India has seen two very powerful general strikes in the past two years, revealing a sharp class polarisation in the country, and yet we have the disastrous result in the recent Indian elections for the Communist and left parties. This apparent contradiction has brought into sharp focus the role of the leaders of these parties and their total inability to offer a way out of the impasse they themselves have been responsible for creating.
In the 2014 elections for the Indian parliament (Lokh Sabha), held in April/May, the right-wing reactionary BJP party won a clear victory of 282 seats of the total 543 – ten more than would be needed for an absolute majority. Thus the party can rule alone without having to form a coalition. How was it possible for Naredna Modi, a man connected to the most violent, reactionary and chauvinist forces in India, to now comfortably take his seat as the political ruler of the world’s so-called “largest democracy”? We will attempt to answer this question from a Marxist perspective.
Of the registered electorate of 814million, 551.3million (a 67% turnout) went to the polling stations in the five phases between the 7th April and 16th May in what is regularly described in the media as the biggest exercise in bourgeois democracy in the world.
The BJP emerged as the largest party in the Lok Sabha, winning 31 percent of the vote compared to 24.6 percent in 2009. Due to the voting system, however, the BJP won a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha. This means that this is the first government in 30 years to come to power in India with a solid parliamentary majority.
At the same time the ruling Congress party, suffered a massive defeat going from 37.2 percent of the vote in 2009 to only 19.3 percent this year, receiving a mere 44 seats. This was a devastating defeat and the lowest vote for Congress in the post-independence history of the party.
For the left parties the defeat was even worse. The total combined vote-share of the CPI-M (Communist Party of India - Marxist), the CPI (Communist Party of India), the RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party) and the Forward Bloc fell sharply from about seven percent in the 2009 general elections to 4.5 percent in 2014. This means that the left after having gone down from 60 seats in 2004 to 24 in 2009, has now fallen even further to a mere 10 seats in the present Lok Sabha. The CPI-M's vote share declined from 5.33 per cent in 2009 to 3.2 per cent and the CPI's from 1.43 per cent to 0.8 per cent.
This disastrous result for these parties has left many on the left in utter despair, worrying that the rise of Narendra Modi and the BJP represents a turn to the right within society and the risk of fascist rule. As the saying goes however, “Do not weep. Do not wax indignant. Understand”. We must look soberly at the concrete forces which have led us along this path and from such an analysis seek out the solution to the present crisis gripping the Indian left.
While the results on the surface indicate a landslide victory, the realities behind Modi’s victory are more complex. In fact while the BJP now controls a majority of the Lok Sabha, we have to remember that it only actually received 31 percent of the votes cast. One has to maintain a sense of proportion when looking at Indian society as a whole. In fact out of 814.5 million eligible voters only 171 million – that is 21 percent – went out and actively voted for the BJP. As we explained above, the party managed to win a majority in parliament mainly due to the single-member district electoral system [first-past-the-post, as it is commonly known in Britain], the same system used in American, British, and Canadian legislative elections (Although in India 131 of the Lok Sabha seats are reserved for lower casts).
Having said that, it is clear that the BJP did increase its votes significantly from the 101 million in the previous 2009 elections. However, what allowed them to grab the majority was not its strength, but more importantly the crisis and weakness of the other parties which took the fractured nature of the vote in the country to new levels.
In fact, the two major parties, the BJP and Congress together won only about 51 percent of the votes polled. The remaining 49 percent of the vote was splintered into various smaller parties. Even with its National Democratic Alliance partners, the new government's vote share is only around 38.5 percent, the United Progressive Alliance (the alliance around Congress) share is 23 percent, this means that 38 percent voted for small and regional parties. In fact the third largest party in the Lok Sabha, the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), is itself mainly a regional party, which, however, won a sweeping victory in Tamil Nadu, but which has no presence in any other state).
This atomised nature of the vote reflects a general reaction towards all established parties throughout the country. It is on the basis of this crisis, and with the support of the Indian bourgeoisie, that the BJP has managed to rise above the other parties in the elections.
