Thursday, April 30, 2009

Indian Democracy and its ‘revolutionary’ Maoists

“A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India”. This is how the July 5, 1967 editorial of Communist Party of China (CPC) mouthpiece People’s Daily had described the peasant upsurge in a tiny Bengal village – Naxalbari. People’s Daily was endorsing the incidence where share croppers and landless laborers rose in revolt with ‘land to the tiller’ slogan against the local landlords. The editorial also went on to predict that “…a great storm of revolutionary armed struggle will eventually sweep across the length and breadth of India”. Named after its birthplace, the Naxalbari movement soon evolved into an armed uprising in Bengal and spread like wildfire in several Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala. The movement reached its peak between May 1969 and June 1971 after the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) was founded on April 22, 1969. But the stormy days didn’t last for long. From 1972, the movement started losing its impetus. Between 1973 and 1975, the central and the state governments, both under the Congress Party rule, jointly crushed the movement by ruthless army and police operations. Most of the prominent Naxal leaders were captured and jailed or dead in ‘police encounter’ including the principle ideologue Charu Majumdar, who had died in police custody in July 1972. After the first non-Congress Janata government came to power in 1977, the jailed Naxalites were released along with other political prisoners imprisoned under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. By then, many of them were deeply frustrated over the failure of their movement and turned impassive about active radical politics. After 1977, the Naxalites were fragmented into numerous small groups under different leaders, organizations and ideological positions and were conflicting with each other over ideological-tactical debates with elements of personal egotism but could not generate any significant impact in the socio-political milieu of India. Evading from direct political linkage, many of the former Naxals started putting up non-governmental organizations to stay entrenched with social, economic, cultural, environmental, legal, human rights and gender related issues. The present day Indian Maoists trace their lineage back to this iconic ultra left-wing rebellion.


The Naxalite movement inflamed again after the resurgence of two potent Naxalite groups in the 1980s. In Andhra Pradesh, the pro-Charu Majumdar People’s War Group (PWG) was set up in 1982 under the leadership of Kondapally Seetaramaiah. The other group was the Kanai Chatterjee, Amulya Sen and Chandrasekhar Das led anti-Charu Majumdar Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). After been restructured in the mid-1980s, MCC had extended its considerable influence in parts of central Bihar. Confined within their respective territory, the PWG and MCC had dominated the insurgency scene for some time and were also frequently engaged in violent fights against each other over territorial disputes resulting in the death of hundreds of cadres and sympathizers of both sides. But by 1992, counter-insurgency operations by the government in Andhra Pradesh have largely tamed the activities of the PWG. The outfit was banned and its erosion continued when large numbers of PWG cadres were either arrested or has surrendered before the security forces. In Bihar, violence related with caste prejudices and regular clashes with the upper castes private armies like the Ranvir Sena started showing signs of desperation among the MCC cadres. These alarming ground realities forced the two once-rival groups to come together on September 21, 2004 to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist) to act as “a consolidated political vanguard of the Indian Proletariat”. After ‘great debate and controversy’, the term ‘Maoism’ was adopted upholding Mao Zedong’s thought as the ‘third and higher stage in the qualitative development of Marxism’. Following the unification, the cadre strength and gun power of the alliance increased substantially and the group became the most considerable Naxalite formation in the country to secure its influence and control over a large geographical spread – the ‘Red Corridor’.

From Andhra Pradesh’s Telangana region to the Tarai region of Nepal, the ‘Red Corridor’ stretches about 92,000 sq. km linking parts of Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra, the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, Western Orissa, Jharkhand, Central and North Bihar, the far-eastern region of Uttar Pradesh and the Bihar-Jharkhand border areas of Bengal. This vast stretch covers concentrated tribal pockets and comprises some of the poorest, underdeveloped and oppressed regions of the country. While the region is rich with mineral resources like coal and iron ore deposits, natural gases and forests, the Indian state has badly failed to deliver minimum social-economic amenities and to considerately attend the largely unseen suffering of the local people, particularly the tribals. This is the key reason why the Maoist movement has fairly succeeded to penetrate in this region. Displacement due to large scale projects, inability to avail the benefits from natural resources, failure of law and order and regular exploitation by local landowners, traders, police and corrupt government officials has added to set the ideal condition for the Maoists to exploit the people.

In remote and rural areas where socio-economic deprivation and exploitation are common, the Maoist approach to address long existing grievances through the barrel of the gun deeply influences the people to strike a sympathetic chord among them. It is therefore relatively easy to stir up the anger and resentment of the underprivileged, particularly the women and youth to join the guerrilla army and fight the ‘class repression, class exploitation and class rule’ of the Indian State. In their own way, the Maoists have also dealt with a core grievance of the rural poor – their lack of land rights. By forcefully acquiring land from the oppressive landlords at gunpoint and redistributing them to the landless peasants has significantly helped the growth of their support base among the poor rural peasantry.


