At midnight on 15 August 1947, India attained political independence through transfer of power from the British imperialists to the Indian national bourgeoisie through compromise. Though the class aspiration of the Indian bourgeoisie for ascending to the state power and grabbing the Indian market for exploitation was fulfilled, the dream of the Indians at large who joined the freedom movement and made immense sacrifice to see an oppression-free independent India remained unfulfilled. The rulers changed, but not the rules of governance. Exploitation of man by man remained intact. Lest the jubilant Indians then celebrating freedom from the tentacles of alien rule should have an inkling to what was ordained in the capitalist rule of independent India, the political mouthpieces and statesmen of the ruling Indian bourgeoisie needed some catchy slogans to deceive them and shield the reality. At that time, Indian capitalist state needed to consolidate itself by donning a radical cloak. So, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India chosen by the Congress, then the most trusted political representative of the Indian national bourgeoisie, named his first address to the nation as ‘Tryst with Destiny’. But as the days rolled by, people of India slowly began to understand what destiny they were asked to have a tryst with. All the fads, aberrations, discriminations, deprivations and malaises of British imperialist rule were found to be existing, albeit with a tricolour in place of British flag. An acute food crisis inevitable in an exploitative capitalist society protecting the hoarders, black-marketers, profit-mongers and price manipulators had surfaced. So, discontent began to mount.
Unravelling of ‘destiny’ that was in store
To douse the fire of accumulated wrath, Indian rulers had to stimulate the ebbing patriotic fervour among the people by fanning national jingoism. Hence, as an immediate ploy, they found that triggering a border clash with socialist China in 1962 would be most befitting. But a defeat at the hands of China was a kind of setback for them. Yet they went on sustaining that jingoistic mood, raising the bogey of ‘external forces out to threat India’s freedom’. Within three years, the Pakistani military rulers launched a military attack on the Western border with the same ulterior motive of befooling Pakistani people with a war phobia. That gave the Indian ruling bourgeoisie a fresh opportunity to revive that jingoistic outcry. So, Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Congress Prime Minister coined a new slogan, ‘Jai Jawaan, Jai Kishan’ ( ‘hail the peasants, hail the soldiers’) as if the ruling Indian capitalism were determined to improve the condition of the distressed peasants and honour the mercenary army under its command as patriots. Also it was a clever ploy to rally public support in favour of increased defence expenditure, a part of ‘militarization of economy’ which the imperialists-capitalists are resorting to on a large scale to stave off the growing economic crisis and maintain the boom of the capitalist market, at least temporarily, by artificial stimulation of increased military consumption. But, that slogan did not weigh that much on the suffering Indians who were getting disillusioned about the ruling Congress then ridden in factional feuds after demise of both Nehru and Shastri. At that time Indira Gandhi came to fore with her catchy slogan of ‘Garibi Hotao’ (‘remove poverty’) and cornered the veteran and septuagenarian leaders within the party. She received full backing of the ruling class who was then a bit afraid that the rising anti-Congress sentiment, because of all-out deterioration in the life and livelihood of the toiling Indians, might crystallize into a mass movement conducive to anti-capitalism. After consolidating her position in the party and saddled in the coveted seat of prime minster, Indira Gandhi in the aggregate interest of ruling capitalism embarked on a radical posture as if the Congress were being rejuvenated with a younger forward-thinking leadership taking the reins. Soon, the Bangladesh liberation struggle broke out and a massive uprising of people in East Pakistan, former eastern segment of Pakistan, saw in its wake the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 as a national sovereign state. The Indian army played a decisive role in defeating the Pakistani army against whom the then citizens of East Pakistan were fighting for independence of their motherland which, they found, had been virtually reduced into a colony by the ruling elite bourgeoisie of Pakistan. Following liberation of Bangladesh, the image of Indira Gandhi was sought to be brightened by the ruling Indian monopolists by conferring on her the title of “rising sun of liberation of Asia”. Yet, that eulogy also proved abortive as the downturn of people’s life condition went unabated because of escalating capitalist oppression. So within three years of establishment of Bangladesh, a historic mass movement surged forth in entire Northern India against the misrule of Indira Gandhi. To contain that movement, Indira Gandhi had to clamp emergency and curtailed many civil and democratic rights including right to free expression. This autocratic measure backfired so much so that Indira Congress was routed in the 1977 election and the Janata Party, a hurriedly formed conglomerate of right-wing forces including Jan Sangh (predecessor of the BJP) at the behest of the ruling Indian ruling class to play the role of a bourgeois alternative to the Congress in the sphere of bourgeois parliamentary, captured power. So all accolades hitherto showered on Indira Gandhi became of no use. But later on, in less than 34 months, Indira Gandhi, was back in power and the Janata Party had disintegrated. It was evident that the ruling Indian monopolists failed in its attempt to prop up its second trusted political outfit through a hotchpotch combination. Hence, they had to resurrect Indira Gandhi.
