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India Rejects Neoliberalism
And Communal Politics

Report By Insaf

25 May, 2004

The most apolitical elections in the parliamentary history of India have come to an end with a fractured mandate. BJP is reduced to 138 in 2004 from 182 in 1999 while Congress has improved its tally to 145 in 2004 from just 114 in 1999. But none of these could form a government either on their own or along with their pre-poll allies

As expected, the emerging bipolar character of Indian polity has consolidated itself during these elections with BJP wining 138 and
Congress 145 seats out of 539 results declared. Like previous Lok Sabhas this one also has 256 non-BJP and non-Congress members but all of them have no other option but to align either to BJP or to the Congress.

The defeat of BJP-led NDA in election-2004 definitely calls for celebrations and provides the secular and democratic forces some breathing space. The BJP-led NDA is defeated in number game of forming government in a parliamentary democracy because 124 members of parliament out of 136 listed in 'others' category threw their weight behind Congress led alliance.
These 124 include 64 of the left Front, 36 of Samajwadi Party, 19 of Bahujan Samaj Party and few others. Hence, it is through a joint effort of all the secular looking and left forces that the BJP-led NDA could be kept out of power.

The spectacular defeat of TDP Chief Minister turned CEO of Andhra Pradesh and trimming of the wings of high tech Congress Chief Minister of Karnataka had amply demonstrated that the neoliberal prescriptions of WB-ADB and so called IT revolution is not going well with the masses at large. The complete rout of AIDMK in Tamil Nadu is also reflective of the same phenomena. The defeat of the 26 ministers of the BJP-led NDA government including the first finance minister, urban development minister, information and broadcasting minister, human resource minister, external affairs minister, and both ministers of state for home who were famous for their loudness in favour of 'communal' and 'neoliberalism'.

The drama enacted by the fringes of RSS-BJP on the issue of a woman of foreign origin becoming Prime Minister clearly illustrates that the failure of BJP-led NDA in forming government at the center in any wa y does not indicate defeat of the right wing. Even the state wise look at the election results substantiates that BJP has won 25 out of 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh, 21 out of 25 seats in Rajasthan, 10 out of 11 seats in Chhatisgarh, 18 out of 28 seats in Karnataka, 14 out of 26 seats in Gujarat on its own and 13 out of 48 in Maharashtra where it contested in alliance with Shiv Sena which got 12 seats.

Communal dragon still victorious

In fact the BJP has polled over 18,00,000 votes in the 19 constituencies in Kerala while in the 20th constituency their alliance partner IFDP has won by polling 2,50,000 votes. While in West Bengal the BJP has contested in 13 seats, coming second in 9 seats and polling over 29,00,000 votes.
In fact, compared with 1999, BJP has suffered loss of 22 seats in the states of where it has allies i.e. Andhra Pradesh (lost 7 seats) in alliance with Telugu Desham Party, Bihar (lost 7 eats) in alliance with JD (U), Tamil Nadu (lost 4 seats) in alliance with AIDMK, West Bengal (lost 2 seats) in alliance with Trinmul Congress and Orissa (lost 2) in alliance with BJD. While it suffered loss of 45 seats in the states it contested on its own 15 in U.P., 10 in Jharkhand, 6 each in Gujarat and Delhi, 4 in Haryana and 2 each in H.P. and J&K. The most emphatic gain made by BJP is in Karnataka where it increases its tally by 11 seats in comparison to that of 1999. Other marginal gains are in Rajasthan 5 seats, in M.P. 4 seats, gain of 2 each in Chhatisgarh and Punjab. Over all it has lost 66 amongst the 182 seats it held in 1999, while it has gained 22 new seats.

