We give below a brief outline of the pre-election scenarios in the poll-bound four states and one Union Territory.
West Bengal has been ruled by Congress for around three decades. Then the CPI (M) had run the government for 34 long years. Now the TMC is on the throne and the BJP is making a desperate attempt to come to power. For that, all central leaders including the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister, BJP President and other central leaders are frequenting the state at shorter intervals. Also they have succeeded in netting many disgruntled ministers, MPs, MLAs, councillors and panchayat functionaries of the TMC, Congress as well as the CPI (M) and its front partners into their fold. Equally desperate is the CPI (M) and its associates to remain afloat in the corridor of power. So, they have joined hands with the Congress and the self-proclaimed Indian Secular Front (ISF) headed by Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui, a Muslim cleric of the shrine of Furfura Sharif, to launch a so called third front. Before joining hands with the CI (M), Siddiqui, in fact, had a detailed discussion with Asaduddin Owasi, head of arch Muslim fundamentalist All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMM), which is alleged to have helped the BJP win recently held Bihar election by a slender margin by cornering Muslim votes along religious lines, But the CPI (M) holds that both the Congress and ISF are secular democratic allies. In fact, by this act , the CPI(M) has opened a Pandora’s Box.
It revolves upon a basic question. What is meant by secularism? Is it that religious tolerance meaning not possessing any negative attitude towards or hatred for any other religion is secularism? Or encouraging all religions is secularism? In our country, the vote-birds and quarters of vested interest tend to define secularism like that. And a section of the masses under their influence also are prone to such belief. But neither of this is true. While religious tolerance stands for liberal view, cheering all religions, as most of the vote-monger bourgeois petty-bourgeois leaders do in our country, is, in fact, multi-theocratism. Philosophically, secularism means non-recognition of any supernatural power and recognition of only nature and material world as reality. Politically secularism means the state, political affairs, social life and education remains outside the purview of religious practices. State would neither encourage any religion nor curb the freedom of religion. State would neither encourage any religion nor interfere in the religious activities. Religion should remain a personal affair.
But as the BJP is an open advocate of arch Hindu communalism- medieval anachronism, and has, of late, been repudiating secularism, its parliamentarian rivals have opted for flaunting their self-styled secular credential to pretend as crusader against communalism-fundamentalism- medieval anachronism. So, the Congress, which always peddled soft-Hinduism, orchestrated communal riots in various places, opened the lock of Babri Masjid to allow worship of Ramlala there and brought a number of black acts, brutally crushed democratic movements and went to the extent of clamping emergency, suddenly appeared to be a trusted secular democratic ally of the CPI (M). Everyone knows that out of their grudge against the TMC which ousted them from power in 2011, the CPI (M) leaders during the last parliamentary election surreptitiously voted for the BJP by whispering that “first it would be Ram, and then bam (leftists)”. What they meant was that let the BJP defeat the TMC first. Then, as people would be disgusted with the BJP, they would come back to the CPI (M). What an incredible analysis! Equally fascinating is the imparting the crown of secularism on Abbas Siddiqui’s ISF. While interacting with the journalists, Biman Basu, veteran polit bureau member of the CPI(M), held that those who are branding ISF as non-secular have no proper understanding. ISF would not field religious minority candidates only. Their list would comprise nominees from Hindu, scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and other backward communities (OBCs) as well. [Ganasakti, Bengali organ of the CPI (M), 2 March 2021] Great! By that logic, the BJP too is secular party since the BJP also field Muslim, dalit and OBC candidates.
