Analysis of Election Manifestos of Major Political Parties in India.
By Allanson Wahlang
India is a Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Republic with a Parliamentary form of Government. The Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949 and came into force on 26th November 1950. The Constitution advocated the trinity of justice, liberty and equality for all the citizens. The Constitution was framed keeping in mind the socioeconomic progress of the country. India follows a parliamentary form of democracy and the government is federal in structure. In India a recognized political party is categorized either as a National Party or a State Party. If a political party is recognized in four or more states and is either the ruling party or is in the opposition in these states, it is considered as a National Party. The Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Janata Dal, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) are the prominent National Parties in the Country. Some of these parties have existed before the independence of the country while few of these emerged after political dynamism flourished in the country in post independent years.
The political party election manifesto which can be accepted as the most significant and effective communication tool of the party contains the plans, strategies and tactics for the political thoughts and beliefs on governing the country. The most distinctive point between the different political party manifestos is to refer to the different political thoughts with one of the most effective ways that can be preferred.
As a communicative tool or content, the party manifesto is prepared in order to both increase the percentage of votes and explain the programmes and aims of the party to all audiences. It is obvious that the political party has to develop a specific manifesto which is able to convey all the important thoughts, aims and political principles, and on the other hand it should be comprehensive and as dynamic as to keep up with the changing conditions which can affect the country’s domestic politics and international relations as well. Election manifestos play an important role in all the countries vying to form the government at the state or at the national level. These manifestos act as the guideline as well as the mirror for interpreting the process by which a political party will function for the welfare of the public. A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature. However, manifestos relating to religious belief are rather referred to as credo. Manifestos may also be life stance-related. In some parliamentary democracies, political parties prepare electoral manifestos which set out both their strategic direction and outlines of prospective legislation should they win sufficient support in an election to serve in government. Legislative proposals which are featured in the manifesto of a party which has won an election are often regarded as having superior legitimacy to other measures which a governing party may introduce for consideration by the legislature. Although, in recent decades the status of electoral manifestos has diminished somewhat due to a significant tendency for winning parties to, following the election, either ignore, indefinitely delay, or even outright reject manifesto policies which were popular with the public.
These manifestos stated by the different parties have always played a crucial part in the formation of governments at the state as well as at the central level. There are various glaring examples on the issue of manifestos which have played a part in the defeat of a party to form the government at the centre. The 2004 general elections saw the defeat of the BJP led NDA government. According to the critics the party was too stuck up with the India Shining Campaign and the different Yatras their party men were busy at. The election manifesto of the party did not get the support of the people and therefore lost the elections. Another very famous example to illustrate the importance and the impact of political manifestos in India electoral politics is the decisive win of the Indian National Congress in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. The highlights of the Public Distribution System, the 123 agreement as well as the implementation of the NREGA in their manifesto has helped the congress to win against other political parties with the likes of BJP,NCP as well as the Left Front. The BJP on the other hand was criticized and ridiculed by its close associate which is the Sangh Parivar. According to the Sangh, the BJP never tried to incorporate the Hindutva values in its manifesto which it could have wooed the voters thereby resulting in a huge loss in the Lok Sabha elections.
It is important to assess for every social scientist to understand, assess and analyse a party’s political manifesto to understand the position the party is taking in terms of issues that not only serve their interest but also the nation’s interest on a larger scale. In this article, we will look and analyse three national parties which are the Indian National Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India. These three national parties represent the conservative, the secular social democrat, and the Marxist paradigm of the mode of functioning.
The Indian National Congress:
The Indian National Congress (also known as the Congress Party and abbreviated INC) is a major political party in India. Founded in 1885 by Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Surendranath Banerjee, Monomohun Ghose, and William Wedderburn, the Indian National Congress became the leader of the Indian Independence Movement, with over 15 million members and over 70 million participants in its struggle against British rule in India. After independence in 1947, it became the nation’s dominant political party, led by the Nehru-Gandhi family for most of the part, challenged for leadership only in more recent decades. In the 15th Lok Sabha (2009), 206 members (out of 543), the largest contingent amongst all parties, serve in the house. The party is currently the chief member of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition. It is the only party to get more than 100 million votes in the past three general elections (1999, 2004, and 2009).