In Uttar Pradesh for instance, the most populous Indian state, the BJP went from 10 seats in 2009 to 73 out of the 80 seats in 2014, but only actually won 42.3 percent of the votes cast. Congress was of course thoroughly punished, going from 21 to 2 seats, but so were the two large regional parties, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, who have successively ruled the state since 1989. It was due to the general crisis of all these parties that the BJP in Uttar Pradesh secured 90 percent of the seats with only 42 percent of the vote. It even secured the seats reserved for lower casts – a significant achievement considering the Hindu fundamentalist and chauvinist nature of the BJP. All of this is a reflection of a general political crisis which is affecting all parties in India.
Poverty Amidst Plenty
The reasons behind the political crisis are to be found in the social situation of the country. Contrary to the claims of the bourgeois media, economic growth has not led to a general improvement in the lives of the Indian people. While a middle class has grown up in this environment and the ruling class have been able to reap super profits, for the vast majority of the Indian people this growth has been built on the back of even further exploitation.
Between 2001 and 2010 the average growth rate was between 8-9 percent. In the same period the population below the poverty line rose from 771 million to 836 million people.
In fact, there is a vast gulf between the haves and have-nots. Alongside high tech, advanced computing, the nuclear and space programmes and the most obscene wealth, there is the direst poverty. Official unemployment stands at 3.5 percent. However, this is a gross underestimation. In fact there is no scientific statistical data to support this figure. A more relevant figure, from the Indian ILO, showed that of working men (aged 15-59) only 21.2 percent had a regular salaried job in 2011 and 2012. In 2013 as the economy was slowing down, the situation would have been even bleaker.
The statistics speak for themselves: more than 70% of Indians are believed to live on less than Rs20 ($0.35) a day; 36% of women and 34% of men are undernourished along with 48% of all children under the age of 5; 80% of rural and 64% of urban households consume less that the caloric norm. This situation is only set to get worse as food inflation has persistently remained in double digits with consumer price inflation above 9% per year.
The situation in education and healthcare is no better. 29% of children drop out of school between Class 1 and Class 5 with 46% dropping out by Class 8. Due to the unleashing of market forces in healthcare, today 80% of outpatient care and 60% of inpatient care is provided by profit making companies charging extortionate prices to normal people for the most basic of care. It is estimated that due to high prices 8 crore (80 million) workers are pushed below the poverty line every year due to the debt they accrue if they're unlucky enough to need treatment.
In the past twenty years or so, working conditions and wages have suffered dramatically as the bosses went on the offensive. Under the pressure of globalised conditions, the bosses began squeezing more and more surplus value from the workers, via a series of methods, in particular with the elimination of long-standing jobs where many gains of the past had improved the condition of workers and their replacement with contract workers on much worse wages and on longer hours. This can be seen in the fact that labour productivity between 1999 and 2007 went up by 5% and between 2008 and 2011 by a further 7.6%, whereas real wages went down by 2% in the overall period. This has resulted in a polarisation of wealth with profits shooting up.
Meanwhile the prices of many basic goods have been going up much faster than the official Consumer Price Index of 9%. According to the Indian government’s Labour Bureau if one takes the Consumer Price Index for 2001 as equal to 100, the average price of selected goods for industrial workers has risen rapidly. Such goods as pulses, cooking oil, milk and so on have gone up by anything between 50% and 150%.
These are the conditions suffered by the vast majority of people in India and are the basis upon which India's recent growth has been based. Through this extreme exploitation and mistreatment of the masses, cheap commodities can be produced, minerals can be mined and exportation to other countries can serve to enrich a tiny minority at the top of society.
For the most disadvantaged, things are set to get even worse. Simply to keep up with the growing demand for work, one million jobs need to be created every month in order to satisfy the increased population. However, the situation is not set to improve as the slowdown of the economy in general is also slowing down investment rates.
All of these socio-economic conditions, with large layers of the masses subject to extreme conditions, will provide the kindling on the fire of the blaze which will become the future Indian Revolution, sparks of which we are already seeing today.
A slumbering giant stretching his muscles
The Indian proletariat has a long history of militant struggles and revolutionary movements against the rule of capital, as we saw during the revolutionary upheaval of 1946 triggered by the sailors’ revolt and later in the 1970s.
