When Germans wondered what had helped the growth of fascism in the 1930s to 1945, many people cited that “fascism won because too few good men stood up”. What is happening in India now is authoritarianism, not fascism, but there is little sense of urgency in the political class or the civil society. There are a number of examples.
Nitish Kumar has gone over to the BJP despite the formidable Yadav-Muslim alliance in Bihar backing the RJD, Sharad Yadav with the Congress and other secular parties pitching in later. Nitish’s argument is that he is against corruption. But how was corruption thriving despite the CM’s strict anti-corruption policy?
Isn’t it true that corruption grows more with political shenanigans amid “stringent prohibitions” from Chicago to Gujarat? What about the steady exodus of members from the Congress and other secular parties, including the TMC, to the BJP?
This despite the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC’s spectacular sweep in West Bengal in which the Left Front won only one ward and the BJP couldn’t manage to cross the single-digit mark. But will there be any alliance or even electoral adjustment between Mamata and the Left Front? Highly unlikely.
But Mamata virtually wiped out the Left in West Bengal, to the anger and dismay of the Left cadres. However, it wasn’t Mamata who strove to displace the middle strata and peasants in Singur and Nandigram.
That was done mainly by the CPI(M) which by then had forgotten “Operation Barga” and the land rights of the peasantry. In fact, that section of the Left even wanted to build a chemical hub in Nandigram. To bring in potentially toxic chemicals in farmland is surely not an environmental agenda.
But political parties have their own ways of keeping themselves busy. The Bengal and Kerala units of the CPI(M) are embroiled in a theoretical dispute over the issue of general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s desire to have a third term in the Rajya Sabha.
The fact that Yechury has in the past attracted much attention in Parliament, is apparently besides the point. His rivals within the party – from former general secretary Prakash Karat to Pinarayi Vijayan, who has had a torrid and bloody time with the RSS-CPI(M) bloodletting in Kannur and other parts of Kerala – are after this experience no less aggressive than before.
Going in for a third Rajya Sabha term cannot be called “parliamentary cretinism”. This issue has caused a heated debate between the Kerala and West Bengal units. But aren’t there more pressing concerns? For example, job creation?
Government statistics now concede that at least 50 million people are “surplus” in the employment sector. Most economists would consider this an underestimate.
Disgusted with the Modi government policies, the famous US-based economist Pranab Bardhan not only sharply criticised the official policies, but also the scattered opposition parties as “feckless”.
Very sharp, but not unfair criticism. After demonetisation, RBI governor Urjit Patel does not know how much demonetised notes have been deposited. He says he doesn’t have enough counting machines to count the demonetised notes with the RBI.
So, from November 8, 2016, onwards we do not know how much black money has come to the RBI coffers.
In other words, we do not know if demonetisation was the success it was touted to be by the prime minister.
There is little evidence that the Opposition took to direct action to know what happened to the country’s currency.
What is the Opposition doing?
Of course, there is opposition to the Opposition. But the civil society alliance #NotInMyName has done more popular criticism of the existing situation than the political parties.
While Uttar Pradesh has been in the midst of an attack on secular and democratic principles, the pain of the people living amid cow vigilantism has been compounded by the horrendous death of around 100 children in a Gorakhpur hospital.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath was quick to put the blame on “dirtiness“.
But the actual reason was “dirty handling” of the situation by the principal of the hospital who delayed payment for liquid oxygen supply that the children needed sorely.
BJP leaders found another excuse. They claimed that there were more deaths in that hospital in previous years. In other words, CM Adityanath was more successful in his “anti-dirtiness” policy than the previous administration.
But wasn’t all that dirt visible to the medical college principal, doctors, administrators, politicians? Or is it true that dirt does stick on politicians?
While the “home front” stinks, what about foreign policy?
The China imbroglio has exposed that. Since China has done saber-rattling in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and now in Doklam in sovereign Bhutan, why were our intelligence agencies not fully prepared?
Why didn’t the PM have a one-to-one discussion with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, China’s major ally? Why didn’t the Opposition raise that demand. Such issues could have been raised in the BRICS and the SCO meets, in which both China and Russia are members, apart from India.
These organisations allow bilateral negotiations. There are experienced politicians with foreign policy credentials in the secular parties, especially the Congress. Why didn’t the Congress and other secular parties push for such negotiations. It is clear that Xi Jinping is preparing for the next national congress of the Communist Party in 2018.
The Chinese Communist Party, on the lines of the Middle Kingdom hegemonism, is showing its muscle to warn smaller countries in South Asia and in the South China Seas, where its strategic interests lie.
China has not appreciated India’s refusal to join the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. It is angry over India’s ties with Vietnam in the South China Seas. It has not forgotten its major war defeat by Vietnam despite its large army.
The joint naval exercises by the Indian, Japanese and US navies in the Strait of Malacca has annoyed China. All this was well-known. What were the external affairs ministry and the PMO doing?
Rhetoric will not work. There is dire need to fine-tune foreign policy and introduce more vigorous and far-reaching diplomacy. This needs to not only continue, but also become more proactive. We have the resources. We now need a more vigorous, but subtle foreign policy.