Daya Varma and Vinod Mubayi


The parliamentary elections in India are due in 2014. As usually happens at such junctures, impending elections lead to unforeseen events. It seems that Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party have given up their Prime Ministerial ambitions, at least for the time being.  If Mulayam Singh’s son Akhilesh, the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) continues with his anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim policies, which seem to suit his temperament best, he is likely to sink himself and his father further politically, an eventuality hardly to be lamented.


The new aspirants for the coveted position of the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy are the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress and the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (United).


Narendra Modi became a national figure by organizing the massacre of Muslims in his state, Gujarat, in 2002. This single action catapulted him to the front rank of the communalist, Hindutva politicians of India, as it catered to the anti-minority, in particular anti-Muslim, culture of a large section of Indian Hindus, especially the middle class, which is constantly on the look-out for a “strong man” who can show the minorities and the pseudo-secularists to their second-class place in Indian society. Modi has also assiduously courted the rising Indian capitalist class to establish his pro-development credentials, which accounts for the triumphal treatment he occasionally gets in some of the mainstream press in India that is owned by the same class he courts.


Mamata Banerjee shot to prominence by dethroning the 34-year long Left Front Government in West Bengal, in which she was assisted by certain anti-CPM (Communist Party of India-Marxist) left intellectuals, as well as some hasty and ill-conceived development policies of the CPM. Nitish Kumar rose to prominence by promising to modernize backward Bihar, an ambition also nursed by his predecessor Lalu Yadav, whose era seems to have come to an end.


However both Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar are regional and not national leaders. In order to project a national image, they both need the so-called Third Front, which was originally a brain child (more properly a hare-brained child) of CPM in 2009, after the Left Front made a disastrous and highly ill-conceived decision to part its company with the UPA.  To enhance his image as a potential national leader, Nitish Kumar left the BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) after they chose Modi as their front-runner. In doing this he also hoped to bolster his secular credentials, which could help him appeal to a wider section of the electorate. NDA is not a front but a BJP strategy just as UPA (United Progressive Alliance) is not a front but a Congress strategy. The whole idea of a third front composed of regional, primarily state-wide, parties who have little in common except a desire to enjoy the perks of power, is neither rational nor achievable.


Political developments are generally the product of class forces and socio-historical factors.  Congress and BJP both represent the dominant capitalist class across India, but BJP is also the offshoot of a particular segment founded on a virulent, narrow concept of nationalism based on a highly politicized notion of majoritarian (religious) identity. It is well-recognized that the command center of the BJP, the RSS, would like to dissolve the secular democratic republican Constitution that India voted to adopt after independence from the British Raj, and replace it by a Hindu Rashtra. However, as far as the 2014 elections are concerned, the Indian people will choose either the UPA or the NDA and the winner will decide who to and who not to ally with. Communist parties who will participate in the elections ought to fulfill their two primary responsibilities; first of being the voice of the oppressed and exploited, and second of resolutely opposing Hindutva, the biggest danger to India. They should not let these responsibilities slip away in the quest for an imaginary third front.  Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar and any other Prime Minister-wannabees will keep their options open. That is to be expected, but, whatever the reason for Nitish Kumar’s divorce from BJP, it is a good thing as long as he keeps this distance.

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