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Victory for Modi in Indian election:
But resistance will grow
At the end of a five weeks election process in India, Narendra Modi will head a government of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP). It gained the largest number of seats of any party (282 out of 543 seats).
But, in spite of all the hype, his party received only 31% of the popular vote. It also remains in a weak position in the upper house of parliament (Lok Sahba) where the BJP and its allies have only 63 of the 250 seats.
On a national basis, no other party managed to obtain more than 10% of the vote - the requirement to form an official opposition.
The Congress Party, which has been in government for all but 18 years since independence, has no more support than some regional parties. It was reduced to a mere 44 seats nationwide and couldn't manage a double digit result in any state.
Given their immersion in immense corruption scandals, their fall was expected. Thirteen out of the 15 Congress ministers who stood for re-election lost their seats.
Last year anti-corruption movements, anti-nuclear moments, women's rights movements and various others emerged, as well as a general strike that involved over 100 million workers.
The rhetoric about a 'Shining India', a 'rising middle class' and a return to 10% economic growth rates, as in the peak times of the Indian economy, is now empty. A speeding up in the country's urbanisation did create a small but significant well-to-do middle class during the boom times. But the most under-reported story is the fall in the economic growth rate, now somewhere between 3% and 4%.
Huge hopes for a future of jobs and prosperity was created among youth in particular. A staggering 65% of the Indian population is under the age of 35. Half the population is under 25.
The young Indian masses had a taste of a better life. But all the hope of this generation now hangs in the air as the impact of the world economic crisis is felt across India. Millions of young people now entering the job market will only find an utterly bleak prospect.
Modi overwhelmingly won the vote among young people, with the majority citing job creation as the motivating factor. But a significant number took a decisive step to reject all the establishment political organisations.
Modi, however, is now hoping to deliver a miracle with one of the most-used tricks in the capitalist book - a privatisation offensive. Pro-capitalist economists are aware of the potential for opposition from the disappointed masses. But they are warning Modi not to hesitate or employ 'caution', as the Congress government did. They are egging him on to bulldoze through his neoliberal agenda.
However, it is "mission impossible" as the real economy slows and the buying power of the masses continues to be eroded by inflation. More than 69% of the Indian population are acutely poor.
Modi is expected to use communal violence to supress any opposition and push through his attack on labour rights and pro-big business policies. Communal violence was orchestrated in Uttar Pradesh (UP) state in the weeks before the election which aided the consolidation of the so-called 'Hindu' votes for the BJP.
Significantly, Dalit ("untouchables" caste) votes were won on a 'Hindu nationalist' basis and by the BJP drawing in some 'Hindu' Dalit leaders. The result was that 73 out of UP's 80 seats fell to the BJP - up by a staggering 63 seats.
The potential for further riots and attacks on religious minorities in places like UP and Bihar cannot be ruled out.
In India, the so-called Marxist parties such as the 'communist' CPI(M) and the CPI have failed grossly. They collaborated with, and acted to create a soft cushion for, the Congress-led offensive against workers' rights, democratic rights and national rights.
These parties maintained a criminal silence in the face of the massive corruption scandals. An effigy of the CPI(M) leaders was burnt by anti-nuclear protesters in Koodankulam. The CPI(M) leaders had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Congress on the implementation of plans for a nuclear power plant, despite the proven health catastrophe for the people living in the area of Tamil Nadu.
Having lost 13 seats (reduced to two) in its former stronghold of West Bengal, the CPI(M) can no longer claim national party status. In the name of 'defending secularism', they have often played second fiddle to the corrupted Congress party. The CPI(M) never set out to seriously challenge Congress.
There is therefore a massive political vacuum, with no anti-capitalist, anti-caste, anti-sectarian, pro-working class voice.
Tears of joy rolled from the eyes of the urban poor when the Common Man Party (AAP) scored a significant victory in Delhi earlier this year. Subsequent activities and demands forced the Delhi police to effectively blockade roads and subways on several occasions in an attempt to hamper AAP activities.
The AAP was attempting, if imperfectly, to give expression to the aspirations of workers and ordinary people for a decent life and a political voice, free of corruption.
But the whole AAP cabinet in Delhi resigned after 49 days to 'keep their reputation intact for the coming election'. This resignation was attacked as a 'stunt' to secure a 'national profile' and the leaders of the AAP now admit that it was a mistake to give away the responsibility they had so recently taken on.
But, in the Indian context, it can also be seen by some poor people and workers as a demonstration of a principled stand. It further attracted a number of campaigners who have played, or are a playing, a key part in a number of significant local struggles such as that of the anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam.
The AAP performed relatively well, winning four seats in Punjab and increasing its votes in Delhi (by 6%). It failed to secure much expected seats in Tamil Nadu and in Mumbai, but it has now emerged as a significant anti-corruption party.
If the AAP fails to build on the lessons learned, it is inevitable that they will be forced to compromise or split.
The election has revealed the mounting anger that is simmering under the surface in the sub-continent.
The Left also needs to appeal to the majority that did not take part in the election, as well as those who will quickly become disillusioned as Modi's mask slips, and call on them to step forward to form a mass organisation of workers, peasants and poor. The vote for the Common Man Party, the AAP, was significant. But the AAP leadership has so far not spelled out its plans for how it is planning to effect the change it says is needed.
Left parties, such as the CPI(M) and CPI, although their leaders have damaged their reputation in the past by not building fighting opposition to the Congress-led neoliberal offensive, could change their tactics too. An appeal should be made to all serious activists - in the existing parties, in the unions, in the community and resistance campaigns - to look at how mass resistance can be prepared.
The habit of calling ritual strikes must end. Instead, the enormous potential power of the working class - which strikes can most effectively demonstrate - must be mobilised properly. On that basis, an all-India 24-hour general strike would prepare the way for building up the kind of mass workers' movement that will be necessary to defeat the vicious anti-working class programme of the Modi government.
26 Feb Austerity kills
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