Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Congress is Hoist with its own Petard

 Ideally the Indian electoral system should have been based on proportional representation to accommodate the vast diversity in the socio-economic characteristics of the population. In this system political parties are allotted seats in the legislature in proportion to the votes that they get and so even small local parties who can get votes higher than a specified threshold can find representation in the legislature. There would thus have been scope for a thousand schools of thought and practice to contend and bring to fruition a much more vibrant and diverse democratic culture than had obtained in British India. Instead the first past the post system was adopted after independence in which the candidate getting the most number of the valid votes cast in a constituency is declared elected. This latter system was to the advantage of the Congress party which could get to rule unhampered on its own without the pulls and pressures of coalition governance that a system of proportional representation usually gives rise to and would certainly have in the diverse Indian context. So the first past the post electoral system of the British and American democracies, which the British had introduced to suit their own agenda of keeping the unruly masses in India at bay, was retained after independence giving the Congress an undue monopoly of power in the crucial first decade and a half of governance under the leadership of Nehru.
The first elections to the Lok Sabha held in 1951 saw the Congress winning just forty five percent of the total valid votes, which in turn were only sixty one percent of the total electorate but as much as seventy five percent of the seats. Similarly in the second elections in 1957 the Congress won forty eight percent of the total valid votes, which were sixty four percent of the total electorate and seventy five percent of the seats. In the third general elections of 1962 the Congress won forty five percent of the total valid votes which were fifty five percent of the total electorate and got seventy three percent of the seats. The second largest party by way of votes won in all these three elections was the Socialist Party but due to the fact that their support base was spread much thinner than the Congress' they could not win seats in proportion to their votes. In 1951 the Socialists got ten and a half percent of the total valid votes but only two and a half percent of the seats. This is to be contrasted with the Communist Party of India, which won only three and a half percent of the votes and a similar percentage of the seats because their mass base was of a concentrated nature. Similarly in 1957 the Socialists once again got ten and a half percent of the votes but only three and a half percent of the seats while the Communists got nearly nine percent of the votes and five and a half percent of the seats. In the 1962 elections the two separate Socialist Parties together got nine and a half percent of the votes and only three and a half percent of the seats while the Communists got almost ten percent of the votes and five and a half percent of the seats. Thus a clever and unnatural choice of electoral system gave the Congress party thumping majorities to do as it pleased with little effective parliamentary opposition to its policies.
However, now the tables have been turned and the Congress is hoist with its own petard. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of Narendra Modi has swept to power in the most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh with a two thirds majority of seats despite getting only forty percent of the valid votes polled which are in turn sixty percent of the total electorate. The party has also won handsomely in Uttarakhand and is making a bid to form Governments in Goa and Manipur with the help of horse trading of law makers which is another dubious strategy of the Congress that the BJP has happily lapped up. In Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress have together got fifty percent of the valid votes polled which would have given them a landslide victory if they had had a pre poll alliance but since all these parties are now fiefdoms of megalomaniac leaders, this did not transpire and a more shrewd megalomaniac from the BJP swept the polls in terms of seats instead. Indeed the BJP looks a much more democratic party compared to the Samajwadi Party or the Congress, both of which are controlled by political dynasties. Over and above this, if one ignores the temporary blip caused by the demonetisation fiasco, Narendra Modi has delivered much better and cleaner governance including far reaching welfare measures in his almost three years as Prime Minister than the Congress had done in its last stint at the centre and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh.

Under the circumstances, in terms of vote percentages, there is not much reason for celebration on the part of the BJP or dudgeon and disheartenment on the part of the losers. Even if the BJP continues to win more elections in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and wins those elections also, it is unlikely that its voting percentage is going to increase much. In fact the likelihood is that with time the ills of being in power too long are going to affect its performance sooner or later like it did for the Congress and the Samajwadi party, given the fact that development policies in this country are generally dictated by the capitalists to their advantage, leaving the masses out in the cold. So much so, that even the erstwhile Socialists and Communists have also become lackeys of capitalists when they have been in power. The Communists in fact are further hamstrung by the fact that they are still clinging on to the obsolete views and practices of Lenin, Stalin and Mao, which are anyway so arcane that they have never been properly explained to the Indian masses. Therefore, with time the BJP too will bite the dust as it is unlikely that it will be able to retain its vote share without improving the lot of the masses. One major positive outcome of the BJP's continuance in power would be the ridding of the Congress of its dynastic Gandhi family rule!! Whereas a Congress Free India is not really a desirable in the present milieu, a Gandhi free Congress certainly is. Though, that also may not happen if the Congress and other parties decide to team up before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and so prevent the fragmentation of the non-BJP votes across the country and especially in the cow belt.

Interestingly Bhimrao Ambedkar's political party, The All India Scheduled Castes Federation, also failed to do well at the hustings in the first elections in 1951 with the great man himself losing from Bombay City North constituency despite having done so much for the Dalits. This is relevant today because in the Manipur elections, Irom Sharmila's party too flopped badly with Sharmila herself getting only ninety votes and the Aam Aadmi Party bit the dust in Goa totally and got only twenty seats in Punjab. The liberals, leftists and anarchists have all been carping because of the victory of the BJP and the loss of the Aam Aadmi Party and Sharmila and some are even blaming the masses for voting as they did. However, as long as the first past the post system is in place, voters will either not vote because they consider it a waste of time to vote for any party or if they vote, they will do so for candidates who they think are likely to win and form a stable government and not for those who are fighting for a more people friendly dispensation but are lacking in mass support. So as long as proportional representation is not introduced in India, there is little chance of individuals or parties fighting for true people oriented development, making any headway in electoral politics. However, there is no need for disillusionment and fear but instead more commitment is needed to pursue grassroots activism which is increasingly becoming a rarity with time.

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