After Indira’s assassination in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi took over as prime minister and he swept the next poll riding on the sympathy wave. It was a relief for the ruling class as it found that possible outbreak of people’s ire against misrule of the Congress could be forestalled for the time being. Rajiv Gandhi then coined the slogan of “taking the nation into the 21st century” and fostered the concept of “India emerging independently as a great power”. This very slogan once again articulated the class aspiration of the ruling monopolists to assume a formidable position, economically and politically, in the world no matter if toiling millions in the country continued to be dragged into abject destitution because of growing ruthless capitalist exploitation. Thereafter, the BJP rose to the centrestage of bourgeois power politics fanning up Hindutva sentiment. Its slogan was that it was a ‘party with a difference’. In 1998, when the first BJP ministry was sworn in, Atal Behari Vajpayee who became prime minister coined a slogan ‘Jai Jaiwan, Jai Kishan, Jai Vigyan’. Notably, he expanded the slogan of Lal Bahadur Shastri by adding ‘Vigyan’ (Science) during his independence day speech in 1998 alluding to India’s progress in manufacturing nuclear weapon and space technology. Once again the class design was evident. While he, as a trusted representative of the ruling class, acknowledged the legacy of the Congress rule that strengthened and consolidated Indian capitalism, he sought to give an impression as if he were promoting science because the general perception at that time was that the BJP was a Hindu communal party promoting religious backwardness and obscurantism.
BJP’s bonhomie with growing plight of the people
Now during his uninterrupted tenure as the BJP prime minister for six years, Narendra Modiji has indeed having anther ‘tryst’—not with destiny but with slogans—with the sole object of foxing the people and thereby currying more and more favour and support from the ruling monopolists. “ Saab ka sath, sabka Vikas” (inclusive growth), “na khaunga, na khane dunga” (neither shall I indulge in corrupt practices nor allow anyone to do so) and so forth. While addressing the 106th Science Congress in 2019, he said: “20 years ago, in a historic address at Pokhran, our great PM Atal ji had recognised the contributions of science and technology for India. “I wish to add ‘Jai Anusandhan’ (hail inquiry), therefore the slogan now becomes “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan.” What did he mean by ‘anusandhan’? Not scientific inquiry or inquisitiveness to search for truth but mere development of the technological aspects of science that would sophisticate the production process to suit the profit motive of the monopoly houses, bolster the defence capabilities of the capitalist state and give boost to advancement in space technology to startle the world. No one would have objected if these were achieved alongside improvement in the life condition of 95% of Indians. But such brands of ‘anusandhan and vigyan’ have only been multiplying the misery and penury of the people and fattening the purse of the handful of super-rich. Then, on the eve of 2004 elections, the ruling BJP propagated a pumped ‘feel good’ plank to power re-election bid. To reinforce it, the then BJP finance minister presented an interim budget in which an impression has been sought to be given as if there was a turnaround of the economy and hence there would no more be an occasion for the common masses to gripe. But soon, like all binges, the so called hype created around ‘feel good’ factor petered out as the rickety skeleton of the economy began tumbling out of the cupboard. So was required a new catchphrase ‘India shining’. It was propagated that under the BJP rule, India had begun to shine brightly and if it were returned to power, further glaze would be added to ‘shining India’.
