The Indian elections of 2014 were the largest the country has witnessed in its history, with around 816 million voters involved in the process. The elections were divided into 9 phases, making it the longest elections as well. The verdict was given on the 16th of May with the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi winning a singular majority on its own. The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) alliance which it leads garnered 337 seats. Thus, after 25 years we are witnessing a government founded on a solid singular majority.
The verdict however, isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface. While the NDA did win more than 3/5th of the seats in parliament, it won only 33.7% of the total votes polled. The second and third largest parties by vote share would be the Congress with 22% and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with around 4% of votes . In total, around 45% of votes were scattered among smaller regional and national parties. The regional parties like the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Jayalalitha’s party the AIDMK (All India Dravida Munetra Khazagham) won around 3.6%-3.8% of votes polled. In West Bengal and elsewhere, the Stalinist parties of the Left Front won around 3.2% of votes polled giving its worst ever performance in parliament. However, what this reality reflects is that the system even a small share in votes translates to a huge difference in seats won. Thus, over 65% of the voters who did not vote for the BJP or NDA alliance partners will go unrepresented. This is a telling feature on just how ‘representative’ India’s bourgeois ‘democracy’ is.
The implications of this result will be profound and will affect the country’s working poor as now a party of the bourgeoisie literally has absolute majority in parliament. It can wield enormous power including push forth any kind of parliamentary amendment it would like.
The dynamics of the indian elections :
We had earlier commented that this election gives no option to the working masses of India. On the one hand was the possibility of dynastic rule which would instill a ruthlessly pro-bourgeois rule in parliament, on the other hand was the possibility of a rule by a party under the influence of obscurantist reactionary forces running with a ruthlessly pro-bourgeois and anti-working class government in parliament. Between these two choices there would only be a myst of anarchy.
Till at least 2012, the verdict seemed unclear as to which party could win the elections. After the state elections in five major states, in which the BJP won all but one state election, the tide seemed clearer. The people had had enough of the misrule under the Congress, with constant attacks on the poor, mammoth corruption scams and complete failure to deliver any concrete benefit to the poor. Its promise of dynasty was hardly of any use in endearing the masses to it. As a party of the bourgeoisie, it had failed to appease the interests of any sector of the bourgeoisie to any satisfying degree, its strategy of concession and coercion hardly successful in pacifying the masses’ anger.
To this party of total misrule, the people had two alternatives, broadly speaking. One was the traditional regional parties and their front known as the third front led by the Stalinist coalition called the left front. The other was the new and rising force of the Aam Admi Party, which was forged in the heat of the anti-corruption mobilization which had shaken the foundations of the Congress rule and aroused the petty bourgeois, particularly in Delhi.
As we shall see, neither alternative were any good against the Congress and the people unsurprisingly rejected both.
On the Left Front led third front coalition, the core of this popular front alliance, the Stalinist CPM and CPIM lost in an unprecedented way in West Bengal winning hardly 8 seats. While the main reason would be the almost militarized efficiency with which rigging was conducted by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party government, it is also due to the failure of the Stalinists to wage an effective fight against this fascistic violence conducted by the TMC party. This has not only confused and demoralized the people in West Bengal but is having its impact on the party cadre as well. The only state where the CPM is holding out is Tripura which seems to be acting like a mountain refuge for an ailing political force whose future is uncertain.
Of the other regional parties, it is hardly worth mentioning, that they have degenerated a long way since their lohiite roots. They are no longer seen with the halo of a party which fought against the corruption and bonapartist attitudes of the Congress in the 60s and 70s, but as a corrupt bourgeois party no different than that of the Congress. Indeed for all their ‘secular’ posturing the regional bourgeois alternatives like the Samajwadi Party or even the BSP is hardly anything but a party for the enrichment of their respective political leaders. No doubt these parties have been sidelined as well.
In the midst of this sea of corruption and betrayal, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) seemed to stand as a real political alternative of the people. Whatever illusions people had in it, were dashed soon after its formation and meteoric rise. The AAP had recently won the elections in New Delhi and briefly took power, before relinquishing its position due to its failure to push for the appointment of a Lokpal. In course of their tenure in Delhi, they promised a lot and delivered little. Its politics of conciliation with capitalism and combining seemingly opposing social forces in its party (exemplified by its recruitment of millionaire capitalist robber barons like the Vice President of Bajaj along with anti-capitalist social activists like Medha Patkar ) only confused its supporters. Ultimately, neither the urban working class nor the urban elite supported this party. It achieved nothing but to confuse its supporters and detractors alike. After failing in Delhi, the AAP could not recover its credibility a a party of the people, unsurprisingly it hardly garnered more than 2 seats.
With such pathetic alternatives to the Congress party, one would be tempted to think that the BJP won almost by default. It wouldn’t be entirely mistaken to say so. More than anything else the people wanted to overthrow the Congress government, no matter who comes, the Congress must first go. At the same time, with hardly any national alternative in sight, the only party which could guarantee such a verdict would be the BJP. The other big national party of the Indian bourgeoisie. At once we see both a situation of social tension as well as the total lack of class consciousness among the Indian working class and poor.
