By Dr. Prem Singh
With the announcement of results of Lok Sabha elections of 2019, deep concerns were voiced by numerous comrades expressing anguish as to what would Narendra Modi’s victory portend for the Constitution and the democracy. During the last five years we have often heard from secular and progressive friends that we are wading through dark and bad times. The crisis is indeed deep; constitutional institutions are being devalued; the economy is almost on the verge of collapsing; the whole country is beset by saffron fascism; the forces of resistance have become are waning and so on. With these quotations, a call is made to unite the pro-people democratic forces and intensify the struggle. Different ideological groups have their own beliefs and make efforts regarding the solidarity of the democratic forces and the nature of the struggle. They are constantly active in holding protest events/movements accordingly. Despite all this, if Narendra Modi won the election for the second consecutive term with an absolute majority, then the crisis needs to be understood a little more deeply. Only by understanding the crisis properly can the path of its solution be found.
It’s a plain truth that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to power through democracy. Although democracy is enumerated among the three fundamental values of the Constitution – socialism, secularism, democracy – but it is also a unique procedure and a vision. Under this system, elections are held for central and state governments, panchayats and municipal bodies, various types of labor-employee-officer organizations, farmer organizations, student organizations, social organizations, institutions, trusts, political parties etc. In the process of making policies and laws and in the process of justice, democratic method is adopted. That is why all institutions of state and civil life, including legislature, executive and judiciary are called democratic institutions. Obviously, the entire gamut of activities in the country should be conducted democratically under the vision of democracy. What must be understood is the fact that the present-day corporate politics which thrives on the power of democracy and it is in fact a bad sign for the Constitution of India and the democracy. Modi’s politics is a fierce hallmark of this very corporate politics which is ever pervading today in the country.
It is further a plain truth is that the prevailing corporate politics remains invalid on the touchstone of the basic concepts and beliefs of the Indian Constitution. Needless to say that instead of this invalid politics, there is a dire need for a new constitutionally-agreed politics, which should be established with the power of democracy. That is, the power of democracy should be made active in the direction of creating a new constitution-friendly politics. The political leadership that makes democracy a medium of constitutionally invalid politics will not be ready for this venture. Of course, this is a big problem. But an even bigger problem is that India’s intellectual class (Intelligentsia) still does not understand the need for an alternative to the current corporate politics. Rather, when the opportunity arises, it shows the readiness in overthrowing the idea of alternative politics against corporate politics as the actors of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) do. Despite the suicides of millions of peasants, the layoffs of innumerable laborers, the immense crowd of unemployed, not a single eminent scholar of the country is willing to conclusively say that corporate politics, which of course has its own political economy, should be eliminated from the country.
In the aftermath of Lok Sabha election of 2019, deep concern was expressed over the defeat of the anti-BJP opposition, and analysis were presented that very election was not really fought by the opposition. The BJP started preparing for the 2019 general election within a year of coming in power with absolute majority in 2014. Whereas the opposition remained completely scattered and indecisive till the last moment even in the general election at national level. As a result of the government’s corporate-savvy economic policies and the ludicrous decisions made about the economy, the natural dissatisfaction that arose among farmers, laborers, small and middle scale businessmen and unemployed youth was rendered redundant by the wavering and vehement opposition. The Congress, which started privatization-liberalization in 1991, believed that as the Vajpayee’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was formed by taking advantage of the discontent created by privatization-liberalization policies, after which Manmohan Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was formed, and Modi’s BJP had an absolute majority government, in the same manner, the Congress government will be also formed after the Modi government. The Congress was also ready for two tenures of the Modi government due to confidence in this causal series of corporate politics. But when Congress governments were formed in three states without much hard work, the lure of returning to power in 2019 gripped them.
