The year 2009 saw
a major turnaround in the Indian political scene which augurs well
for the future.
For the first time
after a longish period, the divisive elements have taken a back
seat. Since these include both the Communists and the rightist
forces represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the list
encompasses those cutting across the political spectrum who thrive
on class and communal animosity.
caste-based parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the
Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which depend on
the support of the backward castes and the Dalits, are losing their
The catalyst for
the change was the middle-of-the-road Congress' success in the
general elections, which confirmed that its good showing five years
ago was not a flash in the pan. By improving its tally of seats in
parliament, the party was able to rid itself of the political
encumbrances which had halted the government's progress on several
fronts during the last five years.
nettlesome of these was the Left. It had not only stymied the
much-needed economic reforms, but had even withdrawn support from
the government on the India-US nuclear deal. Now, the Left is a pale
shadow of its earlier self.
The drop in its
number of seats in the Lok Sabha has been compounded by its setbacks
in assembly by-elections and municipal polls in its stronghold West
Bengal. There is now a growing belief in the state that its defeat
is inevitable in the assembly elections of 2011.
In Kerala too,
there are signs that the comrades are losing their influence. This
process has been aided by the endless factional tussle between Chief
Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and secretary of the Communist Party of
India-Marxist's (CPI-M) state unit, Pinarayi Vijayan.
What the Left's
decline indicates, however, is not just the disillusionment of the
voters after its rule of three decades in West Bengal and because of
the inner-party wrangling in Kerala, but the fading out of an entire
ideology. Unlike the 1960s and 70s, when young people were attracted
to Marxism and even Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, the
influence of the Left is visibly on the wane in the urban centres.
the disenchantment with the Left was the high-handedness of the West
Bengal government in grabbing farm land in Singur for an industrial
project and in trying to acquire it in Nandigram with the help of a
colonial-era law. The sight of motorcycle-borne armed Marxist
militia "invading" Nandigram while the police stayed away convinced
the generally Left-inclined intelligentsia in West Bengal and
elsewhere that the Buddhadev Bhattacharjee administration was no
different in the matter of unleashing goons and emasculating the
police than the Narendra Modi government.
The present year
may well write the epitaph, therefore, for the Left movement in
India. Although the Communists were always a marginal force with
hardly any presence outside West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, they
wielded an influence disproportionate to their actual strength
because of their supposedly superior ideology compared to
"bourgeois" capitalism and claims to stand for the poor. Now, with
the demolition of these myths with Bhattacharjee wooing the private
sector, the future of the commissars does not seem all that bright.
If the Left is on
the decline, so is the BJP. The latter too has problems with its
ideology. After two successive defeats in 2004 and 2009, there are
misgivings about whether Hindutva is attracting a sufficient number
of Hindus. Among those who questioned its efficacy was Jaswant
Singh, a newly-elected MP but he was expelled for writing a book on
Jinnah and the partition where he blamed the BJP's icon, Vallabbhai
Patel, as well as Jawaharlal Nehru for the country's division along
with the founder of Pakistan.
front-ranking leader of the party, Arun Jaitley, may not have
doubted the value of Hindutva, but argued that its propagation as
well as the party's general attitude should be less "shrill". Yet,
no one has been more shrill in recent months than the paterfamilias
of the saffron brotherhood, Mohan Bhagwat of the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He has been arguing for undoing partition
and uniting not only the subcontinent, but also including
Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka in an Akhand Bharat on the
basis of Hindu culture.
It goes without
saying that these political bombshells, which include a refusal to
apologize for the Babri masjid demolition, will plunge the BJP into
greater difficulties than it is in at present. As it is, its
partners like the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has advised it to shun
fomenting religious sentiments while talking about the Liberhan
report on the Babri demolition in parliament and outside. If the RSS
chief continues to talk in the present vein, the JD-U may well go
the way of the Biju Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress, which left
the BJP's company before the general elections.
The change of
guard represented by the replacement of Rajnath Singh as the BJP
president by the virtually unknown Nitin Gadkari is unlikely to help
the party since the latter is seen to be the choice of the RSS. As a
result, the party is expected to be even more under the thumb of
Mohan Bhagwat than before. It is difficult to see the National
Democratic Alliance (NDA) forging ahead under these circumstances.
Given the problems
faced by the Left and the BJP, the Congress was fairly comfortably
placed till it shot itself in the foot by hastily conceding the
demand for Telangana without considering all the pros and cons.
Although it is desperately trying to extricate itself by adopting
the familiar tactics of delaying taking a decision - as P.N.
Narasimha Rao used to do - it is unclear whether this ploy will
earlier victories in the Maharashtra and Haryana elections - though
narrowly in the second case - suggested that its position is slowly
improving compared to what it was before the 2004 general election.
Besides, some of its allies like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)
and the RJD no longer have the political clout to be uppity in their
Congress' other opponents, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) appears to
be well entrenched in its sole stronghold of Uttar Pradesh. But its
leader Mayawati can no longer dream of becoming the prime minister,
as she did last year when teaming up with the Left against the
Manmohan Singh government. One reason is that the BSP has been
unable to make any headway outside Uttar Pradesh.
If the Congress is
facing any long-term problem apart from Islamic terrorism, it is
from the Maoist insurgency, which the prime minister described as
the country's gravest internal security threat. However, there are
signs that action plans have been prepared by the home ministry to
confront the Maoists in their "red corridor" and eradicate the
menace with the help of specially-trained and well-equipped
If the government
succeeds in this endeavour, it will be a major plus factor in its
favour. In the economic field too, the situation is improving with a
steadily rising growth rate. As if to confirm that the scene is far
from depressing, India attained the No.1 status among the Test
cricket playing nations in the last month of the year.
(29.12.2009-Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached