Gujarat: Communalists Profit From Hate

THE BHARATIYA Janata Party (BJP) – advocates of Hindu chauvinism – managed to secure a sweeping victory in the Gujarat elections of December, 2002, through their hate campaign against Muslims.

The BJP increased its strength in the Gujarat assembly from 117 seats (in 1998) to 125 in the lower house (which has 182 seats), while Congress – the main opposition – got 51 seats, losing two seats from last time.

GC JAGADISH of New Socialist Alternative (CWI, India) reports.

NEVER IN recent history, has a state assembly election in India created such a sensation as the Gujarat elections of 2002.

This election became a focal point for heated debates and discussions in the entire country and internationally.

The backdrop to these elections was the anti-Muslim pogroms organised by right-wing Hindu communal forces with the full blessings of the BJP state administration, in February and March 2002. These pogroms were sparked off by the Godhra train massacre of Hindu Kar-Serwaks (“volunteers” – ie fanatics) returning from the site of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, which was destroyed by Hindu mobs in 1992.

Narendra Modi, the chief architect of the anti-Muslim pogrom, as the Chief Minister of the State made all the election promises that communally charged Hindu mobs would wish for.

The terrorist attack on Gujarat’s Akshardham temple by Islamic extremists during the run up to the elections was a blessing in disguise to the BJP and particularly to Modi. Huge cut-outs of the Pakistan leader, Musharraf, were placed in strategic places against Modi’s image, challenging voters to decide whether they will choose a “patriotic Indian” or an enemy of India. His rabble-rousing propaganda implied that a vote for opposition Congress would be a vote for Musharraf.

While the Western imperialists are trying to bring both India and Pakistan to the dialogue table, LK Advani, the deputy Prime Minister, in his first election speech in Gujarat, threw down a challenge to Musharraf by saying, “Let us fight it out face to face. We have fought thrice, let there be a fourth war.”

The BJP’s victory in Gujarat is seen by many as a trail-blazer for the days to come. The five states that are due for elections this year would become yet another battle between the BJP and Congress. However, there is hardly any difference between the two parties.

“Secular” Hindu Congress!

Many newspapers dubbed Congress as the B-team of communalism. Shanker Singh Vaghela, a recent dissident from BJP was the chosen man of Congress to take on the BJP. Just as the tiger never changes its stripes, Vaghela went on a binge to outsmart the Modi brigade in the campaign to win his erstwhile communal Hindu constituency.

Instead of exposing Modi and the BJP for all their evils, and standing four-square behind the battered Muslim minority, the Congress adopted a soft Hindu line to say that it was not a party which only appeases Muslims, as made out by the BJP. It had no convincing argument against the BJP’s campaign against Muslims which aims to dub all of them as terrorists.

Left (in)significance!

OF THE 968 candidates in the elections, the two ‘communist’ parties CPI (M) and the CPI together had a symbolic presence in only two seats. The left failed miserably in providing any way forward, let alone an alternative to the riot-torn Muslims and other minorities.

Gujarat is an industrial giant within India, with important industries such as textiles, diamond cutting and polishing, pharmaceuticals and ceramic tiles.

There are thousands of workers in these factories who have a rich history of struggles. The CPI (M) and CPI have some base in the trade unions of this state. But instead of rallying the workers and youth against communalism and capitalism, they tail-ended Congress.

The warning signs

TO THE BJP, which was losing ground very fast, this electoral success is a shot in the arm. Though Gujarat is the only decisive victory for the BJP since it came to power at the centre, the hard-line factions within the party will want to use this opportunity to take the party on an openly communal line at the all-India level, along with their VHP and RSS extreme-right allies

The BJP will try to push further the anti-working class reforms and, more importantly, the privatisation programme, to make themselves nearer and dearer to the national and international bourgeoisie. They will further foment the temple issue, the cow-slaughter issue, abrogation of article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir etc, to divide and disorient the working class.

Class unity

IT IS easy to get dazzled by this BJP victory. The working class, which is beginning to move on various issues such as labour law reforms and on the impending large-scale privatisations, will certainly see it as a jolt.

However, workers are preparing for a show-down on the issue of labour reforms. Already a rank and file trade union formation called the ‘New Initiative for Trade Unions’ is preparing for the future battles.

Working-class unity is the need of the hour. A campaign based on the bedrock of working class unity, can and will take on the forces of capitalism and communalism to defeat the BJP-VHP-RSS gang and the Congress.

The New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) will be campaigning on these slogans and link this to the formation of a new working class mass party based on the programme of socialism.