‘Shining India’ of BJP was indeed a haven for the capitalist-imperialists, whereas almost half of the Indian population did not have access to minimum amount of food, health care, education, water and sanitation. 2500 companies of the corporate India have increased their profit by 39% ( Economic Times 01.01.2004). In its bid to secure another term, the BJP tried to project a shining spectacle of the country by indulging in palpable falsehood and arraying deceptive contrived statistics. But the people of the country could understand by experience what lurked beneath this shimmering sequinned apparel of ‘‘Shining India’ .
So, the BJP failed to win 2004 elections and the governmental power was again passed on to the hands of the Congress, albeit with the backing of the CPI (M) and CPI. Manmohan Singh, then elected Prime Minister of the Congress-led CPI (M)-backed UPA government, had said in an NRI (non-resident Indians) meet in New Delhi that during his tenure, ‘Acche din ayenge’ (good days will come). But what was in the offing was clear from the first budget of the Congress-led UPA government in March 2005, which, under a populist cloak had been glaringly a subtle attempt to sidetrack and divert people’s attention from the burning economic problems tormenting the life of the common people. Instead, under coaxing words and verbiages as well as cunning cover of operation, the mounting problems of unemployment and sky rocketing prices of essential commodities – the main scourges haunting the people of the whole country – remain totally unaddressed. Instead of assuming any direct responsibility for creating more jobs by initiating bold scheme of industrialization under the aegis of the Government and rolling out a realistic plan to check the soaring price line, everything was left to the whims and fancies of the market players – the national and foreign monopolists, capitalists and big business. Later, the Congress-led UPA government, besides failing to mitigate the increasing hardship of the people and instead adopting one after another pro-capitalist policies, was embroiled in quite a number of mega scams. When its credibility began to dent rapidly, the ruling class understood that backing the Congress for another term would be difficult. So, it shifted its support to the BJP. Already, the ruling monopolists were extremely happy with Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government which had showcased a model in which the objective of generating abundant wealth for the industrial houses, corporate bigwigs and their boot-lickers at the cost of pauperization of the toiling millions was achieved with elan. Hence, there was overflowing adoration for Narendra Modiji followed by the strategic move to promote him as the country’s prime minister so that the Gujarat model could be extended to the whole of the country. Corporate giants like the Reliance and Adani group were reported to have already invested several thousand crores of rupees to thrust up Modiji. Behind the smokescreen of Hindutva, the motive of RSS-BJP was to buttress the class interest of monopoly capital and in return, enjoy pelf and power. But then such a heinous move needed a cover, a mask. So, Narendra Modiji first borrowed the slogan of “achhe din” from Manmohan Singh and started vending spurious dream of “better days” arraying the entire arsenal at the disposal of the RSS-BJP. Then the ruling monopolists pressed the entire media owned by them to propagate that a ‘Modi government was in the offing’ (‘aab ke bar, Modi sarkar’). Common people disgusted with the Congress rule got swayed by this deceptive design and a BJP rule was installed. Now, the people are realizing what ‘achhe din’ was in store for them.
Whose ‘self-reliance’ is being talked about by BJP?
It is in this backdrop that the hideous underbelly of latest slogan of “Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (‘self-reliant India) is to be recognized in right earnest. This new term has been floated by the prime minister while announcing a so called ‘rescue package’ in May last to salvage the sinking capitalist economy, further worsened due to Covid 19-induced lockdown. Then it was again reiterated in his Independence Day speech on 15 August from the Red Fort in Delhi. The prime minister also said that Covid 19 is no impediment before achieving ‘self-reliance’. Then he gave a big list of steps to be self-reliant none of which addressed the pressing problems the millions of Indians are reeling under. It would not require much of intelligence to understand that like all other previous slogans and tag lines, this too is a hoax par excellence! This newly culled phrase has come in the trail of previous ones like “Make in India’ and “Vocal for local”. First of all, which India the prime minister is talking about? The India of Ambanis-Adanis-Tatas-Birlas or the 130 crore odd toiling Indians struggling day in and day out to eke out a bare living? If it is the India of the leading monopoly houses who are sitting on heaps of wealth and continuing to make fortunes even when the pandemic is devastating common people, then that is one thing. But if this ‘self-reliance’ pertains to the oppressed multitudes, then what is one to make of this!
What is the ground reality?
Before outbreak of Covid 19, the Indian economy had been found to be sagging in every respect, marked by more and more concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and rapid destitution of the common toiling masses. As far back as in 2017, 73% of the wealth generated went to the richest 1%, while 67 crore Indians saw only a 1% increase in their wealth. Indian billionaires’ fortunes increased by almost 10 times over a decade and their total wealth is higher than the entire Union budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19, which was at Rs 24,422 billion. 36.07% of the total registered companies were shut down. Many small and middle-level businesses had folded up after demonetisation in 2016 and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) the following year. Consequent to this, there has been an alarming rise in unemployment and job loss. Out of 97 crore of Indians capable of doing work, only 49 % are reported to be somehow earning a bit just to hold onto their life. But the remaining 51 % are having no means of earning and are driven to begging or depending on charity. Today, in Covid 19-induced lockdown, the scenario has become still more pitiful. Official records show that not less than 14 crores of people have lost their jobs. Hapless people who were hitherto managing to earn two square meals by managing to secure a job on casual basis either at construction sites or mills, factories, mines, retail outlets, kirana shops, delivery chains etc., are now out of work. Likewise, street-vendors, hawkers, porters and such other people who are also categorized as self-employed have ceased to have any means of earning. The central government boastfully claims that it has been doling out food to 80 crores of countrymen. In other words, it is an admission of the fact that over 60% of Indian citizens are not in a position to procure even enough staple food. In what way, these people can become self-reliant? Immediately, the government spokespersons would say that a new window for availing easy and cheap bank loans has been opened. Anyone conversant with the reality knows how absurd this proposition is. So the less said, is better. With such a vast section of the populace losing whatever little buying power they had and the government showing no intention to rescue them by providing cash stimulus and increase government spending (the worried experts are saying that pumping at least Rs 10 lakh crore or 5% of GDP into the hands of the people is the only way out), capitalist economy which is driven by market (meaning purchasing power of the consumers) would be sunk in further crisis. Already all circles of the establishment as well as international capitalist-imperialist bodies like World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Credit Rating Agencies are predicting that a further nosedive of Indian economy is in the offing. So when Indian economy is poised to face such a disastrous future, whose self-reliance the prime minister is talking about?
Hollowness of the prescription of ‘vocal for local’
Coming to the prime minister’s prescription of “vocal for local”, when the very capacity to purchase is becoming practically nil, how does the stress on buying indigenous products make any sense? Next is : which industrial house or so called entrepreneurs or much-touted start-ups would come forward for productive investment when the market is so squeezed in as to be virtually non-existent? The government is in no mood to volunteer such productive investment which is demanded by every right-thinking quarter, even some of the renowned economists belonging to the capitalist camp. Rather, the government is on a spree to sell out existing public sector units, once built with public money, to the private operators. Would this announcement by itself open the closed industries, set up new industries to boost production in an uninterrupted way, generating enough job opportunities? Unable to answer all these questions, the Union finance minister has said that this economic catastrophe is attributed to Covid 19 which is ‘an act of god’. We do not know whether to laugh or weep. Covid 19 has only aggravated the already severe capitalist economic crisis, the brunt of which is made to be borne by the 95% countrymen already plagued by wretched living condition. In contrast, the big monopolist sharks are thriving even in the pandemic situation. Is that too divinely ordained, honourable finance minister?
