Sunday, June 21, 2009

Time to say: BJP-CPM Bhai-bhai

It’s incredible but true. In their hour of defeat sworn enemies BJP and CPM act like identical twins. Both make much noise about introspection and analysis. Yet both refuse to face the facts that stare them in the face. They play with self-serving justifications which fool no one but themselves.

The overwhelming difference between this election and every previous election is the change in the character of the electorate. Times have changed and people have changed for a variety of reasons – economic liberalisation, the emergence of an affluent middle class, the spread of internet and the civilisational shifts in attitudes it has brought about, the rise of youth power, popular disgust with political corruption, a growing tendency to hold rulers accountable. Yes, the India of 2009 is very different from the India of even 2004, not to mention the India of Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and A.B. Vajpayee.

But the BJP and the CPM either didn’t see the change or, more likely, did not have the leadership to know what to do about it. The first thing the BJP should have realised was that strident communal posturing would not sit well with the temper of the changed times. Using religion for political ends does nothing to help a country compete in this competitive world or to raise the quality of life which is what the vast majority of even god-fearing people want.

If the BJP leadership had grasped this truth, they would have instantly taken action against that badly brought-up brat, Varun Gandhi, for speaking in the fundamentalist idiom of the Taliban. In retrospect, that speech should be seen as the single most ruinous blow the BJP suffered during the election run-up. Consider also that wherever Narendra Modi campaigned, the BJP did not do well. It is clear that India is moving forward and the BJP is standing still.

The CPM is actually moving backward. A party whose leaders and cadres were known for simple living today accepts luxury as a norm at the top. From P.C.Joshi to Harkishensingh Surjeet, not one Communist leader was considered corrupt. Today the supreme leader of the party in Kerala is an accused in a major corruption case the CBI is pursuing. In West Bengal anti-communist politicians have succeeded in turning the state into a war zone. For the first time in three decades the CPM-led Government is unsure of its survival.

Much of this could have been averted if the CPM’s central leadership were capable of feeling the pulse of the people. When the highhandedness of the party boss in Kerala alienated party cadres, coalition partners and large sections of the general pubic, the Karat-Yechury leadership did not intervene with corrective measures. In fact it sided with the errant state leader leading to suspicious about its own bonafides.

In Bengal the Singur agitation going out of control was clear indication that popular goodwill for the party was slipping. But the Politburo was unwilling and/or unable to check strong-arm tactics by the state leadership which alienated its own traditional supporters. It is reasonable to conclude that the Communist movement in India has never had a weaker leadership than today.
Perhaps it is not such a bad thing that two parties with extremist ideologies are in a fading phase. But it will indeed be a bad thing if that leaves India at the mercy of a dynastic party. The least our country deserves is a rightist party, a leftist party and a centrist party in perennial competition. The collapsing dreams of today should lead to such a triangular model tomorrow.