Left Parties – the necessary alternative! (Opinion Editorial)
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With this series, we wish to bring out a few prevalent opinions within the student community about major political parties contesting for the elections this year. The views expressed by the author are his perspectives alone and should not be construed as facts or opinions endorsed by Insight or IIT Bombay. We only seek to provide the Institute with a platform to engage in constructive debate.
The following article is written by Rahul Maganti, a third year Undergraduate Student in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering and Material Sciences at IIT Bombay.
The upcoming Lok Sabha elections are tipped to be a face-off between secular and communal parties. But given the gravity of the situation, isn’t it a bit surprising that nobody has been talking about the left parties in general and the CPI(M) in particular which have upheld secular credentials throughout their history? Along with this, it is the alternate development model and a pragmatic vision, as stated in their Manifesto that makes the CPI(M) different from that of the other parties in the fray.
Analysis of the Manifesto
We generally give a lot of importance to Manifestos during the Institute elections, but tend to not do the same in the General Elections. This is one of the lesser seen documents during the course of elections. BJP, which released its Manifesto on April 7th, the day on which the first phase of elections took place, subsequently helped us understand the importance it gives to it’s Manifesto. While the INC manifesto, this time had the ‘Universal Health Care’ as it’s flagship policy as it had ‘Right to food’ in 2009. It’s manifesto is nothing but working more on the failed idea of neo-liberal economic policies and a dependent foreign policy on the US. The AAP, not unexpectedly, came up with transparency and corruption issues. The AAP manifesto was clouded by marred understanding of Economic and Foreign policies. The AAP faces a similar problem even in practicality, as Medha Patkar and Meera Sanyal, people with opposite economic visions and opposite ideologies are contesting for Lok Sabha from the same city of Mumbai, a few kilometres apart.
Talking about the of nuances in the Manifesto of the CPI(M), it would not be any exaggeration to call it’s Manifesto the most progressive and liberal one at offer. After more than 20 years of neoliberal economic policies, the spiralling growth not being inclusive and the social indicators still suffering, CPI(M) has always been advocating an alternate set of economic policies quite different from the economic policies of the NDA and the UPA. Few of them include increased public investment in agricultural production and research, physical and social infrastructure amongst others. The CPI(M) which believes that ‘corruption cannot be tackled in India unless you also address the supply side of corruption, which is the crony capitalism,’ had made it a point to take on the corporate companies head on. The Left Parties agitation against the Reliance industries on gas over-pricing issue is worth being noted here. CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta and CPI(M) leader Tapan Sen are the ones who started this way back in 2006 before Kejriwal hijacked the whole issue and the judiciary is overlooking it now. This also speaks of volumes about the way in which corporate media wants to behave itself – giving no coverage to the Communists as has been ordered by their bosses, who look at Communists as someone who will make life tough for them.
The CPI(M) also called for decriminalising gay sex and amendment of Section 377.
The CPI(M)’s Manifesto also called for repealing the draconian AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) for which Irom Sharmila was on fast from 13 years. I challenge the Congress or any other party to take this cause up!
Need for a Secular alternative
The communal underpinning of these elections was being felt right from the moment Narendra Modi was tipped to become the Prime Ministerial Candidate of the BJP. The Muzaffarnagar riots added fuel to the fire. More disappointing is the fact that the person responsible for the same riots was nominated as the MP Candidate by the BJP. Liberal and left intellectuals have been giving rallying cry over the imminent danger India and its diversity faces if Modi, who has all the authoritarian and fascist tendencies, becomes the Prime Minister of the country. On the other hand, BJP promises the building of Ram Temple, which led to the communal flare by the Hindutva in the early 1990’s.
In 1951 India’s first Law Minister Dr. B.R. Ambedkar fought to get our parliament to pass the Hindu Code Bill, a bill which would have granted equal rights to Hindu women denied to them by tradition and religious practice. Had this bill been passed in time, the logical next step would have been to draft a similar bill for Muslims and thus pave the way to work towards a uniform civil code. The Bill was blocked and Dr. Ambedkar resigned in disgust. It was the Hindu right wing with the patriarchal mindset, both in opposition and on the ruling benches, the very leaders that BJP and the RSS still hold dear to their hearts which opposed the Hindu Code Bill.
The CPI(M) has stated that it will support a uniform civil code, but one must earn the trust of the communities that live under it, a trust that the BJP has never sought to earn.
‘Jyoti Basu, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal,’ recall the Sikhs in Kolkata, ‘placed Kolkata under curfew, and his party supporters were seen patrolling Sikh-dominated areas to prevent violence perpetrated by the Congress goons.’
The Muslim question
As the country, at least a section of it, is being entrapped in the communal clutches of a party which wants to build a Ram Mandir , within constitutional means, the same means that were used to desecrate Babri Masjid, one can’t help but admire the CPI(M) manifesto for the measures it promises for the empowerment of the Muslim community. Amendment of the draconian provisions of UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act), whose primary utility till now has been to trample upon the non-conformist voices by branding them as terrorists, rehabilitation of the people falsely implicated, fast track courts to ensure speedy justice are effective measures to curb the unlawful detention of scores of Muslims. Implementing Sachar commission and Ranganath Mishra commission recommendations, which till now have received a nominal treatment, is a big step forward in terms of alleviating the miserable conditions of the minority community and ensuring their representation in all sectors of the government. One thing, though, that should have been addressed is the issue of Dalit Muslims-granting SC status that has been denied to them. I think, the choice is clear, at least I hope it is, as far as the minority community is concerned.
Pro-people agitations are the oxygen for Left parties
While it is the Ambani’s and Adani’s for the Congress and the BJP, it’s with the small yet precious contributions of Daily wage labourers and contributions from individuals that the Left parties run their campaign with. Strongly opposed to the corporate funding and completely blacked out by the Corporate Media, the Left goes back to the traditional door-to-door campaigning in places where it had led significant pro-people agitations and movements. With Tripura, Kerala and West Bengal playing a crucial role for the Left, the Left is also trying to convert the mass agitations in pockets of Tamil Nadu (where it has led Dalit movements against untouchability and in support of the fishing community), Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar (where it led Land Struggles), Haryana and Himachal Pradesh into electoral success. The working class, has always been and will be the backbone for the Left Front.
Role of Communists and Left in the Policy matters
The policy trajectory of UPA-1, which survived for four years with the support of the Left makes clear the crucial role played by the Left in formulation of path-breaking policies like the NREGA, RTI and the Forest Rights act, to name a few.
You will rarely see MP’s from Kerala (MB Rajesh and MP Achuthan) fighting for the rights of the North East people in Delhi and subsequently getting arrested.
Every person standing on the symbol of Sickle and Hammer and campaigning with a Red Flag has a baggage of experience with people’s struggles on their back unlike the bourgeois parties which field Bollywood stars, Corporate World Leaders, and Sportspersons.
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