After the massive counter-insurgency operations in Andhra Pradesh, the Maoists had suffered considerable losses and have gradually shifted their focus to Dandakaranya (a 35,600 square miles spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh), Bihar and Jharkhand. However, in the Bastar and Dantewada districts of Chhattisgarh, the Maoists were harshly confronted by a unique form of resistance from the local tribals – the Salwa Judum. Steered by Mahendra Karma, a local tribal leader belonging to the Congress party, the movement came up in the year 2005 as “a spontaneous reaction by the tribals to defend themselves against the reign of terror unleashed by the Naxalites”. (National Human Rights Commission report to the Supreme Court of India) The Salwa Judum recruited its members from the villages, built-up local vigilante groups and was supported by the Chhattisgarh government as a counter insurgency force. Its members, mostly tribal youths were recruited as Special Police Officers (SPOs) by the Chhattisgarh state Police and trained in using arms.

The secretive and illegal activities of the Maoists have kept their political outlook and motives mostly distant from the larger Indian population living outside their sphere of influence. Though there are instances which illustrate that the Maoists are trying to spread their influence outside their customary stronghold, in reality, their influences are still concentrated in the poorest regions inhabited mostly by the tribal population. For obvious reasons, the invisible Maoist leaders have kept their focus confined on the relatively inaccessible rural belts. The reasons are not only tactical as stated in their party documents. It is also due to the fact that for conducting their acts of individual violence and terror these places are good as safe shelters from the counter-insurgence forces. Except among the habitual woolgathering intellectuals, so called human-right groups and sections of the middle-class student population in the cities, the Maoists have minimal influence among the urban petty bourgeoisie and the industrial working class. After the unceasing rise of Dalit politics and the ominous growth of Hindutva-communal forces, chances for the Maoists to make a greater impact on the general course of Indian political sphere has become marginal and the prospect of expanding into unexplored zones is steadily shrinking.

Killing a handful of ‘class enemies’, clashing with the mining and steel companies, attacking police posts and jails, damaging vital infrastructures like roads, bridges, and railroads, blasting landmines to ‘wipe out the armed forces of the counter-revolutionary Indian state’ or establishing parallel governments of Janathana Sarkar in the ‘liberated zones’ of remote tribal pockets to encircle cities while being isolated from the majority of the people are the fantastic Maoist tactics to establish the People’s Democratic State. In the extremely complicated composition of a multi-national, multi-religious, and caste-divided Indian society, the Maoist proposition to shape the revolution by ‘seizure of political power through protracted People’s War’ sounds thrilling and romantic but is far away from the prevailing reality of contemporary India.

Misinterpreting Mao’s annihilation theory and embracing the people’s war theory of Lin Biao which the Chinese Communist Party has discredited long ago, the Maoists turn into a real nuisance when they start forcing their erroneous doctrinarism on the masses to bear the brunt of their ‘revolutionary’ actions. Democratic struggle and mass-political programs have no place in their credo. Instead, they are obsessed with armed activities and military programs that include sabotage and annihilation of enemies through individual assassination. Maoist leaders also have a typical tendency to justify their actions of individual terror by parroting quotations of Mao like ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ out of context. Most of the victims of their so called ‘revolutionary tactics’ of crushing the heart of the enemy’s state machinery is always the poor and the ordinary. Their annihilation theory has also been extended toward rival Naxalite groups and members or supporters of mainstream Left parties. To fund their revolutionary operations, the Maoists extract levy from the landlords, the village rich and government contractors, get involve in racketeering of forest resources, force farmers to cultivate poppy crops to harvest opium that fetches lucrative price and also helps the ‘class enemy’ bourgeois parties to win elections in exchange for a substantial amount of money.

A classic example of this strange ultra-left adventurism is evident from the role they played in the so called ‘liberated zone’ of Nandigram. Here, the outfit took the initiative on behalf of the Trinamool Congress to build-up an armed resistance against the ‘conspiracies and treacherous policies’ of the Left Front government of Bengal. As claimed by Koteswar Rao, CPI (Maoist) politburo member in charge of Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa, the Maoists were armed by the Trinamool to spearhead the movement. (Source) According to the CPI (Maoist) General Secretary Ganapathy, Maoist cadres were in the forefront to “lead the movement in the correct direction” and stall the alleged ‘land grab’ of the state government which was acting at the behest of the ‘comprador’ Salim Group. Eleven months of their stupendous effort has immensely helped the Trinamool Congress to seize political grip in the area. Soon after their victory in the Panchayat polls, the Trinamool Congress has completely disregarded them and pushed them out from Nandigram. Thereafter, no news of any Maoist activity has been reported from there. Since the ‘revolution’ in Nandigram is over, the Maoists have thus shifted their focus on Lalgarh in West Midnapore leaving behind Nandigram in the safe hands of Trinamool!

On November 2, 2008 a landmine was detonated on the convoy route of Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee and Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan who were returning from Salboni after the foundation stone ceremony of Jindal steel plant. The landmine wire was found to be originating from Lalgarh. As a result, the Police entered the adjacent villages and picked up some local tribals as suspects. A protest movement sparked off in Lalgarh over allegations of police high handedness during the raids and almost immediately, the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Janashadharaner Committee (People’s Committee against Police Atrocities) was floated. Led by a 45 year old local tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato with obvious Maoist links, Lalgarh is brewing for a remarkably similar Nandigram style ‘movement’. To recreate another ‘liberated zone’, the local tribals are mobilized with arms; roads are dug and blocked at several places by felled trees to resist the ‘oppressive and autocratic’ state incursion. Maoist sympathizer organizations like the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) and Lalgarh Andolon Sanhati Mancha (Solidarity Forum for Lalgarh Movement) are fueling this ‘unique form of democratic politics’ from their backyard at Kolkata. While media report (The Times of India, 22 April 2009) has suggested that sophisticated and indigenous firearms have been sneaked inside Lalgarh, local tribals are seen brandishing traditional weapons in front of television cameras to put up the impression of a genuine tribal revolt.

Bengal is a difficult terrain for the Maoist to bloom. When the central and other state governments believe that the Maoist problem is largely a law and order issue, the Left Front government has carefully comprehended the socio-economic aspect of the problem and tried to tackle it through ideological and political means. In other states, the Maoists have capitalized from the existing grievance among the rural poor concerning land rights. But in Bengal, land reform and redistribution has been a remarkable success. This achievement has mostly isolated the Maoists from the larger section of the rural populace. In other states where 4 per cent of families owned 60 per cent of lands, in Bengal 40 per cent of the families own 80 per cent of the land. Not been able to win over the people, the vengeful Maoists have thus targeted the CPI (M) workers. The recent Maoist incursions are mostly visible in some regions of Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore districts where lack of development remains to be a relevant aspect even after the successful implementation of land reforms. Bengal still has poor, landless and marginalized people who exist without any access to agriculture and depends on the forests for their livelihood. The Maoists are been able to penetrate and influence this section through the gap created by inadequate development and lack of basic amenities.


Six days before the polling for 2009 Lok Sabha elections began, the Maoists had attacked NALCO’s bauxite mines in Orissa and killed at least 8 Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawans and injuring scores of others. On 16 April, during the first phase of the month long election schedule, at least 17 people were killed by them in a string of attacks across the ‘Red Corridor’. To enforce their poll boycott strategy and disrupt the election procedures through violence, armed Maoist ‘people’s militia’ attacked on polling booths and vehicles carrying the election officials. Five members of a polling team were killed by a landmine blast in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh. A bus carrying Border Security Force (BSF) personnel for election duty was blown off by another landmine explosion in Jharkhand’s Latehar district; bullets were sprayed at the bus killing seven BSF personnel, the bus driver and his assistant. In Bihar’s Gaya district, the Maoists open fired at a polling station in Bankebazaar killing a policeman and a Home Guard on duty and looted the electronic voting machines (EVM) and four rifles. Though termed as a ‘spectacular’ success by sections of the media, actually, the Maoists were successful to attack just 71 of the 76,000 vulnerable polling booths. In the second and third phase of the elections, the intensity of Maoist attacks has dropped substantially.

When the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) was formed by the Naxalites in May 1968, one of the first resolutions passed by the body was not to participate in elections. While the CPI (Maoist) is still carrying this legacy, Naxalite factions like the CPI (M-L) Liberation has “corrected the mistake of completely rejecting parliamentary politics” in 1982. Kanu Sanyal, one of the founding leaders of the Naxalite movement has “accepted parliamentary practice as one form of revolutionary activity”. Even their counterpart in Nepal, the CPN (Maoist) which had once pledged to fight jointly with them have joined the mainstream political system and participated in elections.

Cocksure about their ‘creative’ application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the CPI (Maoist) refuses to recognize any necessity of participating in a bourgeois-democratic parliament. They are ideologically motivated in their belief that in a country where bourgeois democratic revolution has not yet been completed “the rule of the masses cannot be achieved through normal political methods” and so it is absolutely necessity to propagate “extensively and concretely to boycott the parliamentary elections”. Based on a personalized, narrow and distracted perception about the ‘objective conditions’ of India, the group believes that parliamentary institutions and systems are “discredited to a large extent in the eyes of the people” and there is no ‘objective basis’ for them to participate in this system just for “exposing the parliamentary system from within”. Participation in election “neither helps in developing revolutionary class struggle, nor in enhancing democratic consciousness among the people.” Instead, it only fosters ‘constitutional illusions’ and distract from “intensifying revolutionary class struggle and armed struggle against the state.” According to them, “promoting alternative institutions of people’s power” is the only way to “enhance people’s consciousness and to wipe out their illusions” about the present parliamentary system. Answering to the question on why the CPI (Maoist) declines to fight elections and refuses to participate in the democratic process, the Maoist leader Ganapathy’s has remarked, “You think raising issues in the parliament is the democratic way whereas we believe that people are raising their issues in a democratic way through organized protests”. (Source) Marxist-Leninist parties and groups who participate in elections are accused for diverting ‘revolutionary armed struggle into legal and peaceful channels’. Terming parliamentary politics as a ‘dog-eat-dog world’ and the Parliament as a ‘talking shop’, a recent Maoist released squarely blames all the mainstream Left parties like CPI (M), CPI and even the Naxalite CPI (M-L) Liberation, for playing the ‘most dubious role in legitimizing the farce of parliamentary process’. The Maoists are particularly antagonized with the CPI (M) and have termed the largest communist party of India as ‘social fascists’.