The Indian national Congress led by Mr. Manmohan Singh under the guidance of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has been able to recapture the government for yet another term. This has shown that the mandate has gone for this party which also happens to be the oldest party in India.
Electoral manifesto (2009)
The election manifesto of the Indian national Congress opens up with a slogan which says, “Aam Admi Ke Badhte Kadam, Har Kadam Pe Bharat Buland.” There has been a conscious decision on the part of the party to emphasize the eradication of the poor and the down trodden as their pivotal mission. The Indian National Congress has been able to live on the principles of life of SECURITY, DIGNITY AND PROSPERITY for every citizen. Going by these principles we can place this national party on the lines of liberalistic and social democratic purview. The Congress party’s social beliefs are that of individual freedom, individualism and inequality. They derive these values from humanitarianism and democratic participation. The congress has also tried to stress upon working with the poorer or the weaker sections of the society. Judging by the manifesto and their efforts to emancipate the weaker sections of the society, their political beliefs can be seen as that of a representative democracy and pluralism. They have a firm belief that capitalism can be transformed by a social democracy whereby the state will play a positive role to play in the society.
The Indian National Congress has also boasted about its response to various challenges that has posed to the nation. Their stand on the establishment of private sector manufacturing, nationalization of banks and the famous IT revolution spearheaded by the Late Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s.
When positioned against other rival parties like the BJP or a conglomerate of national parties coming together called the Left front, the congress has been able to emerge as the driving force of the country in terms of electoral polls in the country. In the election manifesto of the Congress, some of the highlights are:
- It is a balance between the public sector and the private sector, with an important role assigned to co-operatives and self-help groups.
- It is a balance between building a modern economy and imparting a new thrust to traditional industries.
- It is a balance between promoting employment in the organized sector and protecting livelihoods in the unorganized sector.
- It is a balance between addressing the needs of urban India and improving the quality of life and standard of living in our villages and towns.
- It is a balance between taking advantage of globalization and ensuring that these benefits flow to local communities.
- It is a balance between regulation by the government and unleashing the creative spirits of our entrepreneurs and professionals.
- It is only the Indian National Congress that cherishes and practices this balance in all spheres of our national life including in the conduct of economic and foreign policy.
These highlights of the Indian National Congress throws alight of the kind of politics played by this party in the subcontinent.
Since the congress led UPA was also in power in the last term it was practically easier for them to show cause some of its major achievements and its landmarks during its five year tenure at the centre. Some of these achievements are commendable as it has certainly changed the course of history of this nation. Adhering to the principles and values of Mahatma Gandhi, the congress have tried to reach out for the weaker sections of the society and help build the village economy as it realizes that India still needs to grow as a nation and unless the villages in this country which forms 75% of the country does not develop, India will lack that luster of becoming a great nation as it wants to be perceived.
Some of the achievements of the Congress are:
- The Right to Information Act, 2005which was a historic legislation. This legislation enabled lakhs of citizens in villages, towns and cities to demand responsiveness and accountability from public official and government at all levels.
- It had enacted the path-breaking National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which is being implemented in all districts to provide 100 days of legally guaranteed employment to each rural household seeking employment in public works programmes.
- It had started and achieved considerable progress on the ambitious Bharat Nirman programme to transform rural India by expanding and providing irrigation, all-weather roads, houses for the poor, drinking water, electricity for all poor families and phone connectivity in all villages.
- It had launched the National Rural Health Mission which has already made a positive impact by improving the quality and accessibility of primary health care in villages.
- It had imparted a new momentum to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan for primary education. It had also introduced a cooked mid-day meal scheme in all primary schools that feeds 15 crore children every day.