How the BJP won the elections :
Much before the 2014 election campaign set in, the mood of the people were already turned against the Congress. The first decisive break was the anti-corruption movement in 2011. During the same period, a series of general strikes had been conducted in India mobilizing a historic number of workers across the country. The largest general strike in the world had occurred in February of 2013. In this period, the BJP had been a very peripheral force. Even though it made its presence felt during the anti-corruption movement. It would not have been possible for any bourgeois force to hijack and finish the whole movement if it wasn’t for the conciliatory and reformism approach of the leadership of the movement. However, the seeds of the BJP emerging as a populist force had been sown at that time.
During the elections, money power and propaganda were in full display. Supporting the BJP was large funding by the leading capitalists of india, in particular the Birla family which leads the Birla group of companies which was the leading source of funding for both the Congress and the BJP. In addition to this, was a concerted media campaign which created a personality cult around Modi. The biggest impact of this media campaign was to win over the majority of India’s urban educated middle class who have access to tv and are more prone to media propaganda. Furthermore, the BJP and its linked organization the RSS mobilized a number of their cadre to conduct a massive propaganda on social media. Not to forget is the massive presence of the RSS through its thousands of branches and almost 8 million strong cadre force spread throughout the country. This was the organizational foundations of the BJP’s strength which allowed it to take furthest advantage of the anti-Congress mood in the country.
In the run up to the elections, the BJP had succeeded in mobilizing the RSS cadre and actively promoted a divisive communal agenda focussed around the Muzaffarnagar riots. Modi’s “right hand man” Amit Shah was active in the region playing on communal sentiments of the Jat community and turning them against the muslim community of the region. The riots of Muzaffarnagar were the fruits of a sustained covert propaganda campaign by the RSS in the region. Even so, it would never have been successful if it wasn’t for the inconsistent response of the state led by the supposedly secular Samajwadi Party. Traditionally, communal forces have been tolerated by the liberal bourgeoisie so that they can implement their divide and rule policy. However, in Uttar Pradesh, they seem to have overplayed their hand, for it was not the Samajwadi Party which took advantage of the situation, but the BJP.
Throughout the election they cemented a reactionary consensus emboldened by the developments in Muzaffarnagar. Modi himself seems to have replicated his success in Gujarat, where he successfully cemented his power through the Gujarat riots of 2002, which remain one of the bloodiest riots in India. Throughout the elections, Modi was liberal in the use of hindutva symbols like choosing to campaign in Varanasi, the holiest city of Hinduism. By using symbols which fit into a hindutva schema, he succeeded in galvanizing the support of upper caste reactionary segments of society. This however, explains only the success of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Elsewhere, he was aided much more by the negative perception of the Congress than anything else.
Thus, through a cleverly constructed campaign strategy, the BJP could win over the urban young middle class as well as the more traditional sectors of the population. This constituted the constructive part of his campaign. The other was the negative/destructive part of the campaign. This involved breaking the opposition of the muslim voters.
First of all, it must be said, that if secularism has died in India, the Congress and other bourgeois parties must be the first to blame. The continuous deprivation and marginalization of the muslim community in India has occurred under the rule of the Congress over 60 years. The regional parties and Stalinists purporting to be secular have no better a record to show. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal show the worst conditions of backwardness among the community in India. In a popular talk show on CNNIBN one muslim citizen from Delhi when asked about whether he fears Modi said “We have nothing to fear from Modi, because in truth the Congress has left muslims with nothing that Modi would take away from us”. This statement summarizes the pathetic conditions of the muslims in India.
When the elections did come, the muslims were just as fed up with the Congress as they were with every other party. The result of this was that their votes ended up being divided among many smaller regional parties. The advantage of this was taken by the BJP having destroyed the idea of a “muslim votebank”. As if this weren’t enough, to cement this the BJP undertook a “muslim outreach” programme which confused sections of the muslim community, whose political consciousness was in any case destroyed by decades of Congress rule and polarity.
Thus, we must conclude that Modi’s victory is in truth the combination of various factors which worked to his advantage. Most important of them, is the failure of working class leadership, which failed to build a political alternative to the bourgeoisie and cement the position of the working class as the leading political force in the country despite having arguably one of the best political opportunity in the history of the country. The energy that was unleashed by the pre-revolutionary period in India, and the mobilizations which occurred, were thus wasted away first by misleaders like the AAP and then by the BJP which used the petty bourgeois rage and discontent to propel itself to an unprecedented position of power.
What are the consequences of Modi’s victory ?
A preview of the future of India may be seen not only in Modi’s Gujarat but in TMC ruled West Bengal as well. Both nationally and worldwide there appears to be a reactionary wave underway. The revolutions in Middle East and North Africa all appear to be fading. Europe after a rise of worker’s struggles too has calmed down, while in the Americas, the forces of counter-revolution are re-emerging with a vengeance.
