Increasingly, it is appearing that the people of India will have to extract happy days from the Narendra Modi-led BJP government. Otherwise, growing economic burdens will continue to break our backs and increasing social and communal tensions will deepen our insecurities. The pervasive duplicity employed by the NDA government is on full display.
Apart from everything else, this seeks to divert people’s attention from mounting popular pressure through widespread movements. Such instances of the NDA’s duplicity are growing exponentially. Consider a few:
First, the India-Pakistan relationship: The PM while returning from Moscow and Kabul made a surprise stop to dine with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The bonhomie is, perhaps, to suggest that normalcy has returned to India-Pakistan relations.
This is welcome, but only if it actually happens. Modi’s rhetoric apart, secretary-level talks were suspended by India in August when Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit invited the Hurriyat leaders for discussions prior to those talks. Later, the Indian government set a pre-condition that talks would only be held on the agenda of terrorism and nothing else.
However, the national security adviser-level talks were held in Bangkok in December where India agreed to discuss all issues including Kashmir. We were told that talks were held in a third country so that Pakistan cannot meet the Hurriyat there. The prime minister’s flip-flops on the India-Pakistan relationship are becoming more and more bewildering.
Surely, any effort to improve the relations between the two countries is welcome even if they are photo-ops for both prime ministers. For us, the duplicity lies in the fact that we cannot hear Ghulam Ali in Mumbai or watch the Pakistani cricket team play here. Improving relations must mean facilitating people-to-people exchanges between the two nations.
The recently-concluded winter session of Parliament began with the ‘re-affirmation of faith in our Constitution’. Such re-affirmations, particularly from this government, are always welcome. The duplicity lies in the fact those who are pledging such a reaffirmation are, in the first place, holding office precisely because they have affirmed their faith in this Constitution.
Further, the basic essence of our Constitution — equality irrespective of caste, creed or sex — guaranteed to all Indians is brazenly violated under this government’s patronage. Communal outrages are sharpening religious intolerance. There is duplicity here too. The essence of our constitutional Republic lies in the supremacy of sovereignty vested in ‘We, the people’.
This is based on the principle of universal adult suffrage where every Indian citizen above the age of 18 has the right to vote and contest elections. The BJP governments in Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are undermining this inviolable principle by depriving over two-thirds of the people from their right to contest elections. This is the second duplicity of the government.
The third kind of duplicity lies behind such re-affirmation of faith in the Constitution and undermining its essence of safeguarding India’s sovereignty. Modi’s hyperactive engagement with foreign countries has so far produced a decisive shift in India’s foreign policy, reducing India to a subordinate ally of the United States.
In addition to pursuing economic reforms that favours profit maximisation for foreign and domestic capital, this shift is catering to the interests of the developed world rather than to our people’s welfare. Such a pro-US trend was visible in the recent summits on climate change and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
At the climate change summit in Paris, India became signatory to a deeply flawed agreement, which negated the accepted principle of common but differentiated responsibility between the developing and developed countries as agreed under the governing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Consequently, this negated the equality between nations by not assigning the main responsibility of reducing carbon emissions to the developed countries for their past loot of the environment. Following the game plan of the US, the Paris agreement has ignored past emissions, around 75% of which are due to the US and other developed nations. This agreement focuses only on future emissions.
Now developing countries such as India, whose emissions are rising given our stage of development requiring high levels of energy to eliminate poverty and meet the basic needs of our people, are now the main culprits rather than the developed countries.
Likewise, the outcome of the 10th ministerial meeting of the WTO was a major setback for India. India went into the negotiations seeking to arrive at a solution on the issue of public stock holding programmes for food security that are absolutely vital for mitigating hunger.
India also went in for special safeguard mechanisms to impose tariff duties to protect the resource-poor and low-income Indian farmers from large-scale imports of highly subsidised agricultural and dairy products from the developed countries. On both these counts this BJP government miserably surrendered to US pressures bartering away India’s concerns.
Currently, the US and European Union heavily subsidise their farmers through direct cash benefits and transfers and not through pricing mechanism like the minimum support price guaranteed by the Indian government.
Our other subsidies (fuel, fertilisers, etc) are also on prices. The pressure is on developing countries like India to reduce if not eliminate all such price-related subsidies. However, the US continues to heavily subsidise its farmers (over $140 billion in 2014).
The Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which was shelved in 1996 at the behest of India, is now in danger of being reintroduced, opening up education, health and other services to be brought under the WTO for multinational plunder.
Such is the duplicity of this Modi-led government. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, there are people who take the name of Ram but do the work of Ravan.
(Sitaram Yechury is general secretary of the CPI(M). The views expressed are personal)