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Alternative to Cong, BJP?

The Left parties convention last week received scant notice in the media but it has made certain eye opening observations. According to Left leaders, the post-2014 general election scenario looks extremely grim. Both the Congress and the BJP are likely to fall far short of a majority to cobble a coalition. According to their assessment, particularly of veteran CPI leader A B Bardhan, the Congress could not get more than 100-110 seats and the BJP not more than 140. The base of the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA has shrunk. Once the NDA had 24 parties at its
constituents; today there are only two parties supporting the BJP.

Assessment of both the Congress and the BJP is in sharp contrast to Left parties appraisal. The Congress may fall short of single-party majority, but it is certain of forming a coalition with allies. There may be powerful anti-incumbency factor and charges of corruption against the UPA government, but it has done commendable work also, as a result of which, the living standard of the middle classes and those below poverty line has gone up. The sons and daughters of an ordinary waiter, and those belonging to this economic stratum, are now chartered accountants and electronic engineers. Government has now brought in the food security ordinance, which gives two-thirds of the country’s population the right to 5 kg of food grains per person every month at Rs. 1.3 per kg. The Congress hopes to make this its key plank in the elections, although it will cost the government Rs. 1.25 lakhs crore per year.

Incidentally, the Left parties in its charter of demands has called that Food Security law should be passed without delay to ensure introduction of universal public distribution system with 35 kg of food grains at a maximum price of Rs 2 a kg per month for all families. The BJP leaders are on top of the world and feel that with Narendra Modi at the helm of poll campaign, the party may sweep the polls. They feel that what is termed as ‘Modi magic’ may work wonders. Even if the party is not able to get single party majority, it is certain to cobble up a stable coalition with Modi as the Prime Minister.
The Left leaders and the SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav are convinced that there is remote possibility of constituting a third front before May 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But there needs to be an alternative political platform, on the basis of   alternative policies, different and radical than that of the Congress and the BJP, which can be built.

As far as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is concerned, it has became clear to her that setting up a Third or federal front may not be that easy, with her rivals, the Left parties, holding a convention in Delhi and rolling out their own set of alternative policies and programmes, around which an alternative front can be erected or supported. And Mamata cannot be part of any coalition that has the Left at its core.

The convention spelled a setback for Mamata who tried to wrest the Left’s role of being the mainstay of non-Congress, non-BJP formation. She not only spoke of a federal front but also sent feelers to Nitish and Naveen. Both appreciated the proposal, as did some other leaders, including UP chief minister and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and Telugu Desam’s Chandrababu Naidu. But no one really committed himself to it.

The Left parties have set out an alternative policy platform in the economic, political and social spheres in a nine-point programme charter adopted at the convention. Bardhan told the convention it was true that the experience of the Left parties about the alternative front governments of both V P Singh and H D Deve Gowda were not encouraging. Even then the desirability of a non-Congress, non-BJP government platform at the Centre could not be minimised.‘If the country has to make progress, stop the increasing control of the corporate houses on our jungle, zamin and jal, root out all pervading corruption in public life that got rampant with the implementation of economic policies since 1991, increase employment opportunities, and bring a proper Food Security Bill. With a view to achieving these objectives and   arresting skyrocketing prices, a non-BJP, non-Congress alternative has to emerge’, Bardhan asserted. The document adopted at the convention stressed the need for a more federal system.

It felt the concentration of power and resources in the hands of the Centre should be reduced. The rights and powers of the states have to be enhanced and backward states should given a special status as far as devolution of resources are concerned. This requires the restructuring of Centre-State relations. The document said both the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA have been beset with contradictions and have shrunk in size. This has happened since both major parties stand for policies and programmes which are not in the interests of the people but represent narrow strata. What is required today is the rejection of the policies and the political platform of the Congress and the BJP.

According to the document ‘the country requires an alternative. Such an alternative can only emerge only on the basis of alternative policies. There has to be an alternative policy platform around which a political alternative can be built’. Alternative economic policies, defense of secularism and social justice, strengthening federalism and an independent foreign policy are all important features of the alternative policy platform.

The Left parties said the BJP represents a more regressive variant of the present regime. The BJP stands for communal Hindutva ideology, which is married to unalloyed free market capitalism. Narendra Modi, the leader projected by the BJP for the next Lok Sabha elections, symboliSes this reactionary mixture. The Gujarat model touted by Modi symboliSes this path – pogroms for Muslims and Bonanza for the corporate. This praise of Modi by big corporate houses cannot conceal the plight of the rural poor and the adivasis and the poor human development record in Gujarat.

The BJP, Left leaders said, which makes much of the corruption is itself tainted with the worst corruption scandals. Its government in Karnataka became an extension of the mining mafia, which looted thousands of crores by illegal mining. IPA
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