Highlights of the CPI (M) Manifesto for the 15th Lok Sabha Elections
The CPI (M) calls upon the Indian people to vote for strengthening the Left and Democratic forces and for an alternative secular Government at the Centre. Five years of the Congress-led government have been a major disappointment for the people and a let down of the mandate of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress party is committed to the policies of
liberalisation and privatisation, which today stand discredited in the backdrop of the global economic crisis. These policies have proved inimical to the interests of the workers, peasants, agricultural workers, artisans, small entrepreneurs, women, students and youth. A party which sees the future of India tied to the coattails of the United States does not deserve to run the government of our sovereign democratic republic.
The BJP represents the most reactionary force in the country. Its six-year rule from 1998 to 2004 was marked by the pursuit of pro-rich and communal policies. BJP’s ideology is inimical to the concept of a secular state. It wants to use the NDA as a cover for its Hindutva politics. Through these five years, all it did as the major opposition party was to raise various issues, including terrorism, from a communal standpoint.
It is necessary that both the Congress and the BJP are defeated by the people in the forthcoming elections. The country requires alternative policies: pro-people economic policies; ensuring equity and social justice; consistent secularism; genuine federalism; and an independent foreign policy. The CPI (M) appeals to all democratic and secular forces to support such alternative policies. For this, an alternative political platform is required. The CPI (M) will work for the creation of a non-Congress, non-BJP government that will strengthen democracy, ensure equitable economic development and social justice.
Record of the Congress led Government
Five years of the Congress-led UPA government have widened inequalities in society. The rich have become super-rich while the poor have been further impoverished. Callous Policies in Food and Agriculture:The agrarian crisis continues.
Suicides by farmers have not abated. The public distribution system has been further enfeebled. The BPL category excludes large sections of the poor. Allocations for the APL category have been drastically cut. Three crore tonnes of foodgrains lie in the godowns but the government refuses to undo the cut in the allocations to the states.
Failure to Check Price Rise: The people have suffered from continuous price rise of all essential commodities. Even though the government claims the rate of inflation has come down below 4 per cent, the prices of food items continue to rise at above 10 per cent. The inability to curb price rise has been one of the biggest failures of the Congress-led government.
Favouring Big Corporates: The Manmohan Singh government promoted policies favouring big corporates, both Indian and foreign. SEZs were designed to help these interests grab large tracts of land and they were given a bonanza of tax sops. The refusal to restore capital gains tax in the stock market and stop the massive tax evasion through the Mauritius route is meant to help Indian and foreign speculators to reap huge profits. The backdoor entry of FDI in retail trade is jeopardizing the livelihood of lakhs of small shopkeepers and traders.
Betrayal on Peoples’ Rights: The rights of workers and employees have been curtailed. The EPF rate of interest was reduced to 8.5%. The Government has promoted contractualisation and casualisation of labour. The UPA government went back on its commitment to implement one-third reservations for women in the legislatures and parliament, as promised
in the CMP. The UPA government also failed to implement the main recommendations of the Justice Sachar Committee, including the key suggestion, of working out a sub-plan for the Muslim minority.
Failure to Protect People from the Global Economic Crisis: During the last six months of the Congress-led government, the country has experienced the adverse impact of the global economic crisis in the form of massive job losses. The fiscal stimulus packages announced by the government have been grossly inadequate and mainly aimed at providing tax concessions to bail out big corporates. No measures have been undertaken so far to protect workers from lay-offs and retrenchment or to protect the peasantry from price crashes and import competition.
Danger of Communalism: The BJP-RSS combine and their many outfits have been fomenting communal violence and targetting the minorities. In these last five years attacks on Muslim minorities have taken place in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Kandhamal district in Orissa saw the worst violence against Christians, with churches and houses being burnt and large scale attacks on priests and nuns. In Karnataka, there were vicious attacks on Christians in Mangalore, Davanagare and other places after the BJP
assumed office. The 2004 verdict against the BJP should have been utilised to act firmly against all forms of communalism and their regressive activities. The Centre should have cracked down on organisations like the Bajrang Dal after the violence in Kandhamal and elsewhere in the country. But it did not do so.