However, we see a peak in the mid-1970s in the period of intense class struggle, followed by a gradual decline through to the mid-2000s. Although there were 16 general strikes between 1991 and 2013 the movement generally receded. The number of strikes in 1978 was 2762, but this went down to around one thousand by 1992, and 210 in 2007, and this decline continued until the recent period.
It would also be true to say that given the strong Communist traditions of the Indian working class, the fall of the USSR together with the defeats of many movements in the preceding period, the confidence of the working class movement was shaken
This continuous decline in strikes and lockouts led some superficial analysts to conclude that industrial relations in India were “improving”. Opinion polls showed that a large percentage of workers sought “individual” solutions to their problem, rather than collective, trade union based solutions. In reality, below the surface, another process was taking place, with the worsening labour conditions preparing a revolt from below. Far from improving, industrial relations have never been as tense as they are today.
In fact in the recent period there has been a reawakening of class struggle. Strike figures have started to rise slowly and at the same time a different mood has started to develop on a national scale. Whereas in the past, the general strikes would involve some of the trade union federations – often just the Left affiliated unions – the general strikes of the past 10 years have often been called by all the major union federations. This reflected the pressure built up from below, which was forcing the unions into joint action.
The workforce of India is around 450 million and growing. The rural workers constitute around 60 per cent. Due to the revolutionary traditions of the trade union movement, the degree of unionisation is quite high.
Officially, the overall figure for trade union membership, including rural workers, now stands at 90 to 100 million members. The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), affiliated to the Congress party, is the biggest of the seven central trade unions, with a membership of 33.3 million. Following INTUC, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), close to the BJP has 17.1 million members, the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), affiliated to the Communist Party of India, has 14.2 million members, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), which was the former Socialist Party-affiliated union, but which is now unaffiliated, has 9.1 million members, and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), affiliated to the Communist Party of India - Marxist, has 5.7 million members.
Since 2012, these major trade union federations have called two major general strikes, drawing more than 100,000,000 workers out to protest for a national minimum wage, against inflation, against privatisation and other related issues. During the strikes banking, postal services and most of the public sector came to a halt. Mumbai, the commercial hub of India, experienced the largest strike in its recent history. This highlights the enormous potential of the working class.
Such has the pressure of the workers from below been, that most trade union leaders and federations had to heed the strike call to sustain a semblance of credibility amongst the workers who are seething with anger against their reformist and compromising policies. Even the trade union federation affiliated to the ruling Congress party, INTUC has had to join the strikes.
In a press release, in February of last year after the latest powerful two-day general strike, the unions stated that , “the unprecedented response to the call of strike throughout the country much beyond our expectations reflects truly the anger of the people against the persistent increase in the prices of diesel, gas, coal, electricity and other essential goods for the bare need of the common people.”
This is the real underlying mood of anger among the hundreds of millions of Indian workers. The huge participation in two general strikes in two years indicates far better than the election results the real relation of class forces across the country. This shows without a doubt the willingness of the Indian working class to fight for its own interests.
Some may find a contradiction between the overall decline in the number of strikes and the successful general strikes in 2012 and 2013. In reality this is perfectly logical, as the workers instinctively understand that the problems they are facing are so huge that small isolated struggles cannot achieve what they are demanding and that what is required is a generalised struggle of the whole working class. This, contrary to the view of the reformists in the labour movement, reveals a high level of consciousness. The problem is that it doesn’t find an echo in the leaders of the movement.
As is always the case, after a period of lull the workers have begun to gain back their confidence. The workers have begun to recover from the defeats of the past, as a young, new generation of workers, untainted with those defeats are beginning to organise and are starting to fight back. The mood has begun to change in the ranks of the working class. Throughout the country workers are waging fierce struggles against the bosses.
The struggle of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, in Manesar, Haryana is a prime example of this increasing militancy. The struggle first broke in the summer of 2011 when the workers embarked on a 33-day strike to demand that the state authorities accept the workers’ independent union. Initially management thought they could crush the movement quickly. After having forced the workers back to work with the signing of a humiliating deal, they went ahead and refused 1200 of the workers entry into the plant. However, what they had not counted on was the powerful reaction of the workers who occupied the factory and who were joined by thousands of other workers from the region.
Again, after agreeing to recognise the union to end the sit in occupation, management backtracked within weeks with lockouts and the firing of union leaders and trade union militants. At the same time thugs and goondas were hired to attack the workers. Throughout all of this there was an open conspiracy between the company and local state authorities – who arrested hundreds of strikers – and the media which constantly slandered working people. No expense was spared to defeat the workers, but to no avail. At the same time the major trade union federations refused to back and spread the struggle, calling instead for “talks” and conciliation with the bosses.
In spite of this, the workers fought on valiantly, spreading the struggle, at one point encompassing over 20 of the neighbouring factories. There were mass demonstrations, hunger strikes and street fights with the police. Starting from a struggle for the recognition of the workers’ union, the movement developed into a political mass movement against the bosses, the media and the bourgeois state.
For years Maruti Suzuki – the biggest passenger car producer in India – has been making super-profits through the brutal exploitation of the workers. Over the past decade three quarters of the workforce has been casualised. Besides extreme job insecurity, this also meant a 50 percent reduction in wages. As a result the permanent staffs have also seen their wages cut by 25 percent. At the same time the tempo on the shop floor has been constantly raised. These conditions, which have become the norm throughout India, were left unchallenged by the major unions whose leaders were more interested in keeping friendly relations with management.
The lack of resistance has buoyed up the bosses with arrogance and thinking that they can get away with anything. However, the apparent acceptance of the barbaric working conditions has a limit. Sooner or later the anger has to find an outlet. This is the mood which has been developing throughout the country and which has raised the pressure to new levels within the trade union movement.
The so-called Communist and trade union leaders constantly complain about the low level of consciousness of the workers and their lack of will to struggle. However, in reality it is they who refuse to give a lead. The general strikes and the numerous individual strikes such as the Maruti Suzuki struggle are clear examples of the real mood amongst the working class which is more than willing to struggle.
However, it is also true that these strikes have not been part of any plan for a prolonged struggle. In fact, for the leaders, the main role of these strikes has been to let out some steam in order to hold back the working class while at the same time conspiring with the bourgeoisie behind the backs of the workers. The lack of any significant results has had a dampening effect on the mood of large layers of the workers who are not offered any perspective by the present leadership of the workers’ movement.
This explains also why the latest strike figures seem to indicate that in the last part of 2013 and the early part of 2014 there has been a decline in the number of overall strikes. This, again, cannot be interpreted as a lack of preparedness to struggle on the part of the workers. It reflects something else.
The fact that powerful general strikes have not achieved what the workers wanted is because the bosses have adopted an intransigent stance due to the fact that Indian capitalism cannot grant even the smallest of concessions to the workers and poor. In fact it is forced to constantly attack the rights of the workers, even those inscribed in their constitution.
Faced with this onslaught, the workers are perfectly aware of the fact that small, isolated strikes have a limited impact, and that what is required is a generalised, united struggle. This explains the successes of the general strikes. However, even the general strikes prove to be inconclusive, and that is because the leaders of the unions have no plan or perspective of how to escalate further the struggle, of how to increase the level of struggle and force the bosses to back off and grant the workers what they are fighting for. The reason for this is that these leaders have no understanding of the fact that in order to achieve the just demands of the workers, what is required is to remove the whole system. They are not prepared to lead such a struggle, and they merely look to the past when capitalism could grant reforms. But this is not possible, and it is what explains the present impasse.
Thus, over the coming period the workers will be facing a constant onslaught on all the gains they achieved in the past and will therefore be increasingly forced to struggle to defend their living standards. In this process, very often, the workers will have to struggle against their own leaders to get them to mobilise and lead. At a later stage this will lead to radicalisation in the ranks of the union, which will be the basis for a struggle to push the unions in a militant direction, and eventually this will, in one way or another, impact also on the parties the unions are affiliated to, especially the left parties. Marxists must prepare to intervene in this process and provide a clear perspective on what is to be done and a programme that can solve the problems faced by the workers.
