When hinterland speaks politics, why opposition is not listening?

June 13, 2017, 6:15 pm
When hinterland speaks politics, why opposition is
not listening?
SPOTLIGHT
SPOTLIGHT
When hinterland speaks politics, why opposition is
not listening?

When hinterland speaks politics, why opposition is not listening?

When reels of newsprints were rolled out on the third anniversary of Modi government by the mainstream press and the key opposition parties groping in the dark after the stunning BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh, something else has been happening in the remotest part of the country. It is happening now in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. It was not a spontaneous outburst of emotions or movement based on certain ideology. But, as the mainstream would understand later, it has been in the making for a very long time. So what is the Indian farmers through their agitation trying to say to the political class? Beyond tokenism of rushing to agitating spot and visiting the surveying agitation spots through a bike ride, are the mainstream opposition parties learning lessons?

If one look closely at the electoral politics after Modi’s ascendancy to power, the precarious condition of the opposition parties is very evident. Despite them making occasional diatribe against the BJP regime, nothing seems to be evolving for them. The Modi juggernaut is well on its course towards achieving their stated goals.

The confidence the opposition parties gained after Delhi and Bihar assembly elections took no time to deflate.

A series of Assembly elections saw opposition being decimated and the Modi government unabashedly pushing Hindutva agenda. Now, though it may be coincidental that at a time the government is unapologetically pursuing corporatism and majoritarianism, the farmers from the rural areas started aggressive strike demanding loan waiver, fair prices etc. And, when some farmers were brutally killed by the state, Rahul Gandhi reached the spot in a bid to capitalise the issue. The events that have been unfolding in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra would suggest this is going to be difficult.

The rural people, after having been used as pawns to serve the political interest of their masters, seem finally realised that they have to agitate by their own if they have to bring the authorities to their knees.

When RSS affiliated Bhartiya Kisan Manch clandestinely tried to strike a deal with the government, the way in which the farmers denounced it and proceeded with their strike shows that they have learnt some lessons from the politicians. The striking farmers have forced Maharashtra’s BJP government to waive farm loans.

Farmers are in a celebratory mood in Maharashtra at least for now. But what did the opposition learnt from this agitation, or from different struggles that are being waged by various sections of people across the country?

Are those who express solidarity willing to address the real issues that have been plaguing Indian farmers for long?

No opposition parties, barring left, has never thought of reversing the neo-liberal policies of the government even when various studies have proved that the policies steadfastly adopted by various governments have pushed the lives of Indian farmers from frying pan to the fire.

More than three lakh farmers have committed suicide since 1998. Data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau reveals that 2,25,000 farmers committed suicide in India between 2000 and 2013. During the same period, India’s foodgrain production rose from 211.32 million tonne in 2001-02 to 264.38 million tonne in 2013-14. The apparent contradiction of the farmers committing suicide alongside the rise in agricultural production speaks for itself.

Though agriculture accounts for nearly half of India’s workforce its share in the GDP is 17.4 percent. The income an average agriculture worker gets is about one sixth of other workers. In 2004, after the public expenditure in rural areas had shrunk and the farming crisis deepened, rural India voted against the NDA government. This, along with the critical support the Left had extended, forced Congress-led UPA government to increase spending in rural areas. But as later developments would show, they did this out of political exigencies and not out of any concrete understanding. Continuing with the policy of globalisation of agriculture pulled down the prices. This, along with the policy makers' insistence that the way to save peasantry is to generate growth in other sectors thus enabling them to absorb agricultural workers accentuated the crisis.

So all that added to the misery of farmers are the policies of neo-liberalism and globalisation. Farming crisis can’t understand as just the resultant of a bad monsoon. It is part of the rural distress which in turn is the by-product of the policies of the government based on the neoliberal logic.

Many social scientists have argued that even the green revolution which catapulted India as food self-sufficient country helped the state to by -pass measures like land reforms which would have changed the lives of small farmers for the better.

In her seminal work ‘How the Other Half Dies’, social scientist Susan George says: “It (Green Revolution) has also been viewed by the various American interest pushing it as an alternative to land reform and to the social change reform would require. Since land reform is the only other way to increase food production, these experts are willing to settle for the lesser of the two evils.”

The issue got aggravated after the government opted for neo-liberalism as its ideology. No mainstream parties that use the farmers strike as a political tool to attack Modi dispensation are not interested to go beyond the surface and to address the issue. This is ostensibly because their politics fail to transcend the limits of neo-liberalism.

This inability of the mainstream parties to decipher the political meaning of the protests that are sprouting in different parts of the country are not confined to the issues of agriculture alone.

Take the case of cattle slaughter issue.

The soft Hindutva element in almost all parties helped the hardcore communalists who are ruling the country to impose strict regulations on the dietary choices of the millions of citizens. Even before the Hindutva reared its head in full, many Congress governments had chosen to ban cow slaughter in several states which they ruled. The Congress and the self -styled socialists failed to understand how RSS has been using the cow as a political animal to attack Dalits and Muslims. Even now, the political parties opposition to the regulations imposed by Modi government loses steam because of the albatross of soft Hindutva around their ideological neck.

While opposition parties are disgruntled by the way the in which the Modi juggernaut is moving ahead, the limits of Indian democracy is that the majority of the opposition parties are unwilling to decipher the political and ideological meaning of the agitations that are being waged across the country. They are unable to look beyond two elements that are strangulating the people of this country, neo liberalism and Hindutva.

This inability of the mainstream parties to decipher the political meaning of the protests that are sprouting in different parts of the country are not confined to the issues of agriculture alone.

Take the case of cattle slaughter issue. The soft Hindutva element in almost all parties helped the hardcore communalists who are ruling the country to impose strict regulations on the dietary choices of the millions of citizens. Even before the Hindutva reared its head in full, many Congress governments had chosen to ban cow slaughter in several states which they ruled. The Congress and the self -styled socialists failed to understand how RSS has been using the cow as a political animal to attack Dalits and Muslims. Even now, the political parties opposition to the regulations imposed by Modi government loses steam because of the albatross of soft Hindutva around their ideological neck.

While opposition parties are disgruntled by the way the in which the Modi juggernaut is moving ahead, the limits of Indian democracy is that the majority of the opposition parties are unwilling to decipher the political and ideological meaning of the agitations that are being waged across the country. They are unable to look beyond two elements that are strangulating the people of this country, neoliberalism and Hindutva.