The politics and practice of the BJP represents distilled communalism that can only weaken national unity. The BJP has come out against any efforts to ameliorate the conditions of the 150 million Muslims in the country as recommended in the Justice Sachar Report by branding it as “minority appeasement”. The BJP’s stand on terrorism is equally pernicious. It has no compunction in ascribing all terrorist activities to the Muslim community. It refuses to accept that terrorism has diverse
sources. It has sought to protect the accused in the Malegaon blasts case who are Hindutva extremists by branding the ATS investigation as prosecution of “Hindu religious figures”. The BJP’s double standards on terrorism stands fully exposed. The people of India cannot accept this regressive, backward-looking party based on an obscurantist ideology to run the Central government.
During the last five years, the country experienced a spate of terrorist attacks, starting with the October 2005 serial blasts in Delhi. The Central Government failed to tackle the problems of terrorism adequately. Terrorism has diverse origins in India. There is terrorist violence involving some extremist elements from the Muslim community. In the recent period terrorist attacks like in Malegaon and certain earlier blasts in Maharashtra were perpetrated by extremist Hindutva elements.
In the North-East, terrorist attacks by ULFA and the other ethnic chauvinist groups have taken place. The CPI (M) has consistently advocated firm steps to tackle the terrorist networks and elements irrespective of their source or origin. As for the terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistan, India should mobilise international opinion to mount pressure on the Pakistan government to crack down on the terrorist and extremist outfits there.
Strategic Alliance with the US: The biggest betrayal by the Manmohan Singh government was to forge a strategic alliance with the United States of America and to resile from the commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy. The Congress-led government signed a ten-year Defence Framework Agreement with the US for military collaboration. In place of the CMP, the agenda of the Indo-US CEO Forum, which recommended FDI in retail trade, insurance, banking, education,
etc., became the guiding light of the Manmohan Singh government. The Manmohan Singh government has pursued the US-Israel-India axis, an idea mooted by the BJP-led government. It has entered into deep security and military collaboration with Israel. Israel has become the biggest supplier of weapons to India.
Nuclear Deal:The Congress-led government signed the nuclear deal with the US with conditions no self-respecting government should accept. The Congress is propagating that the nuclear deal will result in electricity being provided to all villages and homes. This is a cruel joke when the cost of electricity from an imported nuclear plant will be Rs. 8 per unit – far out of the reach of the common people. The Left parties withdrew support from the UPA government on July 9, 2008 after the government decided to go ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal. The CPI (M) and the Left parties could not support a government, which was so intent on acting at the behest of the US agenda for India to the detriment of an independent foreign policy and strategic autonomy.
Violation of Federalism
The Congress-led government has been insensitive to the rights of states and failed to implement steps to devolve more powers and resources to them despite the CMP commitment. Neither was the debt of states substantially reduced nor was the share of the states in the divisible pool of taxes enhanced. The UPA government violated the CMP in framing the terms of reference for the 13th Finance Cmmission and the Commission on Centre-State relations.
The ruling alliance vitiated the parliamentary democratic system by large-scale use of money, bribery and intimidation to purchase and encourage defections from the opposition to win the vote of confidence in July 2008. The government displayed complete contempt for Parliament by extending the July 2008 special session till the end of December, and doing away with the winter session altogether. Misuse of public institutions and investigative agencies was also the norm under this government.
The UPA government has presided over a massive telecom scam. It first sold 2G licences to favoured companies. The companies then divested their shares at huge profits. In the process, the exchequer lost at least one lakh crore rupees. The government has refused to order a probe into this massive scam. The Satyam-Maytas scandal is another shocking example of how crony capitalism is leading to institutionalized corruption.
Role of the CPI (M) and the Left
The CPI (M) and the Left acted as sentinels of the people’s interests vis-à-vis the UPA government. At least two major legislations – the NREGA and the Tribal Forest Rights Act – would not have come about in the present form without the CPI (M)’s intervention. The Left parties made crucial interventions in improving the NREGA legislation, which have proved to be of great benefit to the people. It was the sustained intervention by the Left that led to the enactment of the Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. The role played by the CPI (M) and the Left in the past five years led to the protection of financial sector from the ravages of speculative finance capital. The Left protected the banking sector by not allowing the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Act, which would have facilitated the takeover of Indian private banks by foreign banks. The Left defended the insurance sector by preventing any legislation to increase FDI in the
insurance sector. Pensions of lakhs of government employees were protected by the Left’s decision to oppose the PFRDA Bill, which would have led to pension funds of government employees being privatized and put in the stock market. Thus, it was because of the CPI (M) and the Left that India could be saved from the worst impact of the global financial crisis.