When people are not even in a state of living hand to mouth, the prime minister and his colleagues are talking of a ‘digital India’. Now, in tandem with the slogan of “Self-reliant India’, the prime minister in his Independence Day speech has floated a new term, ‘multi modal connectivity infrastructure’ which cannot but make common people swoon. “There is a need to give a new direction to the overall infrastructure development of the country to move India towards modernity at a fast pace”, he said. But when even potable water is not available in all villages and lack of fund makes it difficult for the peasants to be able to travel or transport agricultural products, how would “an ambitious infrastructure push of more than Rs 110 trillion infrastructure over the next five years” improve their lot? How would digital connection of the national markets through optical fibres shower avalanche of benefits on the continuously pauperized peasants? How would such digitization enable the children of poor peasant or workers’ family to access ‘on-line education’? Then who would be ‘self-reliant’? Obviously the domestic and foreign monopoly houses who would dominate this so called digital market and the business of building roads, fly-overs and skyscrapers, pocket money from public exchequer and then systematically raise cell phone tariffs communication and road toll taxes to squeeze people more. Former BJP prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once named a road project to connect four metros and named it ‘Golden Quadrilateral’. Who have been benefitted by this other than the business houses and super-rich? Has faster movement of goods, including food articles, brought down the price to the affordable limit? Again this was a nothing but a catchy phrase to hoodwink common people and benefit the monopoly houses. Just the other day, the prime minister spoke of ‘self-reliance’ in defence. But his own government has cleared 74% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in defence. How can increased FDI make India ‘self-reliant’? Reliance group chief, now the fifth richest person in the world, has been selling ownership stake in his telecom business to foreign investors like Facebook, General Atlantic Singapore and others. Is it an example of “self-reliance” even of the industrial houses of the country?
Of late, it is revealed that GDP has collapsed 23.9% in April-June quarter, worst among big economies. Core sectors have shrunk for 5th month in a row in July last. Manufacturing, construction, hospitality and communication including transport and mining have contracted by 23.3%, 50 %, 47% and 23.3 % respectively. New investment has dipped by 47% in last three months. Covid 19 has unravelled huge healthcare void in the country. Besides total mismanagement, if not complete negligence, in providing timely medical assistance to the infected people in a health infrastructure dominated by private sector operating on commercial basis., official data have revealed the enormous price incurred in healthcare deficits by non-Covid 19 patients between April and June. Immunisation dropped 27%, institutional deliveries 28%, major surgeries fell 60%, outpatient treatment for heart ailments and cancer by over 70%, and 51% fewer acute cardiac emergencies were logged. Treatment for ailments like tuberculosis, diabetes and asthma, screening of new-borns for birth defects etc were also badly affected. Have all these happened because India lacked ‘self-reliance’? As per National Crime Bureau of 2019, 10, 281 peasants and 32, 563 agricultural workers committed suicide last year i.e. before strike of Covid 19. Is it that these severely distressed rural poor ended their lives prematurely because India had not attained ‘self-reliance?
Catchphrases are coined by servitors of oppressive bourgeoise to fox people
In fact, a competition has been going on for long among the BJP, and other parliamentarian parties, irrespective of hues, as to who could prove itself to be a better draftsman of newer deceptive slogans and catchphrases to confuse the suffering people and thereby earn more confidence of the ruling bourgeoisie for being chosen as its most trusted political manager. The BJP is doing the same thing with extreme cunningness. With the help of the monopoly-controlled media, the BJP leaders are trying to show how in their rule, the ‘image of India’ is brightened throughout the world and how ‘development’ is sweeping across the world. The ruling party leaders, analysts-columnists-commentators subservient to the power that be are working overtime to highlight certain economic indicators, suitably modified as per convenience, showcase a number of bogus and irrelevant themes or schemes as spectacular achievements of their government. Alongside, they are coining one after catchphrases to divert attention of the misery-stricken countrymen from the real issues. With the help of a strong propaganda machinery which is adept in turning night into day, showing black as white and embellishing trash and phony staff as a matter of substance, the BJP is trying to make people forget the pangs of their misery and penury and instead take ‘pride’ in the cavalcade of catchphrases and watchwords defined, designed and fostered to serve the vested interest. So, watering down the once championed doctrine of globalization, the BJP is now aggressively advocating Swadeshiana (Indianization) which once again is nothing but an Indian variant of the latest trickery adopted by imperialism-capitalism world over to foment jingoism and false sense of nationalism. So like all previous slogans, catchphrases and taglines of the bourgeois governments irrespective of hues, the so called exhortation of ‘self-reliance’ is a trick of highest order purported to shield the crisis of Indian capitalism, an inalienable part of decadent moribund global imperialism-capitalism, put a cover on the blatant anti-people pro-capitalist policies of the BJP government, hide its abject failure in handling the Covid 19 pandemic and bankruptcy of the ruling BJP in every sphere. Let not the people be fooled by such spurious slogans but unmask the fangs hidden underneath.