- It has significantly empowered the weaker sections of society by (i) giving scheduled tribes and Traditional forest dwellers rights over land they cultivate in forest areas; (ii) by providing reservations for OBC students in all professional institutions; (iii) by passing a new law to protect women from domestic violence; (iv) by giving women equal rights to inherit property; and (v) by enhancing hugely the scholarships for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities and OBCs to pursue college and university education.
- It had initiated the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with an outlay of Rs.1 lakhs crore in 63 cities for upgrading infrastructure and for providing basic services to the urban poor.
Criticisms of the Indian National Congress:
The Indian National Congress had done a commendable job during its five year stint at the centre. Nevertheless the congress had failed in many areas as follows:
- The congress while at power had never really tried to define what they really meant by Aam Janta. What was once the slogan of the congress during the rule of Mrs. Gandhi where the congress tried to annihilate poverty did not quite work in practice. Under the UPA government the RTI was made a law but there still needs to be empowerment I imparting information to all sections of the society about the aforesaid act. Unless the general publics do not have the requisite information about the act, the Act will just remain a subsidiary achievement of the congress without much value attached to it.
- The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act brought about under the congress led government seemed to be a distant goal. The government has done little to implement this Act at the grassroots level. Even in the states where the government is at the hands of the congress, the NREGA seems to be just utopian in nature.
- Although the congress claims to have improved the living conditions of the weaker sections of the society, reality seems to be something far different of what they envisaged. The congress has failed to recognize the atrocities committed on the poor dalits in the remote villages. Under the congress led government, many lands and forests were snatched away by the government on the account of development resulting in displacement of the tribals.
- The congress has yet to see and recognize the ongoing violence meted out on the women of the society. The government under the leadership of the congress has failed to bring about laws or strengthen existing laws which would help empowerment of women in the society.
- The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan adopted by the congress led government has been a complete failure in the villages of the country. Mid day Meals as proposed by the government has just become another subsidiary for the state governments to fill the state treasury. Many states in India are yet to recognize the Mid day Meal scheme as proposed by the central government.
- The congress has also promised to provide maximum security to all the citizens of the society. Terrorism is still recognized by this party as the greatest threat to the national security of the country. Yet the congress is still persisting on further strengthening the AFSPA which has crippled the state of Manipur. The congress has failed to curb the expansion of militant outfits breeding in the country. The emergence of Salva judum and the unreasonable power vested upon the military and the paramilitary forces under the congress government seems to be contradictory to what they profess in the manifesto.
- The congress claims to enact the Right to Food Act in its manifesto. There have been many civil society organizations and other pressure groups who have pressured the earlier government for the bill to be enacted but the government failed to meet their demands for reasons best known to them. Unless there is adequate pressure from all quarters of the country the congress fails to deliver its proposals.
- The congress had also promised education for people who belong to the ST/ SC and OBC categories at all levels. The strengthening of the Special Component Plan for the scheduled castes and the Tribal sub Plan for the schedule tribes of this country through proper channels and fund allocations also seems to be a travesty as the previous government under the congress had failed to recognize the importance of SCs, STs and OBCs in this country. Although they believe that capitalism can be transformed by the positive role that the state can play in the society yet they fail to conceive the fact that the very capitalists have merged with the government to crush the tribals and weaker castes in their attempt to seize power and monetary gains. Although the creation of a separate Ministry of Minority Affairs was done in May 2004, issues relating to it have not been seen of national importance.
- Another irony on the part of the congress can be seen in their vision of anti communalism practice and prevention of atrocities against weaker castes. What the country is experiencing till today has given a different picture quite contradictory to the claims of the congress. The congress till today practices in communalistic politics in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- The congress has failed to understand the importance of the transnational networks working for Dalit and tribal movements in India and in the international platform. Their stand on foreign policy without understanding the repercussions of international community in the realms of economic travesty has hugely affected the weaker sections of the society.