On other hand, the Congress has gained 41 seats in the places it had worked out all alliances - 24 in A.P., 8 in T.N., 4 in Jharkhand, 3 in Maharashtra and 2 in J&K. While it gained 21 seats from the states where it did not have any alliance and these are 9 in Haryana, 6 each in Delhi and Gujarat and 3 in H.P. The Congress has lost 33 seats - 10 in Karnataka, 8 in Kerala, 6 in Punjab, 5 in Rajasthan and 4 in Madhya Pradesh out of which 25 seats it lost where it did not have any alliance.

The remarkable fact the explanation above brings out is that while BJP has made gains in the areas where it did not had alliances, while the gains made by Congress are predominantly in the areas where it had worked out alliances. The gains made by Congress in Delhi and Gujarat are basically due to the anti BJP votes honestly going to the Congress and in Haryana and H.P. because of BJP doing away with their alliances with INLD and HVP.

People's Bandwidth

The progress made by the Congress appears to be the result of circumstantial and accidental factors while the BJP appears to be well entrenched and spread all over India despite apparent set backs. In this aspect the mandate 2004 is more critical for secular and democratic forces in terms of evolving their future strategies.

However, it is also important to look into the content of election campaign that has yielded this mandate. The BJP got caught in its own web by over reliance on the macro economic indicators (taught by IMF-WB combine) in launching its "India Shining" and "feel good" media onslaughts. The macro economic reality never matches with the micro economic reality as a rule.

In a country like India where about 65% of the population does not even have bank accounts, the booming stock markets, growth rates, swelling foreign exchange stocks, inflation behaving within parameters, etc. have no meaning in daily life. Even in the metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad-Secunderabad etc. the glitter of the campaign was not able to cut any ice. Clearly indicating that even for the urban middlemiddle class, lower middle class and the poor nothing was shining, and as a result the BJP-led NDA was wiped out. In the rural areas that is Bharat, even the leaders of BJP-led NDA had accepted the "feel good" and "India Shining" was not working.
After the first phase of elections, realizing the futility of media hype the architects of BJP-led NDA had turned their guns towards reviving the agenda of Hindutva and projecting Mr. Prime Minister (A. B. Vajpayee) as the most formidable brand item. They tried their best to turn the elections to Parliament into 'Presidential' type of elections by asking people to vote for the 'chief executive' instead of voting for their party and/or alliance.

But the millions of Indians oblivious of the 'virtual reality' created by the team of hi-tech boys of RSS even had not heeded to this strategy. The reality has dawned over the virtual reality. The BJP candidates were defeated in Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi, Prayag and Dwarka. The violent faces of Hindutva, the hardcore communal leaders like Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena), Vinay Katihar (National President, Bajrang Dal) and Povaiyya (UP President, Bajrang Dal) were made to lick the dust. Mr. Prime Minister in his own constituency was able to make only 35% of the voters come out of their houses and had been able to attract only 19% of the voters to cast votes for him.
It can be concluded by the experience of elections -2004 that BJP-led NDA within four and half years of its rule was so overwhelmed by the lust of power that they lost touch with the grassroots despite considered to be a cadre based party.

Congress: Default victory

On other hand the Congress tactically or otherwise had identification with the 'common person' as the thrust of their campaign. The Congress had also not succumbed to the pressure of projecting a single leader and asking to vote for him or her. Though, they had claimed their adherence to secularism but they had out-sourced the campaign against 'communal' forces to surrogate outfits.
All this somehow seems to have clicked with the people and as a result Congress got votes of which even they were not aware of particularly in places like Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai, etc. This had also provided cushion for the losses it may have incurred by the 'foreign origin' issue of its leader and lack of projecting 'prime ministerial' candidate. The denouncement of any possibility of the 'third front' by the CPM leadership from the very beginning had also contributed to the gains made by the Congress.

