(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.
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
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
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.