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What Went Wrong?

By Gail Omvedt

06 December, 2003

I am devastated by the election results. I was expecting a loss in
MP because the BJP/RSS has been growing there for some time and
clearly targeting Digvijay Singh (see Sudarshan's speech on
Vijayadashmi) but I did not expect the losses in Rajasthan and

Three good CMs lost. Digvijay Singh, though a Thakur, has stood for
Dalits and the protection of religious minorities; people in
government service have been banned from being members of RSS in MP.
He is the most hated politician of the RSS. His so-called "soft
Hindutva" was at the level of rhetoric -- itself not desirable, but
he has never said a word against Muslims (as for instance Antony did
in Kerala). Gehlot, a Mali, is new in politics and has made some
mistakes (for instance reservations for the economically backward
among the threadwalas is a travesty of the whole idea of affirmative
action) but many friends consider him a leader with potential.

Jogi, a Christian "tribal" has also been a target of very dirty
attacks. Though Hindutva forces have claimed he got a false
certificate, I am told he comes from a Satnami family and while most
Satnamis were Dalit (SC) some adivasis also joined it; such was
Jogi's family. Why did the Congress lose? Anti-incumbncy and
general disillusionment with politicians, along with the failure of
Congress to present a clear political vision are important.

However, I do not think the socalled "developmental" issues (roads,
electricity etc) are as significant as most commentators are saying
now. Both parties are at present more or less alike on these. These
have perhaps been made a talking point but if they were so important
why did Gehlot lose? He was the one being praised for having done a
good job on development. True, the Congress should learn to speak in
a clear voice with a vision on these issues, but that is a different

Three additional factors have to be noted.

One is the continual dominance of upper castes, mainly brahmans, in
the bureaucracy. There was a report about bureaucrats "guiding"
villagers in using the new voting machines in Rajasthan. this may
have happened in many places. In MP we found that after Lyndoh had
said that Digvijay Singh could not forgive electricity bills for
farmers, almost immediately people got bills, large bills. Was this

Second is a simple technical factor, that of election mobilization.
What is called in the US "getting out the vote.: RSS is good at that
sort of thing and they undoubtedly worked during this election. I
don't think Congress has the cadre now to do this.

And third, as for the left and progressive forces who have had such
cadre, they have been worse than useless in these elections. Here I
am most disappointed. The CPI/CPM have little real base and cadre
left in these states. The nonparliamentary, anti-parliamentary left
has had a negative effect by reducing Congress votes in the adivasi
areas where it has some strength. (If I am wrong about this please
inform me). Even more, the "ultrarevolutionary" idea that nothing
can be gained from parliamentary politics has spread far and wide and
has affected so many activists of NGOs and other organizations (NBA,
Ekalavya, NAPM connected groups and all the Adivasi Kisan Sanghathans
floating around in MP) that most have simply remained silent,
bemoaning the growth of RSS and sitting at home, or in some cases
trying to float third parties which objectively aid the BJP by
cutting Congress votes. People like Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy
might have had some influence in these states,but they have been
silent, silent silent.

Their politics has becoe one of fighting globalization and the market
economy and "neoliberalism" etc. while ignoring brahmanism/fascism in
their own land. I don't think fighting dams and development (this
isanyway not a Marxist position) and helping Hindutva should be
acceptable to us any longer.