One of the remarkable features of the election-2004 was the proactive involvement of the citizen's groups all over India in the campaigns to defeat BJP-led NDA. These groups had worked overtime in preparing and disseminating materials to counter the BJP-led NDA's propaganda. Congress was the beneficiary of this effort in large parts by default.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA)

The charged-drama by Sonia Gandhi's Congress has given a befitting reply to the RSS-BJP's unconstitutional demands (foreign origin). More than sending the BJP top-brass to run for cover, the drama has made the non- BJP/Congress parties to reconcile to bipolar electoral politics.
The new UPA government led by Dr. Manmohan Singh is faced with the challenge of taking alliance seriously, respecting and implementing the CMP (common minimum programme) and defeating the sinister designs of the fascist forces. The Left is to be congratulated for only supporting the government (not joining it) as its victories have been largely achieved by defeating the Congress. It will have to be vigilant in ensuring that the UPA government implements the CMP and does not unleash any anti-people policies.


Following are some of the highlights of the election-2004:
§ Neoliberal prescriptions do not match with the requirements of parliamentary democracy.
§ People's anger against neoliberal policies and their implications have begun to crystallise into votes.
§ The bipolar character of the emerging politics is further consolidated.
§ Though the BJP-led NDA was stopped from forming government, the threat of communal and fascist forces continues to be as formidable as before.
§ Congress does not vibrate the confidence for either taking the communal and fascist forces or dealing with neoliberal agenda of
'reforms' head-on.
§ The recognised and orthodox left is emerging as the biggest block in the way of the formation of the third force in parliamentary democracy.
§ The issue of women's participation still remains a dream as majority of parties shy away from fielding women candidates. In the total of 2165 candidates of the registered parties only 177 women were selected as candidates (08.18%) while the 44 women (08.00%) were elected. The number of women in the Lok Sabha fell further (from 57 in 1999).
§ The ECI proved toothless in terms of implementing its own directives and respond to malpractices. Its partisan way of dealing with complaints raised questions in the mind of common people. In the name of election reforms the common people had been substantially alienated from the election process.
§ Muscle and money power, coupled with caste, has continued to dominate the elections.
§ The Congress is yet to come to its senses and reali ze that coalition politics is here to stay. Its arrogance and over-confidence once forced the NDA upon the people.
§ The symphonic hype of 'Shining India', 'feel good' and pro-NDA exit polls' created collectively by silicon boys of BJP and the TV channels proved disaster for BJP. The middle class and the poor, suffering from inflation, rising unemployment, etc. were humiliated by this celebration and taught them a lesson.

Tasks before social action groups

The struggle of survival by the majority of people is not going to be over by this change of guard at the Centre. The present government is also led by the forces that are committed to the similar economic policies and serve the interest of Global Capital with similar zeal. The Government will have to learn few lessons from 'mandate 2004' and shall desist from blatant surrender to the prescriptions of WB and ADB and shameless subservience to the interests of Multinational Corporations.
For members of INSAF, and all social movements, committed to resist globalisation, combat communalism and defend democracy; the task is to continue mobilising the people and pressurising the Left and democratic parties to respect the people's mandate and usher pro-poor developmental governance.
The bottom line for any Government in future to escape the wrath of people in a democracy based on universal franchise is to adhere to the following:
§ Repeal of POTA and immediate release of all POTA detainees. All POTA-type state legislations, NSA, ESMA, etc. should also be debated in the Parliament and scrapped.
§ Delivery of justice to Gujarat victims of genocide. Investigate the Godhra train tragedy and the genocide to bring all facts before the
§ Immediate passage of Women's Reservation Bill.
§ Comprehensive public review of all World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) projects all over India. Withdraw permission to WB, IFC and ADB for raising money from Indian capital market.
§ Rollback of privatisation of water, food, education and health.
§ Abolition of disinvestment ministry: no disinvestments of profit making companies like BHEL, IPCL, etc.
§ Scrapping of Justice V.S. Malimath recommendations (law reforms) reversing criminal jurisprudence by deleting "accused not guilty unless proved otherwise proved"
§ Scrapping of Kelkar Committee recommendations on citizen (PAN) card.
§ Retrieval of academic institutions from the clutches of 'saffron brigade'.

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