But the Modi government, by imparting momentum to its narrative of Hindu-Nation (Rashtra) in ‘now or never’ manner, diffused the inherent causality of corporate politics. The precipitous Congress stepped on the path of Hindu-Nation, which had to be fruitless. The regional satraps that came to power only because of the power of the democracy had killed their reputation long ago by killing the same democracy. Some of them managed to win in their states by defeating their rival of same origin and nature, but the overall result once again came in the form of BJP’s absolute majority government. This election proved that the cut-off of public dissatisfaction arising from corporate economic policies is the narrative of Hindu-Nation(alism). It is axiomatic that the BJP will continue to get the immediate and far-reaching benefit of this phenomenon. No matter how many verbal attacks are being launched against saffron fascism!
There are still many arrows left in the quiver of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)/BJP on this path. After Ayodhya, the announcement of the turn of Kashi and Mathura is often heard. Apart from these, there will be no problem in uncovering or creating other small temple-mosque disputes. Now Aurangzeb’s name has been removed from Delhi’s road, there may be talk of removing his tomb in Aurangabad tomorrow. After Aurangzeb, it may be the turn of Akbar and any other Muslim ruler after him. At present, it seems a little far-fetched, but the way in which the true character of post Vajpayee RSS/BJP has emerged, it will not be impossible. The cow is always there – it will be tortured, slaughtered, and be milked continuously in the service of Hindu-Nation. The Hindu-Nation of the RSS/BJP is in perfect harmony with the consumerist-capitalist system of the day. If the global capitalist power-establishment really experiences a crisis for its existence in India from any corner, then it can shoot a few arrows directly from its own quiver. For example, granting India permanent membership of the Security Council, allowing the Olympic Games to be held in India, giving a prize like Noble Peace to a leader who advocates the capitalist system … etc. I think, although it is a guess, that Narendra Modi has adopted Gandhi to get the Nobel Peace Prize. Keep in mind, in the era of corporate politics, the meaning of education and education system is being devalued in such a way that a true voice cannot be born in favor of constitutional and human values from our society. The marketism (bazarwad) of the last three decades has already shredded the tradition of tolerance and brotherhood to a great extent inherent in the society.
Many people from civil society are waging a fight against Modi and his ‘bhakts’ (devotees) on various forums of social media. They did this work with full vigor during the general elections and were engaged full-fledgedly even before that. Their anti-Modi opposition often comes in the form of jokes. This situation suits Modi – do not get challenged in elections, even if you keep getting into jokes! The opposition of intellectuals is also of retail nature. Intellectuals react to what Modi says and does. That too mostly by favoring any political party or leader. Even while advocating for democracy against fascism, their words do not express strength. The reason being that they often do this in a selective manner. Take an example of India’s neighborhood. Recently, the current President of China took the decision to remain President for a lifetime. Hardly any of India’s anti-fascist intellectuals have opposed or criticized this decision. Human rights/civil rights organizations around the world criticized the Chinese leadership as usual after thirty years of China’s Tiananmen Square incident on 4 June 2019. But even after thirty years, intellectuals advocating democracy and civil rights against saffron fascism did not take notice of that incident. This is to say that the Constitution and the democracy cannot be restored by unconnected and selective opposition of retail nature. Rather it has become a pastime, which confuses transformative public consciousness and does not allow it to reach a complete decision.
The struggle for independence against colonialism became dynamic and fruitful only when an overall decisive decision was taken in favor of freedom in the entire Indian subcontinent. The character and gripes of neo-colonialism are more complex than colonialism. In this, along with the national resources, national life of the country is being handed over to imperialist control by the ruling class. In this way, corporate politics acts as a weapon of neo-colonialist power-structure. Accordingly corporate politics is also a weapon of neo-colonialist power-structure in India. The goal of emancipation from neo-colonialism can be achieved only if there is an overall decisive decision in the country to achieve it. But India’s civil society activists and intellectuals remain satisfied by playing their role as merely opponents within the neo-colonialist system. They do not take the role of coming out of this system and challenging it. Manmohan Singh, as finance minister, had challenged the critics and opponents of the New Economic Policies that if there was an alternative to free economy, then they should come forward with the same. This challenge of economist Dr. Manmohan Singh remains unanswered till date. It is not only that the intellectuals of India do not want to give up the special facilities available in the realm of neo-colonialism. Actually, they do not accept any economy and model of development that does not pass through the path of capitalism. Had it not been so, the masses would not have gone mad behind this economy and model of development with the elite section of India.
