By Kumar David –
There have been a couple of interesting developments in India, a new star in the Lok Sabha and recent State elections, which I am sure will interest to my readers. A meteor detonated in the in any case rumbustious chamber of the Indian Parliament and it has for a change been a woman. State Elections have been a moderate, but only moderate setback for Modi and the BJP but since there is no sign of an alliance that can be cobbled together to form an alternative government, on current trends India is heading for an inclusive result in 2024.
By any measure Mahua Moitra (MM) is a firebrand; a first-timer elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019 whose three Lok Sabha speeches have taken the country by storm; the lady is the talk of the town. She is not fire and guts alone but her discourses, however passionately delivered are also well informed, intelligently researched, and blood-and-guts delivery. The second and third links below will take you to two of her parliamentary assaults on the Modi Government. The first is to a frank and fascinating chat with one of India’s top interviewers Karan Thapar which shows a person so different from Lanka’s bogus MPs. Readers of this column will, if not benefit, at least greatly enjoy the freshness of the three videos.
MM read economics and mathematics at Mount Holyoke, a women’s university in Massachusetts, USA. After graduating she worked as an investment banker for JPMorgan Chase in New York and London. She quit her position as vice-president in 2009 to enter politics and joined the youth wing of Congress and was close to Rahul Gandhi. Soon she moved to Mama Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and she took to grass roots politics.
MM refers to a poster “Early Warning Signs of Fascism”. The display site she mentions is incorrect but the poster is relevant and I reproduce it below since the first seven items are relevant to Lanka. A chap called Lawrence Britt produced this list after researching Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’ Greece, Pinochet’s Chile and Suharto’s Indonesia
* Powerful and continuing nationalism
* Disdain for human rights
* Religion and government intertwined
* Rampant cronyism
* Supremacy of the military
* Obsession with national security
* Controlled mass media
* Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
* Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
* Rampant sexism
* Corporate power
* Protected labour power
* Obsession with crime and punishment
* Corrupt fraudulent elections
MM unabashedly confronts bogus nationalism; a disease that has pushed this country into the dark ages since 1956. Personally what I resent the most is that while upper strata Sinhala and Tamil bogus nationalists denied exposure to English and a modern ethos to the best and brightest of rural and village students, they sent off the fruits of their own loins to Oxford, LSE or to second rate institutions in Europe and the USA. Among my own students the best (Sreetharan, Dayawansa and a few others) were too good for bogus nationalism to trample, but many others did suffer. Now a days I see 15 to 25 year old men and women with tears in their eyes because they have been denied simple English familiarity to follow instructions on a computer screen or a design handbook or to read magazines except in the vernacular. Isolation in a linguistic ghetto serves only xenophobes and semi-educated politicians who fear that the masses will outshine them. Or worse it is the best way they can obstruct integration of communities and incite racial disharmony. Pity Ms Moitra is instinctively anti-left – she lived through the failure of Communist state governments in West Bengal and her class and educational background are not conducive to leftism. However I live in hope that as with Engels and Harini she too will one day turn traitor to her class!
Five Indian state elections
First a quick summary of the results of the five state elections last week.
West Bengal: Mamata Baerjee’s Trinamool Congress won 213 seats and the BJB 77 in the Assembly. No other party, including the once mighty Bengal CPI (M) and CPI, won a single seat. How the mighty have fallen! The BJP though it lost, made an impressive gain of 44 seats at the cost of Congress and the Communists.
Tamil Nadu: The DMK, led by Stalin son of old fox Karunannidhi won, capturing 133 seats (up 33) and the late Jayalalitha’s ANADMK took 66 seats (down 58), Congress 18, the BJP 4 (up from zero) and a regional caste-based party Pattali Makkal Katchi took 5. The total numbers for both alliances are shown in a Table. The musical chairs circus between the DMK and ANADMK continues.
Kerala: CPI (M) won 62, Congress 21, CPI 17, Muslim League 15 and Kerala Congress 5 seats. The change in party positions is very small.
Assam: This was the bright spot for the BJP, it took 60 seats, down 3; Congress 29, up 7; the Democratic Front 16 up 2 and smaller parties took 13 seats in all.
Pondicherry: A tiny region adjacent to Tamil Nadu. The NR Congress (NR being the leaders initials!) won 10 seats, the BJP 6 (up 5), DMK 6 (up 1) and Congress just 2 seats (down 9).
What are the summary comments I can make? The BJP has done ok; it held Assam, made large gains in West Bengal and small gains in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. It failed to secure a single seat in Kerala. Hindu nationalism, the BJP trade mark, has weathered the storm and the media forecast for the Indian general election which must be held before May 2024 is that the BJP and the Hindutva curse will hang on to power. After the 2019 election the BJP has 300 seats and its right-wing allies 47 in the 543 member Lok Sabha. Congress has a mere 52 seats and the once proud CPs was reduced to 3 or 4 in all! On its erstwhile home turf West Bengal in 2019 the two CPs failed to win a single seat while their vote share plunged to 7% from 23% in 2014. CPI (M) manged just one seat in Kerala in 2019 though it polled 32% – the Indian electoral system is first-past-the-post (FPTP). Tamil Nadu is particularly significant for Sri Lanka. In the 2019 General Election the DMK led United Progressive Alliance won 38 of 39 Tamil Nadu Lok Sabha seats while in 2014 this alliance got just one seat. It seems from the results of the 2021 State Elections that the current DMK advantage will hold in the 2024 FTFP General Election as well. This is not good news for the Double-Paksas.
The massacre of the left in India in 2019 reflects the fate that Sri Lankan left parties belonging to the 1970-1975 coalition suffered in the 1977. The reasons were similar; when class collaborationist governments die the uncritical left partner is buried deepest. When the Rajapaksa government falls the Dead-Left will be obliterated in perpetuity. The moral of the story is this: The left, globally, should have well learned it by now. Cross-class alliances are indeed needed and at times imperative such as in 2015 to keep a third-term Rajapaksa out of office but forming class-collaborationist governments and assuming cabinet posts is another matter. In circumstances of bourgeois state power the left does best when it keeps out of government and engages in a constructive critical role as a people’s tribune. In a bourgeois state that is its hallowed role, except in extreme and exceptional circumstances such as the 1945-1951 Clement Atlee Labour government in the UK and Alexis Tsipras’ Syriaz led coalition which was in power from 2015 to 2019. All society in the UK was shattered at the end of the war and there was a total collapse of the Greek economy in the wake of ruin brought on by debt. Both fit the description extreme and exceptional.
I will sign off by drawing attention to a conundrum. Modi seems to be less unpopular than the Double-Paksas despite a huge covid setback (even after allowing for scale), worse than Lanka; semi-fascist trends in Modi’s case mainly against Muslims are rampant (in India violations are reality, in Sri Lanka more a threat); and a near uprising by farmers. How come? One possibility is that those of us who see a collapse of the SL regime’s popularity are mistaken. The next Provincial Council elections, if ever, will settle that issue. Another possibility is that Hindutva communalism which stands behind Modi is deeper than Sinhala-Buddhist zealotry. I incline to reject this view since the bold Indian intelligentsia is sturdier than its effete Lankan middleclass counterpart. My bet is something else; the Indian economy is doing ok; the growth rate is fairly good, India is not drowning in debt and people hope things will get better under a Modi government. Maybe that’s why Modi, though he did not win big four out of the five States, held his ground all round.