The political theory of the Maoists seems to be more inclined towards anarchism than Marxism. The Maoist viewpoint on shunning elections as a matter of strategy is surprisingly similar with the anarchist perspective. Anarchists believe that, “Utilizing the state, standing in elections, only prepares people for following leaders – it does not encourage the self-activity, self-organization, direct action and mass struggle required for a social revolution.” Likewise, the Indian Maoists also believe that “participation in parliament does not help in developing the subjective forces. Rather it will only drive them into legalism and divert them from … intensifying revolutionary class struggle”. Anarchists argue for the need of “creating alternative, libertarian, forms of social organization which can become a force to resist the state, win reforms and, ultimately, become the framework of a free society.” The Indian Maoists believe in “promoting alternative institutions of people’s power” as the only way to enhance people’s consciousness. Anarchists reject the Leninist idea that standing for elections immensely helps to carry the agitation of the proletarian party among the masses. The Indian Maoists reflect the same thought when it says that “participation in election will only sabotage the revolutionary movement”.

Will the Maoists also echo the anarchist wisdom that all Marxists are not Leninists? While mechanically theorizing their election boycott stand, the Maoists has carefully kept aside the indispensable polemics of Lenin. Long ago, in one of his most important writing ‘Left-wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder, Lenin has categorically pointed out that participating in a bourgeois-democratic parliament actually helps the revolutionary party to prove to the backward masses why such parliaments ‘deserve to be done away with’. Lenin had argued that far from causing harm, the parliamentary forum provides opportunities to expose the system of capitalism and facilitates the successful dissolution of the institution. Taking part in the election campaigning draws the masses into the election struggle to “take the bourgeoisie at its word and utilize the machinery it has set up”. To extend his argument Lenin had pointed out that “Communists should constantly, unremittingly and unswervingly utilize parliamentary elections …and all other fields, spheres and aspects of public life, and work in all of them in a new way, in a communist way”. Communists must learn to “create a new, uncustomary, non-opportunist and non-careerist parliamentarianism”. Lenin though did not forget to ring his warning about the pseudo-revolutionaries – those who are incapable of taking into account the rapid change of forms, become “hypnotized by a definite form” and are “afraid to see the break-up which objective conditions made inevitable”.


Sudeep Chakravarti, the author of Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country has said in an interview that, “India’s Maoists don’t really need to win; they just need to be there, to show us where we have gone wrong”. (Source) Chakravarti’s admiration towards the Maoists for their role as conscience keepers of the Indian society is simplistic and soaked with romanticism. This flabby estimation might please the middle-class conscience of the Maoist sympathizers of India but will definitely not help the Maoist movement to advance any further from their present situate. Unless the Maoists learn to shed their flawed obsession with armed activities, remove the dogmatic faith from their minds that guerilla warfare is the only path to liberation, realize the necessity of democratic struggle and mass-political programs, arrive on a common platform with other Left parties and develop tactical alliances with them to settle on issues pertinent to the people, the movement will continue to remain isolated and confined within the remote corners of the country and subsequently become marginalized. If the Maoist leaders cannot give up their old adventurist line and comprehend the major contradictions of Indian society, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to make progress towards occupying the center-stage of Indian politics. By moving away from their commitment to violent insurrection and joining the democratic process, the CPN (Maoist) in Nepal has already shown a way to their Indian counterpart. Whether the Indian Maoist leaders can go for a major theoretical breakthrough and ‘take into account the rapid changes of forms’ and respond to the ‘break-up which objective conditions made inevitable’, whether they can develop the subjective forces in a true Marxist way or remain blinded by misreading of the objective conditions will determine their future significance in the Indian political sphere.

Map courtesy:

Internet References:
1. Maoist Document:
Strategy & Tactics of the Indian Revolution
2. CLSA Special Report: India’s Naxalities
3. Anil Biswas ‘Maoism’: An Exercise in Anarchism
4. Tilak D. Gupta: Recent Developments in the Naxalite Movement
5. Venkitesh Ramakrishnan: The road from Naxalbari
6. Ajai Sahni: The riot of Red flags

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Towards a secular pro-people alternative?

The emergence of a third alternative has raised some serious doubts in the mind of the Indian electorate. Theoretically, the concept of a third alternative is exciting as it has the potential to be more consensus-based and apparently is capable of reflecting the alternative opinion of the electorate in a healthier way. But in practice the idea is underlined by skeptical connotations. The main cause behind this doubt is derived from the historical experiences of similar non-Congress, non-BJP formations of the past. Whenever there was a post-election positive atmosphere generated by political conditions for an alternative force, most of the efforts had failed to deliver in accordance to the public expectations due to the diverse political objectives of the consequent political parties. For many of the constituents, the formation of a ‘Third Front’ was envisaged purely in mere electoral terms, keeping in mind their restricted political equations. These political parties, many of them with strong regional perspectives usually come together in a situation of electoral compulsions but soon enough, due to their conflicting ambitions, prefer to roll back into their respective regional agenda. The lack of common vision and objectives between the constituents quickly move towards internal differences, political and personal rivalry between the leaders sprung up in the most deplorable manner which ultimately compels the formation towards its untimely collapse. Instead of sustaining its significance as a robust force, the ‘Third Front’ formations of the past, on the contrary, have strengthened the Congress and the BJP and both the parties has immensely benefited by the ‘failed experiments’ of the formations. But in spite of this fact, one cannot deny that the experiments had its crucial significances also. Whether we like it or not, it has definitely strengthened the Indian democracy by facilitating the progress of smaller parties to grow important in national politics.

Stability of a future government is one of the prime criteria to the electorates while they cast their votes. There is a deep reservation in the mind of the Indian electorates about the third force concept as all similar non-Congress, non-BJP governments in the past have failed to complete their full term. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that the Indian electorate is not too much enthusiastic about the third alternative formation. They are asking – is the alternative capable to provide stability? Will it be possible for them to keep aside their conflicting ambitions to enforce pro-people policies and effectively keep the communal forces at bay? At a time of unprecedented global economic crisis, will it be possible for them to co-opt an effective economic policy which will protect the jobs and livelihood of millions of common people and at the same time encourage the economy to prosper? All these are pertinent questions which need to be convincingly addressed.

The Left is presently playing a key role in giving shape to another pragmatic concept of a third alternative in the 2009 General Elections. They have specified that their aim is to put up a non-Congress, non-BJP choice in front of the electorates and to provide an alternative platform for the people, who do not want to support either the Congress or the BJP. They have laid emphasis on the need for alternate pro-people social and economic reforms and an independent, non-aligned foreign policy which will be qualitatively different from the policies which the two largest national parties have a tendency to follow. According to the CPI(M) general secretary Mr. Prakash Karat, “…democratic and secular forces who can agree with the Left on pro-people economic policies, on social justice measures, and an independent foreign policy” will join hand for this proposed formation. The Left has primarily achieved some vital success during the build-up process of the third alternative. Some regional parties spread across various states of the country, smaller but important in electoral terms, have already agreed to be part of this formation. The prospect that more parties associated with both the BJP led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) and the Congress led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) are likely to join the new formation has also brightened. The Congress and BJP both has initially tried to ignore this formation but in the manner both are mocking the formation and aggressively attacking it with their selective rhetoric in various election rallies is a clear indication that they are growing more and more tensed. The prime reason behind their anxiousness is due to the lack of any major election issue this time. The possibility to win the mind of the Indian voters has therefore become dim and both the Congress and the BJP is finding great difficulty to build-up public support around themselves.

In this scenario, the regional political forces will gain momentum and will certainly play a prominent role in the national level of politics. The possibility that the Congress and the BJP might lose significant ground in the hands of their principal regional opponents in respective states is growing stronger. Also when too many parties are knocking against each other for a limited space, the situation becomes more complicated for the large national parties to deal with. The important fact that both of them have a very limited presence in some of the key big states of the country which contribute close to 50 per cent of the total seats in the Indian Parliament is hard to ignore. This is also the reason why many of the present NDA-UPA allies are keeping their intentions obscure and maintaining a fluid state to reconsider all sorts of possibilities that are likely to emerge after the polls. Even crucial regional parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) while showing interest about a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative have declined to be part of any pre-poll alliance.

The concept of a third alternative is significantly different from the concept of a ‘Third Front’. It should be noted that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which is playing a pivotal role in giving shape to this ‘viable, credible and sustainable electoral alternative’ has never called this formation a ‘Third Front’ but mentioned it as a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative. The term Third Front is actually a misinterpretation of the media. While clarifying the concept, the party has said that it does not conceptualize this third alternative purely in electoral terms but as a force ‘forged on the basis of people’s sustained struggles and movements’. Instead of confining itself to political manoeuvring and electoral bargaining, the desired objective of the party is to contribute to a progressive shift in Indian politics through joint popular struggles on a pro-people agenda built around the two basic issues – opposition to communalism and anti-people economic policies of the Congress and the BJP. The CPI(M) also perceives that opposing anti-people economic policies also means taking a principled anti-imperialist position that will uphold the sovereignty of India in foreign policy issues. Regional secular parties, those who reflect the discontent of common people against the anti-people economic policies will be forced to join this third alternative because they will eventually feel the pressure from their own social base as the living conditions of the masses is deteriorating further and further.

There is really no significant differences in the liberalization and privatization policies of the Congress and the BJP. The successive NDA and UPA regimes both have subscribed to liberalism friendly policies and encouraged rampant privatization in significant social sectors like health and education. Low state spending and reduction of subsidies for agriculture sector has intensified the agrarian crisis and consequently led to more and more farmer suicides not only in Maharashtra but also in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. During the UPA rule, the Left ‘intrusion’ has safeguarded the banking sector from the impact of the global economic crisis, the insurance sector from foreign direct investment and helped to protect many other public sector industries from the disinvestment policy of the Government. Its continuous pressure on the Government has also forced it to approve the Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Forest Tribal Bill. The Congress led UPA has also struck a strategic alliance with the United State through the military collaboration agreement which is an unprecedented shift from India’s sovereign foreign policy. But the manner in which the Congress led UPA went after the dubious Indo-US nuclear deal which the Left has been opposing from the beginning has greatly disillusioned them about the Congress.

The Congress led UPA has failed to address the alarming price rise of essential commodities including the price of drugs and medicines. This has severely affected the lives of the population who belongs to the lower level of the socio-economic stratum. The economic policies of UPA were targeted towards favoring big businesses and as a result have widened the social divide in the country. The urban and rural rich have reaped the maximum benefits of the so called ‘development’ and at the same time the vast majority has sunk to a greater extent into poverty and hunger. It is bizarre that in a country where 230 million people are undernourished, 40 per cent of children less than three years of age are underweight, 77 per cent of the population spends less than Rs. 20 a day and 39 per cent of adult population is illiterate – four out of the ten richest people in the world are Indians! Who are actually benefiting from the four years of ‘consecutive economic growth’ in GDP till 2008 is evident from these facts.

