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Communists campaign for United Front victory

(The following article was published in "The Guardian", newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia in its issue of Wednesday, January 28th, 1998. Contact address: 65 Campbell Street, Surry Hills. Sydney. 2010 Australia. Fax: (612) 9281 5795. Email: Subscription rates on request) Website: http://www.peg.apc.org/~guardian


By Rob Gowland 

India goes to the polls in February, to elect a new national 
government to be sworn in before March 15. The elections became 
necessary when the Congress (I) withdrew its support in 
parliament for the United Front government. 

Bringing down the United Front government, a coalition of a dozen 
Left and Centre parties including the Communist Party of India, 
has not improved the standing of Congress (I) with the Indian 
people. 

In the elections, the UF's main opponent will not be Congress (I) 
but the communal BJP, whose aim is the establishment of a 
fascistic and intolerant Hindu state. It was the urgent need to 
defend India's secular constitution against the threat from 
communal forces, especially the BJP, that originally brought the 
parties of the UF together. 

The BJP has been spending huge amounts on pre-election publicity, 
claiming that it received a mandate in the last election but was 
robbed of office by the UF and Congress (I). 

In fact, the BJP won less votes and less seats than the UF or 
Congress. 

The massive BJP publicity (or disinformation) campaign has 
apparently been paid for by big business groups. 

The blatant horse-trading by the BJP during the life of the UF 
government to obtain defections from other parties, the exposure 
of its sheer opportunism in the pursuit of power has done a lot 
of damage to the BJP's image. 

In assessing the electoral tasks of the United Front, the 
Communist Party of India (Marxist) -- which supported the UF 
government while remaining outside it -- says that "while the 
prospects are by no means discouraging, hard efforts will need to 
be made to see that these prospects materialise." 

The CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet says in the 
Party's paper "People's Democracy": "During one and a half years 
of its existence, the United Front government has undoubtedly 
scored some significant successes." 

He singles out the containment of communalism, the improving of 
relations between the central government and the states, and 
heightening India's prestige in international circles. 

"The UF regime", he points out, "has been singularly free from 
any corruption charges", a claim which few previous Indian 
governments could make. 

However, Surjeet says, the parties that make up the UF must 
realise that while the task of preventing a rightist communal 
takeover of the central government is of primary importance, it 
"cannot be divorced from the bigger and more serious issues 
facing the people. 

"The United front will have to ... put before the people a 
positive and credible program of eradicating poverty and 
unemployment; promoting literacy, mass education and public 
health; providing a modicum of decent life to the destitute; and 
strengthening the country's self-reliance." 

Surjeet criticises the UF yielding, during its term in office, to 
the demands of the IMF and privatising public enterprises 
(including profitable ones) and cutting social services in order 
to reduce the fiscal deficit. 

"If only the United Front government had shown an equal concern 
for measures to eradicate poverty and curb joblessness, etc, its 
position would no doubt have become unassailable", he says. 

"Yet", he says, "it is also true that, in the given situation, it 
is only the United Front from which such measures can be 
expected; the BJP and the Congress (I) are patently incapable of 
discharging such tasks." 

In West Bengal, whose government is led by the CPI(M), the 
CPI(M)-led Left Front is contesting every seat. 

Throughout India, the two major Communist parties have called for 
the United Front to be returned with an increased vote. The aim 
is for the UF to win sufficient seats to be able to govern in its 
own right, without being dependent on support from either 
Congress (I) or the BJP. 

The aim, in short, is to win. 

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