Mumbai: Opposition Leaders Come Together for “Save the Constitution” Rally
Forming an anti-hindutva front cannot be just another electoral alternative
January 30, 2018
On 26 January 2018, India’s 69th Republic Day, Sharad Pawar, president of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), along with senior leaders of the left, led a march against the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led regime at the Centre. Opposition party leaders like D Raja (CPI), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Omar Abdullah, leader of opposition in the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislative Assembly, and the Patidar leader, Hardhik Patel, also participated in the march. They extended their solidarity to the struggle against the fascist BJP government, which, backed by the right-wing Rashtriya Swayansevak Sangh (RSS), has increasingly come to be seen as a threat to the Constitution and the democratic ethos of equality, liberty, and fraternity. United under the banner, “Save the Constitution”, the assembled leaders, from diverse factions and political parties, stressed the importance of forming an alliance before the 2019 General Elections. They also asserted that the alliance was an ideological and philosophical alliance, and not just a mere electoral tactic.
About 3000-5000 protestors assembled at the Ambedkar statue behind Oval Maidan on friday afternoon and marched to the Shivaji statue at the Gateway of India. The march saw the upper middle class and caste groups marching together with the structurally deprived and marginalised people from minority communities, all of them claiming and reclaiming the freedom to dissent. There was a collective feeling of disenchantment and scepticism with the BJP’s promise of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas,” which BJP had made prior to the 2014 General Elections. The preceding months have seen a spate of attacks against minority communities and Dalits across the country, perpetuated by fringe elements that have received the state’s tacit support and enjoy complete impunity. Feroze Mithiborwala, a pro-Palestinian activist who also participated in the march, pointed out that “…Modi has not said a single word against the Karni Sena’s attack on the school bus.” He also commented on the BJP’s election strategy, “The only agenda that the BJP has is to create communal polarisation… to target the Muslims and Dalits and consolidate the upper caste-Hindu vote.”
In the recent past, the country has seen a sustained attack on historically deprived communities. From Una to Afzarul, from the institutional murder of Rohith to the exclusionary UGC, there have been multiple instances of aggressive attacks, most of them perpetuated by Sanghi forces. There is growing discontent amongst the people of the country as the Central Government has failed to provide employment and economic stability. To make matters worse, there is the ridiculous but alarming development of the violence unleashed by the “gau rakshaks.” The RSS-backed Central Government has made concerted efforts to regulate media; often using it to disseminate propagandist material while also unleashing violence against individuals expressing any criticism of the government in power, equating it to sedition. “The situation is very scary across the country”, D Raja of the CPI said with grave concern, “Citizens do not feel secure and this is a very serious threat to the republic of the country.”
A demonstration like this reflects the people’s anger against the ruling Hindutva government and its anti-people policies. But, there is an urgent need to bring all these people under a unified platform; what the opposition parties call “forging the anti-BJP front”. But, our participation and solidarity with such proposed alliances cannot be uncritical and unconditional. The proposed alliance cannot expect left and democratic support just because they’re also trying to oust the Hindutva government out of power. If this alliance is really serious about saving the Constitution, it must go beyond the electoral imperative and take the issues of structural inequality seriously.
While the call for an alliance was largely celebrated as a much-needed united opposition to the BJP, especially in light of the upcoming 2019 General Elections, there was also some resistance within the opposition; an alliance with the Congress was received with scepticism. Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, withdrew from the alliance. The withdrawal from the alliance hasn’t come as a surprise as the Ambedkarite movement, in the past, had also taken issue with the NCP for publically supporting the Maratha Kranti Morcha. Interesting, in an article published in the Times of India, Ambedkar was quoted as saying that the Congress will be unable to defeat the BJP, electorally, unless the left united under a common front. A similar conflict also arose within the CPI-M when senior party leader Prakash Karat rejected the call for an alliance with the Congress. But Yechury, who is currently the party’s General Secretary, is in support of it. This has created a rift within the CPI-M, further dividing the already scattered left.
The alliance is taking its own form and aims to become an independent, anti-Hindutva political entity before the 2019 General Elections. The alliance is also struggling to form an electoral alliance with other regional political parties, who, in turn, are trying to form a united ideological front.
Does the winning of parliamentary seats mean a defeat of the structural inequalities dividing the Indian society, which is labouring under the fragmented and fixed caste reality? Have the larger political issues — of lived experiences of violence, of discrimination — been reduced to the number of votes and seats that a party can get? Or, has there been a real change in the concrete re-imagination of a democratic society where rights are central to citizenship? Whilst discussing the need to safeguard and promote constitutional ethos, with particular reference to Dr B R Ambedkar, would defeating the BJP be the defeat of Brahmanism and a coup in the struggle for the annihilation of caste? Although an electoral majority is essential in a democracy for an elected political organisation to be able to perform optimally, is this quest for a majority the best democratic alternative to the autocratic regime?
These questions haven’t found answers yet.
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