One thing can be noted here. These intellectuals keep a place in the mainstream media by keeping place within the system. Further, they earn name of being ‘public intellectuals’ despite writing and speaking only in English. Where as, those few intellectuals who are decisively opposed to this system, have gradually lost their place in the mainstream media. They are not fully welcomed even in social media/new media/alternative media.
What is equally a plain truth that neo-colonialism is an injustice to Indian people. Gandhi mobilized the strength of ordinary Indian people and forced all the currents and voices of that era to surrender to the goal of freedom. The nay-sayer elements though caused harm to the extent of breaking the country, but they could not stop the freedom. Hence, the freedom from neo-colonialism can be achieved only when the united strength of the ordinary Indian people compels civil society, intellectuals and leaders towards that goal. Gandhi did this difficult work during the colonial era. It is not necessary to have Gandhi in every phase of human history. We have the Gandhi’s civil disobedience, a potent mode of action against the unjust system. It is true that Modi has appropriated Gandhi. That should not matter. There are many scholars in the anti-Modi camp who denounce Gandhi. In the name of Gandhi, there are many scholars in the country from the very beginning who are basically fraud and do business out of Gandhism. All this will keep going in India with Gandhi.
True soldiers of freedom from neo-colonialism can draw inspiration from Gandhi’s methodology of resistance to injustice. Here, it is not necessary to accept the Gandhi’s ideology/philosophy; the focus is on Gandhi’s way of resistance to injustice. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia has written about it, “The greatest revolution of our time is, therefore, a procedural revolution, removal of injustice through a mode of action characterized by justice. The question here is not so much the contents of justice as the mode to achieve it. Constitutional and orderly processes are often not enough. They are then transgressed by the use of weapons. In order that it should not happen and that man should not ever get thrown around between ballot and bullet, this procedural revolution of civil disobedience has emerged. At the head of all revolutions of our time stands this revolution of Satyagrah against weapons although it has in actual effect made only a faltering appearance to date.” (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, ‘Marx Gandhi and Socialism’, pp. XXXI-XXXII, Samata Vidyalaya Nyasa, Hyderabad, 1963) This methodology can be effective in uniting the ordinary Indian public living in the grip of neo-colonialism. Then, it may also happen that under the pressure of the ordinary people of India, the intellectuals/economists of the country take over the task of accepting and building an economy and model of development that develops from the below to up, not from top to bottom.
It is further true that consumerist capitalism has captured the hearts of people world over, including India, through its strong and omnipresent network. The hearts of those people are also captured the system operates at the cost of whose civil rights, even right to life. It has been generally seen that the pioneers and beneficiaries of this system are crazy about the freedom to be more and more happy at the cost of the natural freedom of being a human being. Kishan Patnaik has written in one place that people with money and facilities are also happy, or are happy to what extent, there is a scope for doubt. Even under colonialism, a thick layer of hegemony and paranoia had accumulated over the hearts of the people. The various stages of the freedom movement and the various streams active in them broke the layers and freed the hearts of the colonized people. Gandhi did this great work of changing the hearts of the people. Lohia has reviewed Gandhi’s concept of change of heart in the context of the politics of transformation in a new manner. Lohia states, “Gandhiji spent just about a year of his life changing the hearts of Smuts, Irwin and Birla, while he devoted over four decades to putting courage into and thereby changing the hearts of tens of millions of people all over the world.” (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, ‘Marx, Gandhi and Socialism’, p. 156, Samata Vidyalaya Nyasa, Hyderabad, 1963)
Gandhi had instilled the idea of freedom from colonialism in the hearts of crores of people in the colonized world along with Indians. This effort of Gandhi has also touched the hearts of the people of the colonial powers to some extent. Even after his assassination, his idea of civil disobedience and change of heart continued to inspire those people/groups world over whose freedom to be human or to civil rights was violated. The idea of freedom from neo-colonialist clutches can still find a place in the hearts of people including India by taking inspiration from Gandhi.
(The author, a former Fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, teaches Hindi in University of Delhi)