Poverty, land grabbing and peasant revolt
Very often, the reformist leadership of the labour organisations try to cover their own weakness, and lack of willingness to lead the working class in a struggle to transform society, by referring to the “backward rural areas”, and as India still has a very large rural, peasant population, this argument on the surface seems to have some force. The truth, however, is very different. As a mirror to the movement within the cities and industrial centres we have the simmering discontent which continues to bubble away in the countryside, threatening at times to heat up to a full rolling boil, spilling over and sweeping throughout the whole of the country.
Between 1996 and 2012, 290,000 Indian farmers committed suicides. From December 2009 to 2013, prices of rice, wheat and groundnut oil increased between 50 to 100 per cent; prices of potatoes have doubled and even quadrupled during this period; onion prices have on average doubled from already high levels. Diesel prices have almost tripled, from Rs. 20 in January 2004 to Rs. 55 in December 2013 (Delhi prices).
The peasantry is being pushed into abject poverty and indebtedness. In 1998, the World Bank's structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta. Overnight the agricultural economy of India changed. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds, which need fertilizers and pesticides. The patented seeds are also engineered with non-renewable traits. As a result, poor peasants have to buy new seeds for every planting season and what was traditionally a free resource, available by putting aside a small portion of the crop has become a major economic burden. This has plunged many peasant farmers into massive debt.
At the same time the phenomenon of land grabbing is rising to new levels. Leaning on the Land Acquisition Act which was initially introduced by the British colonial rulers in 1894, the central and regional governments have been expropriating hundreds of thousands of acres of land from the peasants and handing them over to multinational companies. This has affected tens of millions of peasants who have lost everything. Many have not even received the humiliating compensation which they are entitled to according to the law. This, in effect, signifies the reversal of the limited land reforms which were introduced in the 1950’s and the 1960’s.
In Jharkhand 42 such agreements have recently been signed between the state government and companies such as Tata, Mittal, Jindal and others allowing them to forcibly take land for the mining of steel, iron and other raw materials. In 2009 the state of Chhattisgarh, grabbed 5,000 acres of land – in what was called the “Biggest land grab after Columbus” – and handed it over to Tata Steel. Both the above states are governed by the BJP – the party led by Modi.
The Naxalite movement
Over the past 15 years this has led to a very tense situation. With the intensification of the class struggle in the countryside, many states have seen the emergence of civil-war-like situations in the countryside and more remote areas over which the state has often lost control. This has meant the resurgence of the national question in many areas and for a period, the growth of the Maoist Naxalite movement.
At least 20,000 people are estimated to have taken up arms and joined the Maoists in their war against the government. The movement is believed to have a further 50,000 people who are involved in supporting the Maoists in one way or another. Further to this these movements have the passive support of vast layers of the Adivasi forest dwellers population and some layers of the peasants in the areas that they operate in.
In 2009 as the Chhattisgarh government was preparing for the above mentioned land grab, a small group of Maoists walked up to the weekly market in Lohandiguda village, and at close range shot dead Vimal Meshram, 42, an influential tribal leader and a supporter of the Tata project. Then, in full public view, they walked away. This reveals the sympathy of the rural population with the insurgents and their hatred towards the actions of big business in the countryside.
In response to the Maoists operating in the state, the reactionary Salwa Judum militia was setup by a senior Congress party leader Mahendra Karma in 2005. Karma, who was a former tribal leader, along with many business people had been trying to set up a militia to fight the Naxalites for many years. However, it was only in 2005 when the state had signed several major mining contracts with big corporations, that it threw its weight behind the idea and offered the active support of the police and the army. Tens of thousands of paramilitaries were dispatched ravaging through hundreds of villages, burning and evacuating at least 644 and forcing 300,000 people to flee their homes. The land cleared by the militia was given over to corporations in retribution against the agricultural workers for supporting the insurgency, even if only in a passive manner.
During the offensives, thousands of people were murdered and more than a thousand cases of rape have been reported to date. However, none of the perpetrators have been charged. In fact, despite the Supreme Court of India having illegalised the militia, it still operates under the protection of the BJP government of Chhattisgarh. This exposes the true nature of the BJP which is a party in defence of big business. However, these events also highlight the level of degeneration of Congress which is equally corrupt.
This and many similar developments have pushed hundreds of thousands Adivasis and peasants into the arms of the Maoists. At its height, the insurgency encompassed areas which spanned up to half of the country in the most remote and rural areas where the state is weaker. This meant that a varying degree of conflict took place in 20 out of 28 states.
The civil war in much of the countryside has cost more than 10,000 lives since 1980. The violent oppression by reactionary forces further radicalises the Naxalites. In Chattisgarh in 2010, 76 paramilitary troops were killed in just one attack. In 2013 the entire state leadership of the Congress Party was wiped out as 28 high party state officials were killed in an ambush.
However, in spite of the mounting body count, the Naxalite guerrillas are increasingly weak and their influence has been reduced significantly to their traditional areas. In fact some layers of the population have been pushed into supporting the state which has intensified its crackdown.
The relentless offensive by the state, coupled with the weak reformist outlook of the guerrilla leadership has gradually demoralised large layers who initially saw an alternative in the (on the surface) radical approach of the Maoists. At the same time, because they are not willing to break with the capitalist system, the regime has been able to undercut the movement through repression coupled with reforms in the shape of investments in infrastructure and utilities such as electricity – reforms which the capitalists are also benefitting from of course.
In a recent statement the Central Committee of CPI (Maoist) admitted this, stating that “the condition of our countrywide movement is critical.” Assessing the situation around the country the Central Committee states:
“In the areas where revolutionary movement is ongoing (particularly in 82 districts) every year the central and state governments are pouring thousands and lakhs of crores of rupees and carrying on reforms. As a result, a divide started in the people’s camp and a small section is turning into the social base of the exploiting ruling classes.”
Listing a whole number of areas and weaknesses the military defeats along with “...decrease in mass base and recruitment; increase in the number of persons leaving the movement…” shows that the movement is reaching its limits. The Naxalite movement however, in spite of its deficiencies, are a reflection of the desperate situation in the country side.
CPI-M leaders exposed in West Bengal
The plight of the peasants is clearly connected with the capitalist profit hunt of big business. The only way to defeat the bourgeois and the reactionary militias is in an alliance with the working class. However, the trade union and Communist leaders are blocking this movement from being connected with the movement of the workers and poor in the cities.
In fact in several states, such as West Bengal, the Communists parties actually led the land grabbing and the attacks against the peasants themselves, when they governed the state between 1977 and 2011 when they finally lost to the All India Trinamool Congress and Indian National Congress.
In 2007 the village of Nandigram in West Bengal 100 peasants, who were protesting against the governments land-grabbing operations, were murdered by a 3000-strong force of police and “Communist cadres”. In West Bengal and Kerala the Communist leaders in government oversaw the expropriation of tens of thousands of peasants over the past period.
One of the most sinister and ironical land expropriations of the peasants was carried out for the Salem Group, which is owned by the heir and son in law of the former Indonesian dictator General Suharto who massacred between 1-1.5 million Communists and their families in September 1965.
The Communist leaders even tried to theoretically justify their position. They claimed that since agriculture was not profitable, developing new industries would create new jobs. By getting the compensation for land – which many peasants did not get – peasants would be able to save up and profit from the interests which the banks would pay. Secondly, they argued that investments by multinationals in the area would mean more jobs and higher productivity which would further... pave the ground for socialism! Needless to say, these ideas have nothing to do with Communism, Marxism or Socialism, and the peasants on the receiving end of such “progressive” measures turned away from the Left in the elections.
Marxists understand that the tactics adopted by the Maoists cannot offer a way out to the peasant and working class masses of India. What is required is a revolutionary movement of the urban working class in alliance with the peasants. The peasants alone cannot win their demands. However, the real responsibility for such a development is to be put on the shoulders of the leaders of the Communist Parties. These “leaders” who are supposed to organise the workers and lead the people against the bourgeois are in many cases themselves either bourgeois or firmly within the camp of the bourgeoisie. So for many radicalised peasants or agricultural workers, the method of “people’s war” seems like the only alternative.
Only on the basis of a socialist transformation of society and the conquest of power by the working class can the national question be solved and the living standards of all be raised. This can only be achieved through an alliance between the working class and the peasantry. Thus it is the task of the guerrillas, the peasants and the poor to link up their struggle with that of the working class.
Faced with all of this the Congress party has been paralysed and impotent. Either it has not been able to intervene or it has been an active participant on the side of reaction. The inability of the ruling class to solve the problems of the working class has been a major source of crisis and instability for the government. Whole swathes of the country have effectively been out of the control of the state for a long period now with no improvement on the horizon. This has only added to the crisis of Indian Capitalism.
Corruption under Congress
The policies enacted by Congress over the last ten years, and the manner in which they pandered to crony capitalism, only added fuel to the fire of anger and discontent building up at the bottom of society, as corruption scandals followed one after another. It is on the poverty and desolation and increased exploitation of the masses, that super profits have been made by the rich. Never has there been a better time to be a capitalist in India!
Congress has presided over a period which has seen the greatest concentration and polarisation of wealth in Indian history. Between 2003 and 2012 there has been an increase in the number of Indian Billionaires (in dollar terms) from 13 to 122. This has been fuelled by the privatization of Rs 910,000,000,000 worth of shares in public sector units between 2009 and 2013 alone, as well as Rs 21,000,000,000,000 of central government tax revenues given away as tax write-offs and tax breaks to the wealthiest within our society. At the same time the share of wages has gone from 30.36 per cent of GDP in 1981, in the organised industrial sector, down to 10.6 per cent in 2007-8, and this process has only progressed further as the crisis has started to be felt deeper and deeper in the bedrock of the economy.
Manmohan Singh – the outgoing Prime Minister – and Congress have been under no illusions as to who pays their bills and they’ve made no bones about scratching the backs of their big business partners in India and around the world. Not only did the last government carry out massive privatisations of public resources and enterprises, but it was also involved in a number of corruption scandals which engulfed every facet of their administration.
The last decade of Congress rule set an unprecedented record for levels of corruption with one mega-scam after another. The 2G spectrum scam alone is estimated to have channelled around $30billion out of the state coffers. The scam which involved auctioning off state mobile network licenses far below market prices, directly involved then minister of telecommunications and IT, A. Raja, and even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself.
The “Coal allocation scam” involving the illegal allocation of coal mining concessions was even worse. Although the full scope of the scam will never be clear, the scandal could involve hundreds of billions of dollars siphoned off in different ways. The scandal involved all the top officials of government, including the Prime Minister who was proven to have looked the other way while the scam was taking place.
It is estimated that, under Congress Rule, of the $95billion of public spending on subsidies for food and fuel, healthcare, education and work programmes, approximately half of this was lost due to inefficiencies as well as what is cryptically referred to as “leakages”. In reality these leakages are the kickbacks and hand outs taken by government officials and their cronies in local businesses. It has recently been estimated that as much as 50 per cent of GDP of the country could be in the “black economy”, in the informal sector or even simply in outright corruption.
The list of corruption scandals is endless. Furthermore, the Congress government took the level of corruption to new heights, even for Indian standards. While the vast majority of the population has been pushed into abject poverty the rulers are engaged in the most disgusting looting frenzy. While 680 million Indians lack the means to meet their essential needs, the parasitic ruling clique is stealing and scamming trillions of dollars.
If one looks at all this together with the day to day graft, which takes place at all levels of the state and local government, is it then any wonder that the prospect of another five years of Congress rule was met by working people as being far from an appetising perspective? People are sick and tired of this state of affairs.
For many Indians, Congress was seen as the standard bearer of the Indian struggle for independence. Thus, in a situation of falling living standards it was particularly repulsive and enraging for people to see the leaders of that same party enriching themselves and gorging on the fat of the wealth created by the toiling masses. This has become a hallmark of Congress rule and is what drove the anti-congress mood which led to its disastrous election results. These are the reasons Congress suffered their worst elections results in the history of Independent India.
[To be continued…]