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An Indian Marxist's moment of truth - Observer

Rajendra Prabhu ()
March 16, 1998

Title: An Indian Marxist's moment of truth
Author: Rajendra Prabhu
Publication: Observer
Date: March 16, 1998

The disarming frankness of CPI leader and agriculture minister
Chaturanan Mishra (The Observer of Business and Politics, March
7) encourages the belief that even diehard Marxits can finally
admit that social reality is far beyond the framework of class

In a one dimensional flux that sees the duty of every
'secularist' as stopping BJP from coming to power, the CPI
veteran says that this would be quite counterproductive. He
begins by admitting what Marxists often describe as objective
reality' - in this case, In Mishra's own words "a large portion
of the electorate wants BJP to be in power at the Centre and they
say we want to see what BJP can do".

He has distanced himself from the Marxist high priest who has
been pouting the facetious dogma that the people's mandate is
that BJP should not come to power.

Some of these crusaders of secularism have only a captive caste
in one state or two, like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Yadav:
yet they claim inheritance of the whole country.

The CPI leader has challenged the very logic of the marxist line
that all 'secular parties' should come together to block the BJP
by pointing out that "if we stop BJP in its tracks, the
electorate will be vengeful and then one will not be able to do

But his argument is not just negative: "It is better to allow
them to come to power and see how they behave", he adds.

Additionally, he allays the fear of those who propagate that once
In power BJP will set itself to destroy the Constitution and all
that it stands for.

As part of a coalition where the coalition partners could bring
down the government, says the Bihar CPI leader, any such
subversion would come to light. Besides, the opposition is strong
enough to prevent such lurch.

In one sweep the CPI veteran has knocked the bottom out of the
current political confabulations of the Congress and the United
Front to cobble together a coalition solely to keep BJP out of
power. But Mishra's article is shore than an expression of a
political view. He is in reality ,asking for a close examination
of the fundamentals of the political debate that has
characterised this election as well as the basis of its rhetoric.

Assuming that BJP is 'communal' as its opponents allege, how is
it that it has succeeded in expanding both its base and its vote
percentage in all elections from 1989 onwards. Even in 1991 when
it stood alone and in 1996 when it had allies only in Bihar and
Maharashtra? Assuming that the definition of 'communal' is one
who promotes the interests of one community to the exclusion of
all others' or 'one who tries to confuse national interest with
that of the majority ommunal who all others are 'communal'?

The application of even this test is fraught with difficulty as
there are' political parties exclusively promoting the interest
of ne community', Muslim League (Muslims), Akali Dal (Sikhs)
and of a single linguistic group, Telugu Desam, DMK, AGP, etc.

Recent history does not help divide the political animals into
communal sheep and secular goats. The first Marxist government
in India was in Kerala in 1956. It was brought down by a
'liberation struggle'. Unabashedly, it was a movement of
Christians, Muslims and Nairs led by a grassroots Nair leader
Mannath Padmanabhan.

He had the makings of a later day JP. To a bunch of bishops,
maulavis and others he became a demi-god. Congress, Praia
Socialists and others joined this movement and later rode to
power on its strength but essentially it was the Church, the Nair
Service Society and Bafaqi Thangal who were the moving spirit.

The Marxists lost power. It taught them a great lesson: In
democracy you can get into the constitutional boat. You can
change its direction but you Will not be allowed to rock it.

In 1977 the same lesson was driven into Indira Gandhi by another
coalition of many forces in which there were RSS, Congress (0),
Muslim clergy like Imam of Jama Masjid, sections of Communists,
all the Socialists, etc.

In 1967, the Brahmin hating DMK, the Brahmin Rajagopalachari and
the Swtantrites combined to defeat Congress in Tamil Nadu. A
brain teaser for a history question paper could well be: Name the
political party that did not ride the communal tiger at one time
or the other?

The ruling pope of secularism from his sick bed pleads for a
coming together of Congress and UF forgetting recent history when
he was the Prime Minister with BJP to his right and Marxists to
his left propping him up like some Humpty Dumpty on a wall.

A perceptive foreign correspondent in this mosaic country wrote:
'There are no full stops in India.' He might as well have added:
'There are no straight lines either'. Those who seek to view the
politics of India in terms of black and white, 'Communalnd
ecular' are finding that no single social equation explains any
political phenomenon.

BJP itself painfully had to abandon that equation. Mishra also
admits that BJP, too, will realise that constitutional boat can
only be steered and not rocked.

If anyone claims that BJP does not have a hard core which
believes in a nationhood in which Hinduism as a religion has
primacy, he is falsifying facts.

There have been robed BJP MPs who have stated as much. But
democracy's greatest advantage is that it forces politics and
politicians to evolve from narrow grooves to broader concerns.

Today a Brahmin who publicly displays her devotion to temples
heads one faction of the pro-Dravida movement, despite the origin
of the movement in anti-Brahminisni and atheism.

Jan Sangh, the original phase of the BJP, was for a unitarian set
up in the country: but BJP is not even distantly talking of
unitary model now.

Shiv Sena started as a pro-Marathi force specially training its
guns against South Indians in Mumbai. Last year, the same anti-
South Indian Shiv Sena proposed T N Seshan for the country's
presidency while no South Indian party dared to own him up.

Even before the CPI leader felt that BJP 'caged in a
constitutional framework cannot fulfil the desires of its hard-
core', Atal Behari Vajpayee had pronounced that the party would
go by a national consensus whatever be its own long-term agenda.
That agenda itself has undergone much change despite the
reassertion of the cornerstones of Hindutva like Ayodhya, Article
370 etc.

It is possible that this change was only a matter of convenience
because the party was seeking to widen its appeal to include
other communities than Hindus, especially Muslims.

More likely when a party like BJP recasts even its appeal for
uniform civil code not in terms of one religion but what is best
in all religions and admits that in some respects Islam treats
women better, it cannot he a simple election gimmick.

The consensual approach is forced on any party, which wants to
assume a national role and build up an organisation based on a
national agenda rather than on the loyalty to one caste or one
religion. It is inherent in the nature of the Indian electorate
with significant minorities every where and no religious group
free from sectarian divide.

All these divisions also generate apprehensions of one set of
people getting the better of another set. These apprehensions
are expressed in terms of power share. Election time is the
bargain season to ensure that everyone's power share is as large
as possible.

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