The Indian national congress has however been able to instill in the minds of millions of Indians the faith they have reposed on this party. This manifesto has allowed the congress to renew its resolve the foremost instrument of socio-economic transformation based on its conviction, commitment, competence and compassion. The Indian National Congress has once again proved it’s might in the political arena with a decisive victory in the recently concluded Lok Sabha Elections. They have been able to manage to form the government without the help of the Left or smaller parties like the BJD. Time and again the Indian National Congress has emerged as winners through modifications and allegiances with other smaller national parties unlike the other national parties.
Bharatiya Janata Party
The BJP is a direct successor of The Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS, Indian People’s Union), founded in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a nationalist leader, former Union Minister and freedom-fighter. It was considered the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But the fortunes of the young party took a dip in 1953, when Mookherjee was jailed in Kashmir by then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. After his death in custody, the BJS lasted for 24 more years, but never seriously challenged the power of Indian National Congress. It did however groom future political leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.
In the Lok Sabha elections held in 1998 the NDA National Democratic Alliance obtained a simple majority. This time, the BJP (NDA) had allied with the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal besides its existing allies, the Samata Party, the Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv Sena. Outside support was provided by the Telugu Desam Party. The NDA had a slim majority, and Vajpayee returned as Prime Minister.  But the coalition ruptured in May 1999 when the leader of AIADMK, Jayalalitha, withdrew her support, and fresh elections were again called.
The BJP is one of the few parties in India to have a popular-based governing structure, where workers and leaders at the local level have a great say in much of the decision-making. This has also been blamed for public spats between different factions of the party. The BJP during the last Lok Sabha elections fared badly as their alliance called NDA were not able to win the elections and therefore faced defeat at the hands of the congress led UPA alliance. According to a noted economist, Lord Meghnad Desai, the BJP lost grounds in many Hindu stronghold pockets for its lack of commitment for the Hindu ideologies. Another important reason for its defeat was the weakness of the manifesto where the BJP tried to save its lost grace by not attaching itself to the Sangh Parivar.
The BJP in its manifesto had tried to consolidate the idea of India by talking about the history of this nation. It elaborates on its stance of the cultural heritage and plethora of cultures that binds this country together. Going by the opening lines the BJP tries to infuse in the minds of the people the greatness of this country and how this very greatness that once flourished has been snatched away by the “foreigners’ who forced themselves to loot India. According to the BJP, It has been established beyond doubt by the several reports on education at the end of the 18th Century and the writings of Indian scholars that not only did India have a functioning indigenous educational system but that it actually compared more than favorably with the system obtaining in England at the time in respect of the number of schools and colleges proportionate to the population, the number of students in
Schools and colleges, the diligence as well as the intelligence of the students, the quality of the teachers and the financial support provided from private and public sources. Contrary to the then prevailing opinion, those attending school and college included an impressive percentage of lower caste students, Muslims and girls.
One point to note in this manifesto of the BJP is their claim on the old rigid cultural heritage. “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such high caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very back bone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.” This was said by Thomas Baginton in the British Parliament in 1835. This speech is incorporated in the BJP’s manifesto. It seems that the BJP have taken a strong stand on the anti-westernization stand a moral policy to curb such kind of conversions. It can be arged that the BJP can be placed in the neo conservative paradigm of structural social work in its mode of functioning. Although the BJP believes in the values of individuality and inequality, it believes to stand as a watch dog for any kind of wrong doings of any Indian who according them will perpetually invite trouble for themselves.
No nation can chart out its domestic or foreign policies unless it has a clear understanding about itself, its history, its strength and failings. It becomes all the more important for any nation to know its roots which sustain its people in a highly mobile and globalised world. This very stand taken by the BJP shows its conservative position in terms of foreign trade and its hostility against any international pressure. Their economic belief is that of a neo conservative as they have a strong contention for a free and fair yet competitive capitalism. The BJP has always had a paternalistic view of the society. Their political belief has always been backed under the domain of the Hindu ideology. They have always emphasized on the dominance of the economic system with stringent measures on stability, law and order. According to the manifesto of the BJP it appears that even after six decades of independence India has not been able to discover its innate vitality and its sense of time and consequently has lost its direction and will to act. The drift is acute and has encompassed all aspects of national life. The situation needs a change and a new paradigm is called for, for creating a prosperous, progressive and powerful India whose voice is heard in international flora.
