Preparations for the confidence vote in parliament are on. The outcome will not only determine the future of the nuclear deal but also the manner in which the political process will play out in the country. From reactions in the mainstream media, it is obvious that there is a great sense of relief! 'Good riddance' and 'Dump the Left'- that is how most of the editorials are headlined. Together with these, there are interpretations- on any upward movements of the Sensex- are sought to be shown as the cheer in the market over Left exit. Then there are hopes expressed- that all those hitherto thwarted moves in keeping with a neoliberal paradigm would now be implemented at express speed. Putting workers money in an otherwise extremely risky market or liberalizing the financial sector to further encouraging speculative activities will now be the order of the day. And of course, the political process- whether India will move towards a direction where communal forces will gain ground or India dictated by the U.S concerns will play a subordinate role- these are the big questions.
These are of course no new questions. Since the late 80's- this debate is on. With the collapse of the bipolar world and the domestic growth of the communal forces to the point of even occupying office in Delhi- till 2004- Indian economic and political processes where undeniably moving in a right wing direction. 2004 provided an interruption- or as those editorial writers may view- disruption.
2004 did not merely signal the ushering in of a secular government. The 2004 mandate was also essentially about the collective expressions of Indian people of their concerns for their very livelihood which stood threatened by the compact of neoliberal policy paradigm which was so tellingly- and of course perversely encapsulated in the 'shining India' slogan. The majority of the Indian people- 'suffering India'- 78% who survives on Rs.20 or less a day stood up in 2004 and forced the polity to take notice of them. The secular combination of UPA who assumed the government could not gloss over the essential nature of this mandate. The left which took a distinctly independent position- while extending outside support made it a point not to become part of the UPA coalition, leave alone joining the government. The engagement between the UPA and the Left resulted in the UPA adopting the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP), with broad endorsement from the Left. The fact that the numerical equation in the Lok Sabha made the minority UPA coalition depend on the Left- helped arrest the one and a half decade long shift towards the Right.
The withdrawal of support of the Left from the UPA government and the coming trust vote signals a rupture in this sequence of development. Obviously the Right is happy- because this is how they want to see the situation develop- globally and in India as well.
The seeds of this rupture were inherent in the debate which preceded the adoption of NCMP. It is the foreign policy section of the NCMP which involved the sharpest exchange. It was finally settled with the UPA adopting the provision that the government will pursue an independent foreign policy course and work towards creation of a multipolar world.
But the tone of discord was discernable quite early. In 2005 itself – even before the Bush – Manmohan Singh agreement on Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation was agreed upon, the military cooperation framework agreement with the US was signed. It was amply clear that the government was going far beyond the normal friendly relation with all countries including the US – what the NCMP had decided.
The nature of the deal required a US legislation which came in the form of Hyde Act. Contrary to the Prime Ministers claim, the Bush administration was very clear in their mind that for the empire- strategic goals were far more important than the gains that nuclear commerce or other trade in areas like defence contracts would generate.
This was clear from the manner in which, Secretary Condoleezza Rice argued the administration's case before the members of the Senate and Congressional committee which was drafting the Hyde Act. This the administration has not failed to repeat ad nauseum subsequently. Even recently responding to non –proliferationists in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - the administration has been successful in assuaging their apprehensions that India was walking away with major gains on nuclear and strategic autonomy without having signed the NPT. The Senate Committee was so thoroughly convinced that they went along imposing a voluntary gag on the information provided by the administration, lest it vindicates the Indian opposition to the deal spearheaded by the Left. Indian government's capitulation on IAEA vote on Iran and the cold shouldering on the Iran- Pakistan-India gas pipeline project had reassured that the provision of Hyde Act was indeed being put to practice in reality.
Meanwhile, the energy 'carrot' is the bait which is used to confuse the domestic public opinion. Enron and the Dabhol debacle has not been enough of a lesson! Nuclear energy based on imported fuel and technology and costing three times more than our indigenous coal-fired plants will flood all our villages with electricity! Such claims to truth are indeed stranger than fiction! Meanwhile the government is moving towards tying itself in knots by planning to sink billions of dollars in imported reactors and fissile material without any fallback correction measures as seen in the draft IAEA safeguard agreement. Nobody really seems to know what will, if at all, come out of the NSG waiver which will be conditioned by US stewardship where the government will have no role at all.
Those who rejoice the Left exit are happy with the prospect of a subordinate role for the country in a strategic partnership with US, who are excited in furthering their designs for a global hegemony. Meanwhile, prices of essential commodities continue to rise. Chidambaram is helpless. He is forced to admit in Jeddah that crude oil prices which is the single largest factor behind the upward inflationary spiral is at the mercy of International financial speculators and Bush's policy in Iraq and Iran. But given the ramifications of the nuclear deal the government cannot even tell the Indian people about all these. Communal forces meanwhile are elated. Opportunists as they are – they did not venture to oppose the policies of the government. And why should they? These policies and the resulting discontent of the people over issues like price rise have helped them gain power in over half a dozen states in Assembly elections since 2007.
In the name of 'national consensus' since the beginning of the nineties Left has been sought to be isolated to push the neo liberal policies forward with greater proximity with the empire- resulting in the growth of communal forces. Governments of VP Singh, Deve Gowda and I K Gujral have fallen by the wayside and- in that the BJP has not been a pariah. Even after voting down these Governments with the BJP, nobody called the Congress a communal force. And despite the earlier developments, the people ensured 2004-and a secular government was put in place. But now with the unilaterism of the Prime Minister on the nuclear dear in contravention of the CMP- this process has been disrupted. We are in for challenging days ahead. The struggle has to be three-pronged-against subordination to the empire, against the effects of such policies which result in economic distress of the people like inflation and against communal attempts to divide our people. But as history has shown -- Left-- articulating those concerns--- can never be isolated.