In the absence of any major election issue, the BJP has returned to its nucleus – pulling out the Hindutva agenda from their closet. Obviously, a leopard cannot shed its spots. By raising the Ram temple and Ram Setu issue and boasting to replicate the Gujarat model, BJP is hoping to stir up a viable and effective election wave that might pave the way for L.K. Advani to occupy the Prime Minister’s seat. In the recent years, communal forces have continued with their vicious and divisive activities under the political umbrella of the BJP. The party continues to cover nefarious elements like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, those who has perpetrated violent attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities in Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajashtan and Chhattisgarh. The recent Barun Gandhi episode is a ringing proof of this nakedly divisive politics of the BJP. It stands for the most reactionary forces of India and keeps on communalizing the terrorism issue by attributing all terrorist activities to the Muslim community of this country. The party’s hypocritical stand on the Malegaon blasts case where Hindutva extremists were arrested for perpetrating the heinous crime has brought out the diabolical disposition of the BJP in the open. The BJP is essentially a regressive force that seeks to pass off majority communalism as ‘nationalism’ and represents a ‘distilled communalism’ in all aspects of their agenda. Instead of involving the common masses to build up a powerful and unified alternative force against this communalism menace, the Congress has deliberately preferred to take a soft and safer stand in the BJP ruled states where they are the chief opposition party. In a state like Gujarat, it has even taken the path of soft Hindutva – just for electoral gains.

There are predictions that the Left will be unable to sustain its strength of 60 MPs in this election. The lack of any major national election issue possibly will also adversely affect the Left’s prospects in Bengal and Kerala. Though it is early to comment on how much the Left will loose their grounds, one thing is certain. Even if it looses ground, the loss will be replenished by the third alternative allies including the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which will help them to remain important in national politics. This specific aspect has ringed alarm bells to the Congress and BJP. Both the parties are not only worried about their incapability to win enough seats to be in command of any future coalition, the sturdy presence of an ideology bound Left force is always viewed as a spoiler by them. In whichever form it might ultimately shape-up, the significance of the third alternative lies here.

Image courtesy:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tweedledum and Tweedledee: tale of two manifestos

ABP group’s English daily The Telegraph has done a ‘psychological analysis’ between Mamata Banerjee and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya based on their recent appearance in two separate Bengali television channels. (Source) According to the newspaper, the ‘down to earth’ Mamata Banerjee was looking energetic, domineering and aggressive compared to the ‘teacher-like’ Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who looked tired. It also stated that “…there was no denying one thing – the Mamata show brought alive her old image as the girl next door.” This familiar bazaar style of analysis is nothing new before any election in Bengal. But this time, Mamata Banerjee has put ABP group think-tanks into a dilemma because according to them she has ‘inclined towards left’ to become ‘Comrade Mamata’. The ABP group is particularly upset with Mamata Banerjee because her bombastic political language in showing many similarities with the distinctive Leftist language that ABP group greatly dislikes. The group therefore has crafted an apparently ambiguous policy to keep a fine balance between criticizing Mamata Banerjee and simultaneously allocating full-time marathon publicity to her. Keeping in mind the immediate consequences of the general elections, ABP group is more worried about the rising role of the Left particularly the CPI(M) in central politics.

There should be no doubt about Mamata Banerjee’s tenacious anti-CPI(M) stance. This is her one and only eternal agenda that has elevated her as the chief opposition voice in Bengal. Her inceptive attempt to wrestle the mighty Marxists of Bengal as a Congress (INC) leader had failed to bloom due to the party’s chronic and acute factionalism. To protest the INC’s ‘secret deals with the Marxists’ she had even gone to the extent to stage a suicide drama by wrapping a shawl around her neck in full public view. For her fanatical rebellion against friends and foes alike she had earned the media nickname ‘rebel without a pause’. (Source)

Alleging the INC as CPI(M)’s B-team, in 1997 she finally split the party and formed Trinamool Congress (TMC). Without any delay, TMC allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and paved the way for the Hindu communalists to spread its root in Bengal. Though in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections TMC unexpectedly won 8 seats but the party could not sustain this euphoric success as well as their bonhomie with the BJP for long. Mamata Banerjee’s habitual autocratic style of functioning and her intention to directly deal with the BJP central leadership while ignoring the State leaders has largely irked the State BJP unit. Within a short period of time Mamata Banerjee also started getting feedbacks about the benefits her party was actually reaping from hobnobbing with the BJP compelled her to worry about her political future. As a consequence of this anxiety, TMC allied with the INC in 2001 assembly polls and after facing electoral thrashing from the Left Front, raised good tantrum against the State Congress leadership and returned back into the BJP fold. From this time onwards Mamata Banerjee’s political graph displayed a steady decline. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls she was the only winning TMC candidate and in the 2006 assembly polls her party faced another devastating electoral defeat and lost more than half of its sitting legislators.

Mamata Banerjee’s fascistic mindset and her obstinate anti-CPI(M) agenda has made her the darling of the reactionary elements active in Bengal society from the early days of her political career. The chronicle of her ascending and descending political career is populated with many predictable and unpredictable bedfellows. She has embraced almost all the opportunist possibilities aimed to trounce the Marxists and attain supreme political power in Bengal but has miserably failed to succeed till date. Thanks to their inept handling of the twin issues of Singur & Nandigram, the Left Front government and the CPI(M) has tremendously helped her to stumble upon a wonderful option previously unexplored by her trial and error method of politics – the option to take cover under a red cloak, impersonating the bona fide Leftists.