Ruling TMC is also in discomfort because of desertion of a host of its legislators, leaders and important functionaries and allegations of large scale corruption and nepotism at grassroots level. So it is banking on the personal charisma of its supremo, Mamata Banerjee and also cunningly trying to play on Bengali sentiment. To counteract, the BJP also is singing peans in favour of Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Netaji Subhas and others. But the irony is that all these great personalities preached exactly the opposite to what the doctrine of Hindutva and Hindu nationalism the RSS-BJP propagate. While Vivekananda though a believer in Vedanta was an exponent of liberal views and decried any hatred towards any religion, Rabindranath, primarily a humanist, also ridiculed the view that the interests of the Hindus and Muslims are different. Vidyasagar, an ardent proponent of true secular humanism, rejected the Sankhya-Vedanta as ‘false systems of philosophy’ while Netaji Subhas advocated for keeping religion out of the purview of politics and social relations and even warned people of traitors like Hindu Mahasabha (ancestral organization of RSS-BJP) who had come to seek vote with tridents (symbol of Hinduism) in hand. The BJP leaders including the Prime Minister have never cared to say if they had honoured any of their pre-election promises. Only they are harping on Atmanirvar Bharat (self-reliant India), a euphemism for Corporate-nirvar Bharat(corporate-reliant India) and banking on jumlas ( A term used by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to denote pre-election gimmicks) like creating ‘Sonar Bangla’ (Golden Bengal). All their boasting of modernity and development are grounded in simulation and falsehood. The verbal duels between the TMC leaders and the BJP top brass have become a saga of slugging out on the rostrums or TV screens with indecent words, venom-spewing, raised decibels and innuendos. Not only are these are accompanied by virulent social media war, but by daily physical attacks and counter-attacks, finger-pointing, claims and counter-claims.
Moreover, thee is a celebrity (Sportsmen, TV and film stars) tug-o-war between the BJP and TMC. Both the BJP and TMC have been parachuting in these celebrities knowing fully well that these glamour-birds are “guest politicians” and treat parliamentarism as a sabbatical. They are simply crowd-pullers. Moreover, fielding these so called celebrities also help them to defuse local intra-party fights because these fancy-candidates normally do not belong to any particular faction. The BJP has also given tickets to almost all turncoats from the TMC, Congress, CPI (M) and CPI and has thus virtually become an abode of the aggrieved and abandoned. What a caricature of electoral battle!
The governmental power has so far been alternating between the CPI (M) and the Congress. This time also, it is between the ruling CPI (M)-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF. As was in the case of West Bengal in 2011, the CPI (M) is not seeking vote, based on any leftist line, but, like any other bourgeois -petty bourgeois parties, highlighting ‘developmental’ activities undertaken by its government. The CPI (M) leaders are openly exhibiting their pro- capitalist, pro-globalisation leanings and proclaiming their intention to make Kerala an “investor friendly ” state. The CPI (M) government had entered into a clandestine contract with a US-based company named EMCC international to allow them to extract the coastal sea and deep sea marine. The company was given a huge area of government land as well. Though the CPI (M) government which initially claimed that it had “nothing to do with the deal” was caught red-faced after more details of the deal got leaked. Ultimately the government was forced to step back from any association with the deal. Also, of late, the CPI (M) chief minister, three other ministers, the assembly speaker and the family members of CPI (M) state secretary have featured in a gold smuggling case. Hence, as far as economic agenda and sprawling corruption are concerned, there is hardly any difference between the CPI (M), the Congress and the BJP. The competition is now as to who could be a better political manager of the ruling bourgeoisie in the state.