The CPI (M) and the Left firmly defended the public sector and national sovereignty. The ‘navaratna’ PSUs was protected by the Left, which did not agree to the disinvestment of shares in BHEL. To protect the interests of lakhs of small shopkeepers and traders, and workers employed by them, the Left opposed the opening up of the retail trade to MNCs and prevented their full-fledged entry. To protect the farmers’ interests, the Left did not support the Seed Bill, which could not be passed in the Parliament. To protect the integrity of the educational sector, the Left stopped the passage of the Bill to allow foreign educational institutions and universities to be set up in India. To protect the interests of the working class, the Left prevented the introduction of anti-labour laws.
The CPI (M) Platform
The CPI (M)’s role in the past five years speaks for itself. It has intervened consistently in Parliament and elsewhere to defend the interests and the livelihoods of the people, protect national sovereignty, combat communalism, ensure social justice and fight against growing imperialist penetration. The CPI (M) sets out the alternative path for the country. This platform is based on the following components:
* Enacting a comprehensive law against communal violence; ensuring speedy justice and adequate compensation to the victims of communal violence like the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and for the implementation of the Justice Sri Krishna Commission report
* Reining in organisations and institutions involved in spreading communal hate and attacking minorities through appropriate legal measures
Alternative Economic Policies:
* Increasing annual Plan Expenditure amounting to 10% of India’s current GDP
* Halt further tax concessions to corporates; Launch a drive to unearth black money, especially those stashed in Swiss Banks and other off-shore tax havens
* Strong regulation of the financial sector, maintaining predominant state control over finance and revival of development finance
* Expanding MSP coverage to more crops, including oil seeds, other cash crops and traditional staples; Reviving commodity boards to set floor prices for commercial crops; Ensuring institutional credit to the agricultural sector at a maximum 4% rate of interest
* Reintroduction of the universal PDS and abandoning the targeted PDS based on flawed poverty estimates; Supplying 14 essential commodities including sugar, pulses and edible oils under the PDS
* Reduction of retail prices of petrol and diesel by cutting the customs and excise duties on oil
* Reversing the current thrust to dilute land-ceiling laws; Speedy and comprehensive steps for implementing land reforms
* Strengthening and expansion of the public sector in the core and strategic areas by injecting fresh capital and technology;
Complete halt to disinvestment and privatisation of profit-making and potentially viable PSUs
* Protection of domestic industry from indiscriminate lowering of import duties and takeover of existing Indian companies by
foreign companies; Encouragement to the private sector to invest in manufacturing and services sectors
* Prohibition of FDI in Retail Trade; Regulation of domestic corporate retailers through a licensing policy
* Reversing FDI guidelines to prevent backdoor entry of FDI; Foreign capital to be channelled in areas based on need to build productive capacities and acquire new technology
* Protecting Indian interests and that of the developing countries in the ongoing Doha Round of WTO; no further tariff cuts in
agriculture and industrial goods
Strengthening Democracy and Federalism
* Amending Articles 355 and 356 to prevent their misuse
* Governors to be appointed by the President from a list of three eminent persons suggested by the Chief Minister of a State
* Devolving 50% of the total pool of collection of Central taxes to the States; Raising States’ share of market borrowing to 50%
* A political solution to the Kashmir problem based on maximumautonomy for the State based on the full scope of Article 370 of the Constitution; autonomous set-up to be created with the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh being given regional
* The North East to be declared a priority region for development; Developing physical infrastructure and special employment
schemes for the youth; Border fencing to be completed expeditiously
* Revamping the intelligence machinery and enhanced coordination between security and intelligence agencies
* Modernisation of the Police forces; Strengthening of the coastal security system
Independent Foreign Policy
* An independent and non-aligned foreign policy, which defends India from imperialist pressures; Initiatives for South-South
cooperation and reviving the Non-Aligned Movement on a new basis
* Amending the Constitution to make legislative sanction mandatory for any international treaty
* Diplomatic and political efforts to protect the lives of Tamil people in the war zone in Sri Lanka; Working for an immediate
political settlement based on autonomy for the Tamil speaking areas within the framework of a united Sri Lanka
* Building close ties with West Asian countries; pursue Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline resisting US pressure
* Reviewing and reworking the 123 Agreement with the US for civil nuclear cooperation to remove the harmful clauses; Pursuing self-reliance in civilian nuclear energy based on domestic uranium and thorium reserves
* Abrogating the Defence Framework Agreement with the US and cessation of Indo-US joint military exercises
Peoples’ Rights and Social Justice
* Ensuring strictest implementation of all labour laws including the law on inter state migrant workers; discouraging
contractualisation and casualisation of work
* Improving the legislation on Unorganized Sector Workers and implement the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Labour in this regard; Special social security measures for migrant workers and plantation workers
* Ensuring equal remuneration for women workers in all areas of work; adopting social security measures for working women
including maternity benefits
* Safeguarding the right to organize, collective bargaining and the right to strike for all workers, including government
employees; Enacting legislation to annul the Supreme Court judgment prohibiting strikes
* Ensuring stable and remunerative crop prices; Protecting the peasantry from falling world prices by increasing import tariffs
* Ensuring comprehensive loan waiver for distressed peasants covering both institutional and private debt owed to money-lenders
* Enacting a separate and comprehensive legislation for agricultural workers to ensure minimum wages, the right to bargain collectively and measures of social security such as pensions, accident compensation etc. with central funding
Women and Children
* Enacting the Women’s Reservation Bill to ensure one-third reservation for women in the legislatures
* Enacting a comprehensive law against sexual violence including against children; Legally recognize joint rights in matrimonial property; Separate law against honour killings
* Undertaking as a National Mission the eradication of dowry and female foeticide
* Universalizing the ICDS to cover all children in the 0 to 6 years age group; stopping privatization of the ICDS
Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs
* Ensuring stringent action against untouchability and atrocities against Scheduled Castes
* Increasing allocations under the Special component Plan; Launching a comprehensive National Programme of Minor Irrigation for all un-irrigated lands of dalits and adivasis
* Extending reservation to dalit Christians and dalit Muslims
* Protecting land rights of adivasis and restoring land illegally alienated from them
* Implementing the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, in full;
Amending the Act to include traditional forest dwellers on a more reasonable definition
* Ensuring proper implementation of 27% OBC reservation in Central educational institutions; Extending OBC reservation to all private educational institutions
* Forming an Equal Opportunity Commission with adequate powers to redress discrimination against minorities
* Formulating a sub-plan for the Muslim minorities on the lines of the tribal sub-plan in order to implement Sachar Committee
recommendations; Special initiatives in the sphere of employment, education and health to be undertaken targeting districts where the Muslim population is concentrated
* Making public the Ranganath Mishra Commission report and ensure full public debate; As an immediate measure all OBC Muslims which form the vast majority of the Muslim community to be included in the OBC quota with specific State wise allocations
* The employment guarantee to be extended to cover all adults and for as many days as demanded; Employment guarantee to be extended to the urban areas through the enactment of legislation
* Public expenditure on education to be 6% of GDP
* Enacting the Right to Education Bill; Central Government to assume the major part of the financial commitment for its
* Enacting legislation to regulate fees, admissions and curricula in private educational institutions
* Public expenditure on health to be raised to 5% of GDP
* Strengthening and expanding the public health system to guarantee the delivery of all basic health services; Reversing
the trend of privatization of healthcare through PPPs
* Upgrading pensions of all categories of pensioners in consonance with the cost of living; one-rank one-pension for ex-servicemen
* Undertaking steps to control emission of greenhouse gases through energy efficient technologies and effective regulation;
Promoting solar and other non-conventional energy sources
* Checking pollution of rivers and other water bodies through effective regulation
* A National Water Policy to be formulated to enhance water availability for domestic use, irrigation and industry;
Provision of potable drinking water to all habitations to be accorded priority
Science and Technology
* Enhancing public funding of indigenous research in science and technology to promote self-reliance; Decentralization in funding for R&D; Fundamental research in the sciences to be accorded priority
* Promoting free software and other such new technologies, which are free from monopoly ownership through copyrights or patents; “knowledge commons” should be promoted across disciplines, like biotechnology and drug discovery
Media and Culture
* All national languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution to be equally encouraged and developed
* Promoting secular, progressive and democratic culture; attacks on cultural personalities and productions by the communal forces to be firmly dealt with
* Setting up of a Media Council which can act as an independent regulatory authority for the media
* Enacting the Lok Pal Bill to stop corruption at high places including the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and the
* A National Judicial Commission to be constituted as an independent Constitutional body comprising of representatives
from judiciary, executive, legislature and bar for appointment, transfer and dismissal of judges and to ensure judicial
* Members of the EC to be appointed by the President on the advice of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and Chief Justice of Supreme Court
* Proportional representation with partial list system
* Effective steps to prohibit persons with criminal background from contesting elections
* State funding in the form of material for recognized political parties