Her fictitious Leftist stance became evident when she levitated the two conferred gifts of Singur & Nandigram. She announced that her fight is not against Left politics but particularly against the Communist Party of India (Marxist). To become more Leftist in the eyes of the Bengali populace, Mamata swiftly befriended the ultra-left groups including the Maoists and extended her lap towards expelled, renegade and ‘disillusioned’ political leaders and workers of the CPI(M) and other Left Front constituents. But her unexpected support came from a prominent section of the Bengali intelligentsia and cultural activists. Though most of the agitators were seemingly upset with the ‘pro-rightist, neo-liberal’ bend of the Marxist government and resentful about the ‘Stalinist arrogance’ of the CPI(M), there are sufficient and credible proofs to believe that a specific acrimonious group among the dissenting intelligentsia had other iniquitous motives in their heart. The two sides rapidly came closer with a ‘common cause’. From the early days of her anti-industrialization agitation, Mamata Banerjee drew maximum support from this section and successfully proliferated banal anti-CPI(M) hatred. During that period, a supportive media carefully triggered off anti-CPI(M) public opinion through disinformation and cosmetic allegations of atrocity which had helped to set the TMC euphoria against the absolute monolithic presence of CPI(M) in every nook and corner of the State. Tasting blood, heinous domestic and global quarters pounced into action and acted catalyst to this extraordinary alliance. These quarters felt enthralled to share the credit with Mamata Banerjee about TMC’s ‘considerable’ success in shaking the CPI(M) in Bengal.

To efficiently unnerve the ‘atrocious’ Left Front government, this particular intelligentsia group came out with a unique concept. With the help of ultra-left sympathizers, they brought the Maoists at Mamata Banerjee’s doorstep ‘to support her anti-CPI(M) crusade’. The Maoists became brother-in-arms of the TMC goon’s in Nandigram, Lalgarh and elsewhere in the State. In the last couple of months, the TMC-Maoist combine has killed at least 15 CPI(M) leaders and workers in different districts of Bengal and even targeted the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in West Midnapur. Significantly, no other political party members of Bengal were targeted by the Maoists other than the CPI(M). Not a single one from the intellectual allies of Mamata Banerjee who habitually shed gallons of crocodile tears for the ‘poor people’ of Nandigram has ever condemned any attack on the ‘poor people’ of the CPI(M) and preferred to turn stone-deaf on this issue. Why count the dead who belongs to the CPI(M)? Reporting on the recent political killings in Bengal, The Indian Express though agreed that “CPI(M) workers (are) at the receiving end in most places”, but at the same time did not fail to declare that the killings reveal the “change in political alignment that is sweeping large parts of Bengal” and how “the Trinamool Congress is denting the rural base of the red brigade”. Change, in whatever form it might be is always welcome!

With meticulous and eclectic scheming, her new found friends renovated Mamata Banerjee as a ‘true Leftist’ icon. To generate a Leftist milieu around every TMC gathering, popular IPTA songs of communist mass movements of the past were replicated and performed regularly. Celebrity NGO friends Medha Patkar and Anuradha Talwar helped her to reach national and international ‘bleeding heart’ forums. Within days, the 'matured' Mamata Banerjee became a champion of the farmers cause, started chanting Leftist topics like disinvestment, privatization, foreign direct investment; globalization and big capital – all at one go. Now she certainly needs to light candles in memory of slain Palestinians in Gaza Strip and voice against Israeli aggression. Her friends are also working overtime to titivate her as the guardian of Bengali culture. Delighted by their terrific effort, Mamata Banerjee started bestowing gratuity – Kabir Suman was granted with a TMC ticket from Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat and Suvaprasanna received a huge amount of money from her MP fund to construct a Bangla Bhasa (Bengali Language) memorial in Kolkata.

According to media reports, Suvaprasanna has graciously refused Mamata Banerjee’s offer to contest the elections as he desires to be remembered by posterity ‘only as an artist’. Whether this infamous artist cum art guru will be remembered as an artist or not is debatable but he will definitely be remembered for playing the classy role of Rasputin in Mamata Banerjee’s theatre. Suvaprasanna is valued for his incredible and convincing track record of easily reaching out to ‘significant’ quarters of importance. Another prominent member from this intellectual assembly buzzing around Mamata Banerjee today is the ‘young and innocent’ playwright and actor Bratya Basu. His role is conceivable from an article he wrote for the Trinamool mouthpiece Jago Bangla. In this Bengali article ‘Telling you Comrades’, Bratya Basu wrote, “The renowned painter Suvaprasanna often tells me, ‘Without a change nothing is going to happen to this State’. I believe in these words…everyone knows about the wily ones, those who are earning their good fortune from the direct assistance of the government and CPM party….leaving aside these small number of brokers who are buzzing like flies around the honeycomb of power, there is a great number of people who are honest…I appeal to the genuine CPM. I appeal to you all Comrades that if you really care for your party; if you really want your party’s betterment, then for once remove them from power. … you know that the party is completely rotten now.” Bratya Basu is so accurate! Many of the flies buzzing around Mamata Banerjee’s honeycomb today were convincingly buzzing around the ‘honeycomb of power’ just a few years ago but sadly failed to accumulate honey. His call for ‘Flies of Bengal unite!’ therefore has many followers today. And who else has the sound ability to construct the perfect stage for them except Mamata Banerjee?