What is most unfortunate is that despite the CPI (M) being in power periodically in the state, its abandonment of leftist line has allowed casteist-religious divides to not only stay but gain strength over time. Now, with the exacerbation of anti-Muslim hatred and fomenting of Hindu communalism by the RSS-BJP, this divide has come into the open so much so that even the CPI (M) leaders are unable to remain out of it. It bears recall that when the Supreme Court allowed entry of women in Sabarimala temple, there was a huge commotion among the devoted Hindus who regarded it as an act of sacrilege. The RSS-BJP also whipped up this issue based on blind religious faith. But the CPI (M) in deference to the Court order allowed two women to enter the temple. It even filed an affidavit in the court in support of that. But this backfired and the CPI (M) leadership admitted in a post-Parliamentary poll evaluation report in 2019, excerpts of which were published in party mouthpiece “Deshabhimani”, that its routing in the election had been due to this decision and a sizeable part of its vote bank eroded because of it. In fact, in 2020, the BJP captured the Pandalam Municipality in Pathanamthitta district, where the Sabarimala Temple is located. Now on the eve of assembly election, the Congress announced that it would withdraw all the cases slapped for violence on the protesters against the Supreme Court verdict if it came to power. Compelled by the exigency of vote politics, the CPI (M) withdrew all the cases and virtually gave in to Hindu religious sentiment. The BJP demanded that CPI (M) should apologise to the people for the “sins committed” by its government. Now, there is a growing anti-Muslim sentiment spurred by the heinous Hindutva campaign of the RSS-BJP and both the CPI (M) and the Congress, afraid of losing Hindu vote, are acquiescing in it. As a result, counter Muslim communalism is nurtured by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which is part of the Congress-led UDF and has considerable following in northern Kerala. Shamelessly, the CPI (M)-led LDF is trying to harness the support of the majority community by capitulating to the growing hatred against minority Muslim community among a section of the society. They openly declare that minority communalism is the most dangerous communalism. If that be, what prompted the CPI (M) to combine with the IUML in 1969 and then continue association with AAIML, a split faction of the IUML? Is it leftism or raw opportunism? The LDF is also appeasing all the caste and religious communities to secure their supposed vote banks. Taking full advantage of the situation and making use of the eroding leftist mindset, the BJP is steadily increasing their support base in the state.
No different is the spectacle of Assam where chauvinist-communal-parochial forces have been thumping around for long, inciting sectarian passion among people and polarizing them along divisive lines much to the glee of the ruling capitalist class. Right now, the BJP in alliance with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an arch chauvinist force, is in the government. But there are deep cracks appearing in their unity-something quite natural in any opportunistic self-serving alliance. Moreover, while the BJP, driven by its anti-religious minority bias, is all for implementing CAA hatched by its central leadership, the AGP driven by anti-linguistic minority bias is against CAA. However, during last parliament election, AGP maintained unity with the BJP by agreeing not to speak against CAA. What could they do because not any viewpoint but seats is all that matters for them. Taking on the BJP-AGP coalition is a grand alliance of the Congress, AIUDF (a Muslim-oriented sectarian party), CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) Liberation, Anchalik Gana Morcha and Bodoland People’s Front. Here also the CPI (M) and even the CPI (ML) Liberation have no problem in joining hands with communal-parochial forces besides the Congress whose leaders first whipped up chauvinist-communal frenzy and squarely passed the onus of the rising plight and poverty of Assamese-speaking people on the so-called ‘outsiders’ and ‘illegal’ meaning the Bengali-speaking Hindu people and then the immigrant Bengali-speaking Muslim community. Earlier, the CPI (M) and CPI felt no compunction to join hands with chauvinist AGP in forming government. Now they are in the opposite camp. CPI (M) in Assam had supported NRC, a fact they are cunningly shielding now outside Assam. Clearly, there is no principle, no ideology-nothing. Only craving is to anyhow grab seats.
Parliamentary politics in Tamil Nadu has of late been confined to two major Dravidian parties -DMK and AIADMK. All other parties including the BJP, Congress, CPI (M) and CPI are just adjuncts to either of these two parties. Right now AIADMK is in power. The BJP is in alliance with it. But after death of AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa, AIADMK is ridden with internal conflicts and power struggle. AIADMK’s relation with the BJP is also under strain. It was apparent that the AIADMK Chief Minister’s decision to take a few steps against the BJP’s over-reach in the State had not gone down well with the BJP’s staunch cheerleaders within the AIADMK. One step was the Tamil Nadu Cabinet rejecting the three-language formula as envisaged in the New Education Policy and decreeing that Tamil Nadu will follow only a two-language policy. Secondly, on August 17 last year, when BJP leaders met the Chief Minister and requested him to allow the Vinayaka Chaturthi procession, he plainly declined permission. But efforts for a patch-up is on. Just like West Bengal and Assam, no real people’s issue is being addressed by the ruling party. Unemployment is mounting. Thousands of government posts lying vacant for years remain unfilled. Alcoholism is growing bringing in its wake disastrous effect on the socio-cultural life of the people particularly the impoverished. Tirupur hosiery industry, Coimbatore engineering industry, Karur and Erode power looms have been badly hit by demonetisation. Scheme of opening Amma mini clinics in rural areas is a ploy to allow entry of private players in health. But such questions are conveniently parried. Instead, the focus is on some gratis-like measures viz. promise of waiving farm loans, payment of Rs 2, 500 as Pongal aid, cheap Amma canteens, Amma health insurance scheme, Amma clinics, giving free 20 kg rice through PDS outlets etc. The BJP knows that the best course for it is to cobble an alliance with the smaller parties and a faction of the AIADMK, along with a popular face. That is why the BJP tried to rope in Rajinikanth, a matinee idol. But Rajinikanth backed out citing health reasons. Finally, the BJP has settled for 20 seats with AIADMK-PMK alliance.
On the other hand, the DMK aspiring to be saddled in power is counting on the drubbing of the AIADMK in last parliamentary election. It is raising questions of corruption of the AIADMK though it is like ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ as a DMK minister in the former central ministry was jailed for 2G scam. After multiple rounds of negotiations, DMK has finalized the seat-sharing pact with ally Congress. DMK also inked the seat-sharing agreement with CPI(M) and CPI besides other smaller regional parties.
While the compulsion of the BJP and Congress to tie knots with the principal Dravidian parties is understood, it is the height of opportunism on the part of the CPI (M) and CPI to opt for continued tailism of the DMK just for seats. Earlier, the CPI (M) and CPI were seen combining with AIADMK. In fact, the CPI General Secretary went to Rajya Sabha with the blessings of late Jayalalitha. For just one or two seats, there is no hesitation on their part to go to anyone with a begging bowl.
In the Union Territory of Puducherry, the Congress-led government collapsed a few days back after some of its MLAs switched to the BJP. In fact, in its usual way the BJP had been trying for long to topple the government with the help of its trusted Governor Kiran Bedi which materialized on the eve of the election. Though under public pressure, the BJP as a face saving measure removed the Kiran Bedi a few days back, it has achieved what it wanted by using the Governor’s office. Now the BJP is aggressively trying to fish in troubled water and troubling the waters to fish more. In Puducherry also, industries like renowned AFT Mill, Swadesi Cotton Mill, Bharathy Mill of Puducherry, Jayaprakash Mill have closed down and thousands of workers have lost jobs and their pension, gratuity and other benefits are pending. Neither the erstwhile Congress government nor the BJP-nominated Governor have shown any interest to reopen these mills or provide jobs to the ever increasing lakhs of educated unemployed. Instead, it is learnt that the mill lands would be handed over to real estate companies. Significantly, after Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the state on 25 February 2021 — in a very short span with missile speed, have been speaking volumes of the game plan of the BJP leaders to turn Puducherry also into a hunting ground for them in implementation of its heinous communal-racist agenda in South India.
Support SUCI(C), the lone flag-bearer of struggling leftism
It is against all these brazen vote-oriented opportunistic policies of the power-greedy bourgeois petty bourgeois parties and pseudo-Marxists, the SUCI(C) is contesting in all the four states and the union territory steadfastly holding aloft the banner of struggling leftism. While others are luring the voters with a basketful of sham promises, the SUCI(C) is exhorting people to support its candidates so that voice of people’s movement reverberate inside the legislatures and in the process, legitimate movements also gain further momentum. With this approach and on a clear principled stand, the SUCI (C) s contesting 193 seats in West Bengal, 37 in Kerala, 29 in Assam, 5 in Tamil Nadu and 3 in Puducherry to foster people’s interest against the interest of the ruling bourgeoisie.