The Congress Party that has ruled this country almost uninterrupted for the last 66 years WILL come to the end of its history in 2014; not in the manner Francis Fukuyama would have intended; who in 1989 had argued that “a remarkable consensus concerning the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a system of government had emerged throughout the world over the past few years, as it conquered rival ideologies like hereditary monarchy, fascism, and most recently communism.” Liberal democracy had reached the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution, and the final form of human government.” The ideological evolution of the Congress Party, on the contrary, has been a reversal from liberal democracy at the dawn of independence, through later-Nehruvian socialism, Indira Gandhi’s fascism, and the current hereditary monarchy symbolized by Rahul Gandhi. In its search for continued political relevance the Congress Party has been treading exactly the opposite path of most of the world’s democracies. While we may agree that inequity and injustice has not been fully eliminated from the liberal democracies, the evolutionary process is continuing to look for a system that would deliver “a society that satisfied its deepest and most fundamental longings.”
Beginning with state capitalism and a license-permit Raj, the Congress, in its socialistic phase, used nationalization of major industries like oil, coal, banks, airlines, etc., to channel funds to its populist schemes solely aimed at garnering votes at election times. Indira Gandhi’s imposition of Emergency in 1975 was the descent into fascism that her insecurities brought about. The liberalization promised by Rajiv Gandhi never really materialized because he depended on advice on the same people who had been his mother’s confidantes. The opening of the economy in 1991 was brought about by an economic catastrophe, and a fortuitous chance of a member from outside the dynasty at the head of the government. A reluctant (and probably afraid) Sonia Gandhi had refused to lead the Congress after the brutal assassination of her husband. The return of the dynasty in 2004 was the beginning of the hereditary monarchic phase of the Congress.
The party has now exhausted all the weapons in its armory. The National Food Security and the Land Acquisition bills were the last two arrows left in its quiver for its fight in 2014. Rattled, on one hand, by the uncovering of innumerable scams involving almost every member in the government, as also the son-in-law of the party President, and the spectre of Narendra Modi on the other, it found it expedient to shoot these two weapons in unseemly haste. For good measure it has also promised to divide Andhra, and is now toying with the idea of making Hyderabad a Union Territory. The above events are the reason why I am hopeful of believing that the Congress has now come to the end of its history and a new India becomes possible in 2014.
India at the dawn of independence came to be governed by the Congress who drew its support mainly from the two classes of the big bourgeoisie and the landed gentry. Suniti Kumar Ghosh, writing in his book, “The Indian Big Bourgeoisie: Its Genesis, Growth and Character” says that “much of the capitalist industry that developed in India did so not in the strongest contradiction with the policies of imperialism but mostly on a comprador basis.” According to Ghosh, the big bourgeoisie was “never hostile to foreign capital either before or after the transfer of power. It sought not independent capitalist development but development as a subordinate partner of imperialist monopolies.” The Congress depended on these “subordinate partners of the imperialist monopolies” and therefore, could not evolve into a liberal democratic party once the successor of Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri died in mysterious circumstances at Tashkent. Shastri, in his brief tenure of about twenty months, had begun to direct the Congress away from the Nehruvian socialistic pattern; and had he survived the Congress would not have regressed into fascism and hereditary monarchy. The installation of Indira Gandhi brought the subordinate classes back into power that gave rise to “retarded, misshapen, lopsided economic and social structures.”
The Anna Hazare movement marks the beginning of that phase in the development of a liberal democratic system in which the working class seeks unity with the peasantry in order to overthrow the ruling classes at the centre. The reaction of the Congress and the other entrenched political parties, predictably, has not seen the movement as an electoral threat, and hence has felt no pressure to jettison the structure of electoral democracy. The Congress is confident that it can manipulate the electoral system to its advantage as it has done in the past. If the Anna Hazare movement had been perceived as a real electoral challenge to the ruling dispensation, the Congress would have declared another emergency and discarded the system of electoral democracy. Since the movement was not perceived as a conscious coming together of the working classes and the peasantry, the Congress has been able to crush it by unleashing its repressive forces – legal as well as illegal, while retaining the facade of a democratic structure.
However, the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party with a liberal democratic structure that is not dependent on the big bourgeoisie or the landed gentry is the first significant challenge to the hegemony of the Congress and the other parties that are in essence no different from it. The Left, of course, has made itself completely irrelevant by aligning with the same “retarded, misshapen and, lopsided economic and social structures” that were the legacy of Indira Gandhi. The Congress has rightly seen Narendra Modi as its biggest opponent in the 2014 elections and has emptied its arsenal by firing the NFSB and the Land Acquisition Bill with a view to bribe the working and peasant classes to vote for it. The attempt at breaking the new-found unity of the two has received the unanimous support of the current members of Parliament and the bills have been passed without any meaningful discussion. The Congress believes that with these two weapons it will be able to negate the challenge of Modi and come back to power at the head of a coalition when it will anoint the crown prince as the hereditary dynastic monarch. The BJP, on the other hand, has found it expedient to endorse the two bills, as it too is complicit in the breaking of the unity of the working and peasant classes. Modi, if nominated to lead the BJP as its Prime Ministerial candidate, may be able to cobble together a coalition at the centre riding on the total disillusionment of the electorate with the blatant corruption and the misuse of power by the UPA. But, for Modi to survive, he will have to not only distance himself from the overtly religious agenda of the RSS and its offshoots, but to begin the process of dismantling the bureaucratic structure that the British left as a legacy and that was wholeheartedly adopted by Nehru on the advice of Patel. In this task he should find an ally in the Aam Aadmi Party, whose liberal democratic agenda is a natural progression of political evolution.
The psephological reports that are emerging predict a creditable performance by the Aam Aadmi Party, and if it wins Delhi, it will be the beginning of a new phase of electoral democracy in India. The mandir, masjid conflicts have been created and kept festering by the deliberate policy of keeping the common people divided to the benefit of the ruling classes. The end of the Congress at the centre will diminish its patronage of the divisive forces represented by almost the entire political spectrum from the North to the South and from the West to the East. If Modi does not get the support of his party and is confined to Gujarat, the chances of UPA-3 become most likely. In that case, the Aam Aadmi Party will be the only beacon of liberal democracy, and its ranks will continue to swell and it will eventually supplant the reactionary coalitions across the country. In any case, the Congress, having completed its turnaround from liberal democracy to hereditary monarchy, will have no more weapons in its arsenal and will inevitably enter the phase of terminal decline from which it will not be able to recover. That, in short, is the possible India I foresee in 2014.