. It worked and can work in the future too.

The reason why this voice can resonate with common people is the element of truth in the message. Ever since Modi came to power, all one has heard in terms of his poll-plank of development was creation of an atmosphere conducive to Indian and global businesses. Welfare budgets were drastically cut across the board (e.g. women and children, mid-day meal, rural development, health, SC/ST etc), while the subsidies and concessions to corporates totalled a few lakh crore. The policy space on critical issues such as intellectual property rights was opened to vested interests.

In fact, that Modi was even derisive of the MNREGA, hailed by the UN as a global model for social protection despite its minuses, betrays his idea of development. Speaking in Parliament he had said that he would preserve MNREGA because it was a living memorial of the UPA’s failure while burying the fact that a few years ago, LK Advani had praised it as a success story.

Modi’s development approach had been piloted in Gujarat and has been widely criticised for its neglect of the social sector. As columnist Praful Bidwai noted in this article“Big Business loves the “Gujarat Model” because it gives huge tax write-offs (e.g., over 60% on the Tatas’ Nano project). Business adores Modi for his ruthless decisiveness in granting super-fast industrial approvals.” The article also notes how unimpressive are Gujarat’s development indicators such as HDI, infant mortality, literacy, sex ratio, hunger and poverty.

The amendments to the land acquisition bill, which diluted the existing safeguards to protect the interests of farmers, is an example of this over-zealousness to disprove existing models of social development and help big businesses justifiably became a rallying point to oppose Modi’s version of progress. And Rahul has rightfully chosen it to hit at the government.

Rahul’s language and pointedness expose the weak spots in the Modi armour and offer scope for the newly formed “Janata Parivar” and the Left. In an interview with NDTV, the new General Secretary of the CPM, Sitaram Yechury said that “they (the government) are being manipulated in order to serve certain purposes which is a very dangerous authoritarian trend and against these issues Opposition parties coming together will be a tendency that will grow stronger and I am sure in this session you'll find stronger expressions of it, which is good for the country.” Yechury, even while ruling out an alliance with the Congress, did support Rahul’s performance. Immediately after his elevation to the new post, Yechury had said that Left’s main concern is the BJP’s twin agenda of neo-liberal economic policies and communal politics.

Given Rahul’s unmissable past record of absenteeism, what the Parliament witnessed on Monday could be just another flash in the pan. As the old saying goes, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and hence one can only hope that he doesn't lose interest. Even if he doesn’t persist with his post-vipasana enthusiasm, he has successfully shown the way for the rest of the opposition. Unfettered neo-liberalism and communal politics is a dangerous cocktail and needs to be resisted and that should be the political space that the opposition needs to expand.

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