India too is witnessing a reactionary wave symbolized by Modi’s rise to power, and other reactionary forces like the RSS re-emerging after being dormant for almost a decade. A popular saying goes that “What India thinks tomorrow Bengal thinks today” . This seems to have come true for the worse rather than for the better. The failure of Stalinism is what has resulted in the victory of the TMC in West Bengal today and it was the failure of Stalinism and bourgeois and petty bourgeois alternatives which has resulted in the victory of Modi. Ironically, just like in the case of the TMC the BJP too won a massive majority in these elections. The TMC dominates the seats from West Bengal in the lower house of the parliament having won 31 out of 42 seats.
Yet if West bengal is any indicator, the immediate future will see a period of great chaos and conflict. The TMC when it came to power in the state elections engaged in violently consolidating its political power within the state. It didn’t hesitate in turning on the Maoists who had hitherto acted in helping it fight the Left Front. Neither did it hesitate to turn on the Gorkha National Front which were allies to the TMC till now. Today, West Bengal is in a state of chaos with the bands of lumpen goons under the command of the TMC wreaking havoc across the bengali countryside and in the cities. The TMC oligarchs rule with impunity taking the law into their own hands and brutally crushing any opposition. The party functions in a way that borders on outright fascism with harsh laws against organization and dissent. Gujarat has had a similar story.
Upon coming to power in Gujarat, Modi first eliminated his political opponents, both from within the party and from without. Consolidating political power was the first thing Modi did when in power a part of which was to conduct riots and use that to propel him to power. Once entrenched, he went about re-creating Gujarat in the image of a special economic zone where it is notoriously difficult to organize and agitate. The marginalization of muslims starting from the great purge in 2002 has gone on unabated. His state functions on the dual pillars of communalism and brutally neo-liberal economic policies. The former is the source of his political power and the latter the outcome of his economic power. His style of governance involves tight security
While it is infinitely more difficult to implement such policies on a national scale, we can expect him to try and implement it. This will cause tremendous tension from those resisting his policies. Even within Gujarat, where Modi rules with impunity, his rule is not unchallenged. A great example of this is in Mithi Virdi where thousands are protesting against a nuclear power plant project. This is being touted as Gujarat’s “nandigram”. For those of us who may have forgotten, the peasant’s protests at Nandigram, and the subsequent reaction of the Left Front led state government is what brought down the government from power. There have also been encouraging examples of worker’s strikes in Gujarat like the recent one in the textile sector. This led to the government increasing worker’s daily wages.
The rest of the country is even more volatile. For Modi to reign in on the entirety of class struggle would require a herculean effort. Even Thatcher couldn’t survive the fight against the class conscious British working class. Her government fell after ten years of fighting the British working class and no Tory government could come to power till the present one in alliance with the liberals. The Indian working class is on the move, and it will be just as difficult to curb it. This does not mean, we take things for granted.
How must we prepare ?
What this election shows is the bankruptcy of the traditional leaderships of the working class. We must fight for a new radical leadership for the working class, one which can fight on a war footing with the new reactionary government in power. It is not that class struggle has ended, or that people actually ‘prefer’ a reactionary and autocratic leadership at the helm. It is a fact that they saw no alternative in the feeble traditional leaderships around them. The result has been the election of a reactionary government in an unprecedented position of power. The present situation will bring new challenges in organizing the working class and poor for struggle. The attacks against them will not stop, rather it will grow sharper. Like Modi has shown in Gujarat, and how Mamta has shown the way in Bengal, the state will grow more aggressive. Building a revolutionary Bolshevik Leninist party becomes the need of the hour !
For those of us who are in the process of building this party, must prepare for the worst possible scenario. State owned companies will be privatized, labor laws will become more adverse, they will attempt to crush unions, curb free speech and increase militarization of the state. To counter this, we must organize more aggressively, for their every attack, we must prepare a massive counter. To every attempt at privatization, we must mobilize the workers of state enterprises. Here again, we state that it is time to shed the bureaucratic fragmentation of the workers by the sector they work with. ALL state sector workers must unite in their struggles against privatization. When they attempt at changing labor laws or curbing militant unions, we must ready the workers for an indefinite general strike ! When they attempt to curb free speech, we must mobilize activists across the country to challenge it. It has been done before, when Binayak Sen was unlawfully imprisoned or Shaheen Dhada was being harassed, everyone showed their support. Such must be our fervor.
There are those who are pessimistic and think that Modi and the forces which support him are unchallengeable. To them we have only to show the brave textile workers in Gujarat or the thousands of peasants at Mithi Virdi who are on struggle. Modi’s british precursor, the autocratic and megalomaniac Margaret Thatcher, couldn’t withstand the working class on the move. Not to forget, Modi and the RSS’ ideological mentor, Benito Mussolini. was ignominiously lynched on a lamp post. No matter how overbearing or ruthless the class enemy may seem, they are no match for the power of the working class in struggle !
The new government is going to make life difficult for the masses and for those fighting for their interests. But it will also get rid of any illusion that they may have on bourgeois democracy. The Congress and the Stalinists have been one huge smoke screen. That has now disappeared. This is a time to fight, and we must fight hard !
Long live working class unity ! Struggle until Victory !