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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Wretched of the Earth at the Polls


Mick Hall • 25 May 2004

Regular readers of the Blanket may remember an article I wrote about a journey I made last winter in India, in it I mentioned the political situation there, which for me was somewhat depressing, so it is with great joy I bring you this postscript. In the article I commented upon the stifling influence of the then Governing Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) led by the then Indian Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee and its Paramilitary militia the RSS. I wrote, "The BJP is part of the Hindu fundamentalist family of groups, which are broadly called the Sangha Parivar, the family of the Rashtriya Syamsevak Sangh, or national volunteer group. This is an ideological group formed in the late 1920s, deriving its inspiration and much of its practice, including having a Brown Shirt type Paramilitary group (the RSS) from the life and work of Adolf Hitler. Like Hitler, they believe in racial supremacy, in treating the Semitic races and all non-Hindu races as second-class subjugate people with no rights to citizenship. They believe in a brand of cultural nationalism, which brooks absolutely no variety, no breadth of culture, no range of religion, a very monolithic mono-colour Hindu culture. Thus their slogan is, "one nation, one culture, one people, one language". Something that the Indian States founders understood only too well hardly fits the diverse nature of the Indian population."

The Indian middle classes have flocked in great numbers to the BJP's banner since it was elected to National office in 1997 (There are echoes of the third Reich here also, as the German middle classes became the main support base of Hitler once he attained office in 1933). The brutal implementation of economic liberalism that the BJP led Government has practised since 1997, has allowed the middle and upper classes to enrich themselves at the expense of the economically poorest sections of the Christians, Muslim, Sikh communities along with the poorest amongst the rest of India's many ethnic minorities. However it should not be over looked that Vajpayee’s economic policies, due to the rigid Hindu caste system being brought back into every day life with the encouragement of his Government, has also led to those at the bottom end of the Hindu caste system being plunged into poverty.

Laws that had been in place for decades banning discrimination against the lowest Hindu caste, the Dalits, known in the west as the untouchables, were on the instructions of Vajpayee’s Central Government no longer to be enforced by local authorities and the police and judiciary under their control. Plunging hundreds of millions of the untouchables into abject poverty, especially in the countryside, in which the overwhelming majority of the Indian population still reside (Note--An ethnic minority in India, can consist of millions of people, for example India's Muslims community consists of over 100 million souls).

Briefly that was the situation leading up to the recent Election in India to the Lok Sabha, India's Parliament. Politically the BJP were confident of returning to office, the masses were cowering in their hunger and misery, whilst the Indian middle classes were solidly on board the BJP's bandwagon. Happy as pigs in S--- with the materialist riches the government of Mr Vajpayee had brought them, many of them now even having a Servant girl to kick around much as their former masters the British once did. The opposition they faced, The Congress Party appeared to be a shadow of its former self and was led by not only a foreigner, but also a women too boot, Sonia Gandhi. Even if the Indian masses were not as weary with hunger and cow-tailed by unemployment as the BJP leadership thought, Mr Vajpayee and his senior advisers were confident that they would not cast their vote for a foreigner. This anti foreigner stance was the handle on which the BJP were to hang their campaign strategy. As far as the masses were concerned it was to be bigotry and prejudice propaganda directed at them from the BJP and Mr Vajpayee. The educated middle classes were by and large on board, in the bank. All they needed the BJP leadership concluded was a touch of flattery and praise about how it was they, the middle classes who had brought about India‘s latest economic miracle, plus a sophisticated bit of Red baiting would do no harm. The BJP campaign managers assumed, that Congress having formed a loose coalition to fight the election with the Communist Party of India (M), CPI, Revolutionary Socialist Party and the India Forward bloc, a bit of good old fashioned red baiting on their part could only help ensure the middle class were securely on board, tied neatly with a bow. Such Anti Red propaganda might go down well in the countryside with the peasantry too.

Come polling days (India is a big place) the aforementioned is about how the BJP leadership and it's rank and file saw things panning out, they were in a triumphalist mood with seemingly six more years of power before them. The local and international Media and it's analysts, International Governments, Capital, both local and international and if truth were told the majority of Congress leaders also saw things in much the same way. It was however not to be, something was stirring in the minds of those who lived along the alley ways and back streets of the working class neighbourhoods of India's town's and cities. The same was going on amongst the peasantry and day labourers out in the villages and countryside. India's poor, downtrodden, wretched of the earth had experienced enough of the economic neo liberalism that the worlds economic gurus and the World Bank had said would bring salvation and prosperity to the worlds poor. No economic miracle had passed their way, more of a monsoon of pestilence raining down upon them had occurred, with unemployment and ever increasing poverty being their daily lot. The BJP's policy of privatising India's massive State sector of the economy, at knock down prices often to their own financial supporters, without a thought as to what would become of the people who worked within these industries and thus whose families depended upon them for their daily bread, would make Thatcher's decimation of the British Mining Industry, 'almost' look like a benevolent act. At least British miners had the dole to fall back on; ten's of millions of Indian public sector workers were thrown out without a penny, nor any future prospects of earning one.

When the masses stacked up before them their BJP campaign chips, Sonia being a foreigner, a woman, her being in bed with the Communists. None of it mattered much, as the Americans say, it did not add up to a row of beans in their daily lives. It was the record of the BJP whilst in Central Government Office that mattered; this was what and who had placed them in their current dreadful economic predicament. Sonia Gandhi may not have been born in India, but so what, she had live there for decades, has brought honour and dignity to the name of her dead husband by the manner in which she conducts herself. Incidentally this was confirmed to them when she declined Office after the election result. As to her being a woman, it means nothing they may have mused; India has had a woman leader before, as too has Britain and many other democracies. As to the Red baiting, it went down amongst the masses like water off a ducks back for have not communists governed successfully Indian States such as Kerela and West Punjab the latter with a larger population than Ireland and Britain put together, with levels of corruption lower and literacy much higher than any other Indian States?

And so the Indian wretched of the earth voted, a quite revolution via the ballot box was taking place. Monetarism, economic liberalism was being rejected at the ballot box. The victims were saying no! This is not for us; we not only have seen it in practice but also suffered the consequences of it. There has to be another way. We are uneducated it is up to the politicians and intellectuals to come up with it. So the Congress Party entered office not as was first proposed under Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister but Mr Marmohan Singh the first person of his faith to hold that office. Thus by so doing keeping the hopes of the founders of the modern Indian State alive, that it should be above all else a secular and democratic State.

In case any reader feels I have left out the history and weaknesses of the Congress Party. That is not what the article is about, it is about the verdict of the people against the communal platform, assiduously propagated by the BJP-RSS combine, its brazen pursuit of pro-rich, pro-big business economic policies and its abject capitulation to the USA and World Bank. It was the educated; zoot suited Indian middle classes who by voting for the BJP, were prepared to consign their fellow countrymen and women into the misery of abject poverty and hopelessness whilst enriching themselves. The down trodden, often uneducated masses were having none of it and by voting Congress/Left Bloc were prepared to defend the heritage of their States founding fathers and demand something better for all the people of India. Not for the first time, the masses were right and by being so far ahead of their political leaders thinking, many of whom are still clinging to neo liberal economics. One can only live in hope that Congress and its allies, unlike in the past, do not betray the trust that the wretched of the earth has placed in them.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

1 June 2004


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The Wretched of the Earth at the Polls
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