Saturday, June 14, 2014

This article was written (and published) for Lokavidya Prapancham, our Telugu fortnightly. It is being reproduced here for comments from other readers


The elections mark a victory for Narendra Modi. Even the other 280 BJP  candidates(MPs) who won can attribute their victory to Narendra Modi. Large sections of Lokavidyadhar Samaj, especially in UP and Bihar have voted for Narendra Modi, probably with the hope that his government  would address some of the many problems (of existence) that they face today. During the past six months other individuals, especially those of the Aam Aadmi Party, have also won elections. There is a striking similarity in what all these people and Modi have in common. They are ALL identified as non-corrupt and primarily 'committed' to non-corrupt governance. The Anna Hazare movement against corruption set the scene for the remarkable victory of candidates against whom there are no charges of corruption. The anti-corruption movement seems to have struck a chord in the rank and file of Lokavidyadhar Samaj and they voted accordingly.

In all states, apart from the southern states and West Bengal, the vote was, in the main, for non-corrupt governance being offered by Modi. In Punjab, the corrupt Akali Dal government, whose ally was BJP, performed miserably at the polls and the people elected AAP candidates who had a non-corrupt  record. In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress fared very well because like Modi ordinary people see Mamta Banerjee as non-corrupt. In Odissa too, BJD also has a  non-corrupt track record. In the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala people voted for relatively non-corrupt candidates/parties.

A relatively large section of 'Backward' castes, Muslims and Dalits in UP and Bihar, who form a sizable section of Lokavidyadhar Samaj, seem to have voted for BJP candidates in UP and Bihar this time. In contrast, in Hyderabad, the Muslims comprising largely of artisans, small traders/shopkeepers and those engaged in semi-skilled manual-labour in the modern sector, have voted  for a  party that speaks only about the  concerns of the Muslim community maybe because they had no alternative non-corrupt party/candidates to choose from. They did not get swayed by the Modi 'wave'.

The youth (first-time voters) have also largely voted for Narendra Modi. This section of society has received modern education and are socially and economically upward-mobile. They do not think in terms of Lokavidya- modern education has almost completely alienated them from Lokavidya. Choosing between candidates/parties on the basis of caste, creed, religion, region etc are not primary criteria for them. A modern developmental agenda, with a no-corruption tag, appeals to them. Their concerns do not necessarily cover the plight of Lokavidyadhar Samaj and most of them believe that modern technology, especially Information Technology, will provide  solutions to ALL problems faced by ordinary people. China is a leading example of this perception.

It is also to be noted that many respected socio-political activists who have led and participated in many pro-Samaj movements during the past decades have NOT been elected even in constituencies where they did grass-root level work. This clearly points to the fact that this form of representative democracy(involving a great 'distance' between people and representatives) is not being seen by the Samaj as a route to liberation. This points to the need for a more grass-root form of democracy (Gram Panchayat etc) involving local representatives only and may be supported by the Samaj.

The capitalist enterprise- centralised capitalist production and an expanding capitalist market- has nutured a huge all-pervading corrupt class of politicians and bureaucrats. The capitalists have been working their programmes and executing their plans by encouraging this corrupt class. The people of the Samaj have been bearing the brunt of the development agenda of the capitalists through widespread displacement, resulting in loss of livelihoods, denial of access to 'modern education' and alienation from Lokavidya. The 'face' of this destructive agenda, that the members of the Samaj see, are those of the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, especially  at village and panchayat level.
The Anna Hazare movement and the Aam Aadmi Party victory at Delhi that followed, have apparently gone a long way in raising the hopes of the Samaj for a new era of non-corrupt governance.  The recent election results clearly point towards this.

This however, does not imply that there will be any slowdown in capitalist market expansion or that there will be a moderation in exploitation of natural resources for the capitalist industry. There will consequently be no reduction in displacement of farmers and tribals from land and forests and fisherfolk from small water bodies and swamplands. In fact, in all probability there will be a more vigorous expansion of the capitalist enterprise and more misery for the Samaj.

The media, which is controlled by big business interests, has been vociferously (and successfully) campaigning for Modi. The entire election campaign focussed on 'development' and good governanace and the public were made to believe that both these would be delivered in full measure by the Modi government. Apart from the campaign by the 'secular' parties about communal agenda of BJP , the media did not touch upon the socio-economic plight of Lokavidydhar Samaj consequent to the development agenda of the UPA government. In fact, the thrust of the campaign was to highlight the fact that this very development agenda was derailed by the lack of good governance and extreme corruption!

It is therefore very likely that in the near future, the condition of the Samaj is going to become more bleak. The plan to rapidly 'urbanise' the population will lead to large-scale displacement and the growth of urban slums and social unrest. The plan to increase growth rate (which means push capitalist production to the extreme) will result in greater exploitation of natural resources and destruction of the natural environment. All sections of the Samaj will become more enslaved to the urbanised popoulation. Farmers will be forced to quit farming or adopt high cost 'modern cultivation methods( based on GM seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc). Artisans will be completely wiped out of the production map. Small shopkeepers will also be pushed out of business in greater and greater numbers (with the push for FDI in retail). Dalits and tribals will be 'liberated' into the new slavery and become co-consumers of the capitalist market.

The tasks ahead

The opening up of political  'space' for non-corrupt governance is where the LJA agenda can find a foothold.  The core demand of LJA i.e. that each working person, irrespective of his knowledge and skills, gets at least a minimum wage equivalent to what is paid to a  Government employee; can be put forth with full vigour as the basic demand of the Samaj. This will strengthen the emergence of a Lokavidya-based identity that would help transcend caste, regional, gender and religious identity that have hitherto greatly affected the unity of the Samaj. This would also bring into sharp focus the knowledge-divide and the great socio-economic divide that pervades our society.

LJA should spread deep and wide into the Lokavidyadhar heartlands pressing its basic demand. There should be a concerted campaign to make people aware of the denial of the fundamental right to 'live by Lokavidya'. All entitlements as per existing Acts, laws and regulations such as Panchayat control over local natural resources, free access to education and  health, equitable distribution of natural resources such as water, electricity, spectrum etc; should be simultaneously pressed for. Widespread mobilisation against unjust displacement should be planned whenever necessary. Local markets should be established and strengthened.

All aspects of its 'weaknesses' (division and conflict based on caste, creed, religion, region, language etc) will be exploited by the ruling classes to their advantage and NOT for the liberation of the Samaj. So, a  movement to create a sense of awareness of the current state of affairs of the Samaj and its emerging relationship with the ruling classes and their development agenda, needs to be widely carried out. This is possible ONLY if Lokavidyadhar Samaj can see a hope of reorgansing itself again on the basis of equality and its inherent strength i.e Lokavidya. The agenda of LJA  will be defined in terms of movements aimed at creating this awareness.


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