To put across a genuine Leftist face, Mamata Banerjee and friends has now attempted to hijack major issues from the CPI(M)’s program book. This move became evident in the recently released TMC election manifesto where Mamata Banerjee allowed her ultra-left friends to bloom. Her loyal supporter media conglomerates were terribly disappointed with the ‘sweet nothings’ of her manifesto and sad because many of the pertinent issues of the manifesto looks as if copied from documents of the CPI(M)’s 17th Party Congress! With striking similarity with the longstanding CPI(M) demand, the TMC manifesto also demands that the States must be allocated 50 per cent of the Central revenue. The manifesto echoed the CPI(M) line when it spoke against the entry of foreign capital in the retail sector, when it opposed disinvestment in the public sector and said that developing local resources and skills are more important than embracing globalization. When it comes to elaborate the industrialization policy of TMC, the manifesto writes: “Agriculture must not be sacrificed at the altar of industry. Both should grow like twins… The Trinamul Congress wants industry but not at the cost of poor farmers”. It also advocated to form a land bank for industrial purpose and declared that SEZs (special economic zones) are bad because it causes environment pollution.

It is doubtful how much Mamata Banerjee really can make out of these bombastic words printed in her party manifesto. Instead, she is more recognizable when she reveals her fantastic future vision concerning Bengal. The TMC chieftain has sung a mesmerizing lullaby for her voters: she will transform the East Midnapore coastal town Digha into Goa, North Bengal into Switzerland and Kolkata into London! Assuring the electorates she also said that “If Trinamool Congress comes to power, we’ll show what is called development”. Clarifying to the bewildered journalists who asked how can the TMC thinks of coming to power in the State when the elections are being held for the Lok Sabha, the ‘girl next door’ politician replied, “I know this is just a Lok Sabha election. But what I want to say is that in future, if Trinamool comes to power in the State we will give shape to this vision.” (Source) How Goa, Switzerland or London fits with her true Leftist scheme is a question that remained unanswered. To appease the Muslim voters, she has affirmed that her party will back a non-BJP government at the center and pronounced that, “… a secular government cannot be one by the Bharatiya Janata Party…I now have made things clear for you”.

Grouped under the pseudonym Swajan (also known as Susheel Samaj), Mamata Banerjee’s intellectual friends now have decided to publish their own ‘manifesto’ in April on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls. (Source) This ‘historic manifesto’ is cogently drafted by Bibhas Chakrabarty, the big name of Bengali theatre with an impressive track record of splitting numerous Kolkata theater groups. Corresponding with the TMC manifesto, the ‘Swajan manifesto’ will also appeal to people to vote for a change. The TMC manifesto is dedicated to the cause of ‘ma, mati, manush’ (mother, soil and people) and speaks ambiguously about industrialization without farmland acquisition. The ‘Swajan manifesto’ similarly is expected to articulate the same line, putting stress on the importance of industrialization in Bengal but not ‘… at the cost of the farmer’s livelihood and by forcibly grabbing land from peasants.’ Both are deceitfully trying to dilute local and national issues, to greatly confuse the people and grab maximum advantage from their pivotal issue of Singur-Nandigram. Though the ‘Swajan manifesto’ will not ask people to vote for or against a particular party, ample hints will be there for the readers to understand which political party this ‘awake and aware’ group is suggesting to vote for or against. It will manifest that ‘a party that has been at the helm of power for more than a decade … is not healthy for democracy’ and will ask the people to be ‘…brave and not get pressurized to vote for a particular political party’. Echoing the sentiment, Bratya Basu wrote in his Jago Bangla article, “… I want that every five year there should be a political change in my State. As a citizen I have a right to demand this change. I really do not think that this change will bring good for everyone or exploitation and oppression will be abolished. All this will continue but in a lesser amount, the common people might live a slight better life.”

But what if the exploited and oppressed, poor and ordinary masses still vote against the TMC? What if the ‘historic manifesto’ turns into a ‘historic blunder’? In spite of the scrupulously crafted anti-Left Front agitation-propaganda for two long years, in a ‘fertile’ terrain where ‘all the Front constituents have lost touch with the common people’, a large section of people has still kept their confidence on the ‘tottering’ Left Front parties in 13 out of 18 district Panchayats. Instead of entirely wiping out the ‘unnerved’ Left Front in the recent Civic polls, they have elected them back with a thumping victory in crucial centers like tribal-dominated Jhargram of West Midnapore and Kolkata’s twin city Howrah.

Elated about their predicted success in the coming Lok Sabha and the subsequent State Assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee and friends are presently not willing to give any credit to cynical thoughts. But in reality, reaching their ultimate goal is a Herculean task. After all, the poor people of Bengal, especially the minorities and the oppressed sections of the society are not entirely trustworthy!

Mamata Banerjee image courtesy:
Protest rally image courtesy:
Suvaprasanna image courtesy:
Bratya Basu image courtesy: