Editorial 1
Editorial 2
All the RSS’s men
Letters

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 
 
 
 
 

Animal farm

Dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the world because they failed to adopt to changed circumstances and failed the test of the survival of the fittest. The same fate met the communist parties all over Europe. In China, the communist party survives by wearing a free market hat. And in Russia, the communist party has sloughed off many of its orthodoxies. But change is anathema to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). It believes in preserving and upholding Leninism within its organization. The latest victims of its monolithic structure have been the three comrades, Mr Subhas Chakraborty, Mr Saifuddin Chowdhury and Mr Samir Putatunda, who showed dissent in the mildest form possible. They offered criticism of the way the party was run, especially about the absence of democracy within the party. The three leaders have been condemned for criticizing the party and also for articulating their dissent in public and in non-party forums. They were not even given a chance to speak in their own defence and to explain their behaviour. The old notion of “the party right or wrong” seems to still hold sway within the CPI(M). Hardliners may pride themselves on this attitude and display it as proof of their undying commitment to Leninism. Actually such attitudes only show their distance from reality. At a time when transparency is becoming the common practice in all political matters, the CPI(M) still takes shelter in such things as party secrets. It refuses to recognize that it is no longer a conspiratorial revolutionary party.

It is obvious that the CPI(M) maintains double standards on the public articulation of political grievances. In recent memory, there has not been a stronger criticism of the CPI(M)’s political line than Mr Jyoti Basu’s description of the decision not to enter the United Front government in 1996 as a “historic blunder”. This description appeared in an interview Mr Basu gave to a newspaper. There was nothing private about Mr Basu’s views on the matter and they were not expressed in a party forum. But there is no evidence that Mr Basu was reprimanded for speaking out of turn. There are also good reasons to aver that it would not have mattered to Mr Basu if the party had taken him to task. Mr Basu is thus more equal than other comrades since the latter are condemned for much lesser so called offences. This is a disgrace in a party which flaunts egalitarianism as one of its ideals but it is not surprising to anybody who has knowledge of how communist parties actually function. The histories of virtually all communist parties are long and are appalling accounts of how slogans of equality and liberty were used disguise privileges for leaders and the absence of freedom for common people and ordinary comrades.

In many ways, the CPI(M) continues to be the model Leninist party; even the original has been consigned to the dustheap of history. History has a strange way of taking revenge on those who refuse to learn from it. There are already indicators that Messrs Chakraborty, Chowdhury and Putatunda are not without support within the party. Today’s faultline may be tomorrow’s earthquake. The former Soviet Union paid the price of neglecting and suppressing decline. But these are not considerations that the present CPI(M) leadership take seriously. They are more concerned in preserving their Leninist purity. The CPI(M) is smug with power and power is the ultimate obstacle to change.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2 
 
 
 
 

Money plant

New brooms have a lot of good things said about them. Certainly, Mr Ashish Banerjee, the new vice-chancellor of the University of Calcutta, seems very determined to sweep clean. He has made a very sensible point, that students’ fees should be raised in order to help the university out of its financial mess. A very sensible point, but made a little too late. The situation in the University of Calcutta is not such that a hike in fees is going to make a noticeable difference. And since this is an educational institution, the rise in fees cannot possibly be too dramatic. Mr Banerjee has said the university might offer free education to those who are unable to pay while raising the fees of others. This is inevitable in a state with a large number of students from low income groups. All these problems could have been sorted out if educational institutions looked for private funding. It is the only enduring solution, although raising fees is something that should be done too.

Private funding has other virtues. Mr Banerjee has mentioned that he is bothered by reports that the ruling party in the state interferes in appointments in educational institutions. The vice-chancellor, being a professor of economics, surely knows that with private funding, political interference would automatically become a thing of the past. It is a little puzzling to find Mr Banerjee has only “read about” political interference in appointments and intends “to look into the matter”. The resolution, of course, is an excellent one. But such a comment implies that Mr Banerjee, even while becoming the vice-chancellor of the University of Calcutta, remained a stranger to the whole concept of political appointments to universities. This is truly laudable, although one does not know whom to laud, the vice-chancellor or the political party in power. However that may be, Mr Banerjee can do a deal of good now that he is in a position to do so. Thinking seriously about ways to solve the University of Calcutta’s financial problems would be a very important beginning.    


 
 
ALL THE RSS’S MEN 
 
 
BY RAKESH SINHA
 
 
During the British regime the Congress came to power for the first time in 1909 under the Morley Minto reforms. It was strange for the bureaucracy and police and unacceptable to the dominant English elites ( in India) to find Congressmen, who were perceived by them as prisoners and “goondas”, placed above them. Therefore they successfully conspired to remove the Congress from power.

Circumstances are not too dissimilar for the Bharatiya Janata Party as the ruling party in the Centre. The predominant Indian intelligentsia, a hybrid produce of the schools of Macaulay and Marx, detested the shift of the political centre of gravity in favour of yesterday’s “communalists” and “violators of court and Constitution” or, in other words, “counter-elites”. Their failure to inspire any formidable anti-BJP alliance, however, does not deter them from working vigorously to wreck the National Democratic Alliance boat by creating a minority-sensitive atmosphere in the country.

Anti-BJP hostility by the red brigade has the support of their comrades in the media who have been doing every possible thing to enliven off the track debates on controversial issues, particularly on the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The hoax of the “hidden agenda” is a kind of psychological warfare against the BJP’s allies. A pre-poll alliance under the BJP consisting of two dozen parties reflects more than electoral arithmetic. The present arrangement, unlike the 1967 experiment, is not only a political but also a social and ideological coalition.

It is social because it has polarized diverse social forces beyond traditional, ethnic and geographical limits under one working platform. It is ideological because it harmonizes ideologically opposed political formations, like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the BJP. If it is true that the BJP took one step backward by abandoning contentious issues, then it is also not wrong to say that its allies have moved two steps forward by consciously refusing to resort to the politics of minorityism.

The allies or the electorate were not in the dark regarding the person they were electing as the prime minister, home minister or the human resources development minister. They campaigned together and it would not be an exaggeration to say that they dared to risk their traditional vote bank of minorities. Thus the 1999 elections weakened the politics of minorityism.

The national agenda for governance inhibits the BJP from pursuing contentious issues but it does not preclude them from reiterating their commitment to their core ideology and programmes. It is not that Atal Behari Vajpayee’s commitment to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideology or L.K. Advani’s and Murli Manohar Joshi’s involvement in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement has been recently discovered. The BJP itself was formed on the basis of its members’ loyalties to the RSS, when the bogey of dual membership was raised by a section of the Janata Party, prompted and provoked by the red brigade, in the late Seventies.

The ideology does not melt away with power politics. While the universally applicable agenda of the NDA is a response to competitive power politics, the BJP’s own programmes reflect a quest for a new paradigm in national life. The BJP is not like other parties a power seeker, but is part of an ideological movement represented by the RSS whose ideology itself is inalienable from those of cultural nationalists, like Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghosh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, B.C. Pal, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and others.

The BJP president, Kushabhau Thakre, is only partially right when he says that the Ayodhya issue is not an ideology but merely a programme. It is of course a programme. But it is not bereft of cultural values and actually emanates from the ideological perception of events and history. Thus it is unchanged and irreversible. When the Somenath temple was built it was also an ideological programme, like the Ram temple. K.M. Munshi, Vallabhbhai Patel or Rajendra Prasad who were involved in the installation ceremony of the Somenath temple on May 11, 1950, could not be charged with anti-minorityism. Munshi wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru, “The collective sub-conscious of India today is happier with the scheme of reconstruction of Somenath.”

Thus Ram Prakash Gupta, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the millions of dreamers who desire a temple in Ayodhya. The BJP has been needlessly trying to establish a semi-secular identity for itself by hesitating to own up to its own ideological programmes. The safeguarding of the minorities and their identities should not be linked to the deeds of Mohammad Ghauri-Mohammad Ghazni and Babar.

The RSS stands not for hostility to minorities but for anti-minorityism. The media and the secularists debated the “hidden agenda” and blamed the BJP’s allies for compromising with allegedly communal forces. But they have blindfolded themselves with regard to poisonous promises made by the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Communist Party of India, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Nationalist Congress Party.

The 1999 election manifestoes of these parties exposed their intentions and anti-secular paradigm. A separate ministry for the minorities, religious reservations and communal (proportional) representation in the police and the armed forces have been promised by them all except the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Samajwadi Party pleaded for legal status to be given to Muslim panchayats. All of them forgot regional languages and recalled only Urdu as the language of Muslims. These are like the demands made by the Muslim League during the British regime.

Modern Indian history has witnessed two parallel streams in national life. The journey from the Khilafat movement (1921) to Shah Bano (1985) was an unfolding of an increasingly perverted secularism. This has been countered by a parallel ideological movement of cultural nationalists represented through Jay Somanatha ( K.M. Munshi’s novel written in 1937 after his visit to the site of the ruins of the ancient temple in 1922) to “Jay Shri Ram”(1989).

The thrust of coalitional politics is governance. This is the sole parameter by which its performance can be gauged. Just as an ideology cannot be a cover for inefficiency so governance also cannot ignore the relevance of ideology.

Thus both critics and sympathizers are wrong when they seem to believe that the BJP has outgrown the RSS and the latter is bound to play second fiddle to the former. Even during the colonial period the sangh was expected, though in vain, by the Hindu Mahasabha to become the junior partner. The British took almost two decades to realize that the sangh was not a part of the Mahasabha. The role of an RSS swayamsevak is delineated, by M.S. Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak, as, “a missionary with a national vision”. He goes on, “Intensely aware that he is to work out that great plan of organizing a nation torn asunder for the past thousand years...he resolves to prepare himself for the historic role. He learns to...direct his natural impulses...so as to become an effective instrument for the task of national reconstruction.”

The Hindu Mahasabha and later the Janata Party wished for the sangh’s merger with their youth wings respectively. Perhaps they were oblivious of its vision of the Hindu rashtra. In 1940, a senior RSS functionary had declared in an RSS rally in Pune, “The sangh is over and above all parties. We aim at demonstrating to the world that the sangh, founded on the strong basis of Hinduism, can unite all parties, and thus can face any odds.”

The RSS was unmoved by the Congress resolution in 1948 welcoming RSS men into the party fold and subsequently prohibiting them from joining the Congress. The Congress experienced intense quarrels on the issue. It was an ideological shadow of cultural nationalism which was fighting to survive in the face of the Nehruvian onslaught within the Congress. This dilemma led to the formation the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The dilemma of dual membership then led to the formation of the BJP. The sangh is prepared to face “odds” and resolve “dilemmas” if and when they arise.

The author teaches political science at Delhi University    


 
 
LETTERS 
 
 
 
 

Right match, wrong moment

Sir — It is ridiculous that East Bengal-Mohun Bagan soccer matches continue to attract the “genuine” football lovers in the city. Long gone are the days when ties between the two were veritable battlegrounds for two distinct cultures — be it a disagreement over the respective virtues of P.K.Banerjee and Chuni Goswami, or of ilish and chingri, invariably flowing into the immemorial (almost) argument between Ghotis and Bangaals. Such clashes have been so integral a part of a Bengali’s sustenance, that it is difficult for him to admit that matches between the two are not exciting anymore.Players today lack the killer instinct. Both teams have been performing miserably. Shameful defeats against Tollygunge Agragami have not made any difference to their attitude. It is a shame that Churchill Brothers, Tollygunge Agragami, Salgaocar and JCT are all placed ahead of them. Can’t all faithful lovers of Bengal soccer boycott all matches featuring the two archrivals till they give back what their supporters have given them?

Yours faithfully,
Harihar Banerjee, Calcutta

Reported against

Sir — Congress politicians have been making a great deal of the fact that there is very little representation in the Union cabinet of minority communities. The opposition had similarly raised a stink during the Pope’s visit to India and the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6. The Bharatiya Janata Party has retaliated by proposing to institute a fresh inquiry into the 1984 Sikh riots. These moves will only succeed in placing minority concerns at the centrestage of national attention at the cost of issues of greater concern.

With assembly elections imminent in Bihar, Orissa, and thereafter in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana and Assam, certain issues are simply being raised in order to embarrass the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. It is perceived that the Central government needs the support of regional parties from these states for a comfortable majority. Further minority communities have a substantial presence in these states.

The Congress does not seem to have learnt a lesson from its recent electoral debacle. By pandering to the sentiments of minorities it is only paving the way for a majority backlash. The BJP won’t have any trouble with an aggressive resurgence among the majority community, but it won’t be in the interests of a secular polity like India.

Yours faithfully,
Jitesh Sonee, Calcutta

Sir — The formation of an investigating committee under the chairmanship of A. K. Antony to go into the reasons for the Congress’s debacle in the 13th Lok Sabha elections was an exercise in futility. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence must know the reasons for the Congress’s worst ever poll performance. The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, is primarily responsible for her party’s humiliating defeat. Predictably the Antony committee report chose to evade the issue and blame Sonia Gandhi’s advisors for having misled their party president. It is really sad to watch a newcomer in politics lead the 114 year old party and fumble her way through her duties as the leader of the opposition in Parliament. Sonia Gandhi’s worst handicap is her videshi birth. Also,her reckless bringing down of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in April without an alternative government to fall back on did not endear her to voters.

Further, the Congress’s pre-poll alliance with two corrupt politicians, J. Jayalalitha and Laloo Prasad Yadav, also displeased many Congress sympathizers. Sonia Gandhi cut a sorry figure compared to the statesmanlike Vajpayee. The Congress chief has failed to curb factionalism within the party as evident by the recent fall of the Luizinho Sardinho’s government in Goa.

By shielding Sonia Gandhi, the Antony committee has chosen to preserve status quo at the cost of inner party democracy. Like the former prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and former Congress chief, Sitaram Kesri, Sonia Gandhi must be dislodged from the Congress presidency. The Antony committee must remember that while the Congress bagged 140 and 141 seats under the much maligned leadership of Rao and Kesri, it managed a paltry 114 this time.

Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Sir — Sonia Gandhi has been done in by the lack of sagacious electoral managers in the Congress. The A.K. Antony introspection committee has rightly indicted senior Congressmen who guided their president in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. Sonia Gandhi was on the right track as long as she refrained from the toppling game.

It was indeed very naive of her to declare that she could form an alternative after the A.B. Vajpayee government fell. How could she expect to manage to run a government with the slender majority of exactly one? Did she expect other parties to follow J. Jayalalitha’s lead? Sonia Gandhi blundered in forgetting that all the major allies of the BJP as well as some parties from the opposition were united in their anti-Congresssism. Sonia Gandhi should be careful about the company she keeps and rise above political self-interest if she is serious about restoring the Congress.

Yours faithfully,
B. Nirmalendu, Calcutta

Sir — Ever since Sonia Gandhi entered active politics, a hue and cry has been raised over the issue of her foreign birth. Statements by the Union law minister, Ram Jethmalani, that he intends an “urgent” amendment of the Constitution to prevent persons of foreign origin from holding high offices is one more instance of this. Jethmalani’s contention that it was not a “hidden agenda” which led him to call for a constitutional review does not seem convincing. Rather it is strange that a veteran constitutional lawyer like Jethmalani should let political considerations colour his legal acumen.

What is even stranger is that the media, supposed to be neutral at all times, often reveals a bias against her. Sonia Gandhi has declared again and again that she entered politics only so she could serve the people of India. There is no reason why anyone should question her avowal.

Yours faithfully,
K. Venkatasubramanian, Calcutta

Sir — The Congress mentality of servility to the Nehru-Gandhi clan destroys all self-respect and dignity. Fortunately for India, dynastic rule and its supporters are on the decline. However, in any democratic setup all thoughts and views get an equal and fair chance to both thrive and degenerate. For instance, the decline of the Congress has ensured the rise of regional outfits such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, not to forget the Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.

But the existence of seven national parties and 47 regional parties is indeed too much for the nation to handle. And the Congress certainly has the right to salvage its past image — but for the party to return to the helm of affairs, it needs introspection, uniformity in the implementation of its rules and regulations and the building up of a second front of acceptable leaders. If the Congress fails to take these steps immediately, it is bound to suffer further in the long run.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta
   
 

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