The BJP has always adhered to the values of good governance, development and security. The BJP in its manifesto has emphasized on the development of youth understanding the fact that the youth represents the maximum population of the country. In its concern for them the BJP vowed to work for their progress and help them to achieve their goals. The party’s main goal is to primary concern will be India’s rapid, inclusive, equitable and all-embracing development and stable growth that benefits the largest number of people. We will invest in rural development; we will ensure higher agricultural productivity and guarantee an assured income to farmers; and, we will protect the livelihood of the masses while creating myriad opportunities of gainful employment. Since the BJP believes social problems are caused by individuals either because of their weakness or deviance, therefore their primary concern will be India’s rapid, inclusive, equitable and all-embracing development and stable growth that benefits the largest number of people. We will invest in rural development; we will ensure higher agricultural productivity and guarantee an assured income to farmers; and, we will protect the livelihood of the masses while creating myriad opportunities of gainful employment.
The BJP has always tried to infuse Hindu ideologies in their manifesto and somehow have always blamed the Congress for any communal riots that has occurred in the country. But they have failed to stress on the need to unite the country and fight against any external or internal security. The party’s manifesto has apparently tried to draw out any flaw of the congress and in turn incorporate in their manifesto like the Right to Food, foreign trade, nuclear strategy among other things.
Some of the important highlights of the BJP manifesto are:
- To address the long-pending issue of labour reforms, bearing in mind the long-term interests of the working class. It will do so through close consultation with representative bodies of labour and employers.
- Education will be the Government’s instrument to reduce poverty, promote health, protect the environment and advance gender equality.
- New funding mechanism for promotion of basic research in science, medical, agricultural and engineering institutions.
- Will invest in every sporting activity. This is an essential element of achieving their goal of making India a developed nation in the field of sports
- Article 44 of the Constitution of India lists Uniform Civil Code as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy. There cannot be real gender equality till such time India adopts a Uniform Civil Code which protects the rights of all women. The BJP, as a first step towards this constitutionally mandated direction, will set up a Commission to draft a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonizing them with the modern times. The Commission will also study reforms towards gender equality in other countries, including Islamic countries.
Criticisms of the BJP’s Manifesto:
a) The BJP is committed to the principle of Social Justice (Samajik Nyay) and Samajik Samarasata (Social Harmony). Instead of pursuing identity politics which do not fetch benefits to Dalits, OBCs and other deprived sections of the society. What is miserable is to point out that most of the atrocities done on dalits and tribals are in the states of the BJP government or parties aligned with the BJP. The BJP’s stand on minorities only show how deceiving they can be in trying to envisage a position whereby they can rule the country for five years without paying heed to the cries of these very minorities who have voted them to power.
b) The BJP has also announced that a special component will be created in all development schemes to benefit the deprived sections of society. An ‘Extremely Backward Communities Development Bank’ will be set up for promoting skill enhancement through learn-and-earn schemes for their uplift. This kind of promises were also made in the past when they were in power but their partners were not very keen in doing so for which they had to drop the idea. It is precisely for this reason that the BJP lost the elections because it failed to look at the issues pertaining to the dalits and the tribals in terms of atrocities, sexual harassment, murder and displacement to name a few.
c) The BJP will adopt a comprehensive, all-encompassing long-term strategy to empower tribals and ensure their welfare. They will draw upon the experience of their Governments in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which have successfully implemented tribal welfare and development schemes. It’s a very contradictory statement made by the party because when they were ruling, not even a single attempt was made for the welfare of the tribals except in paper. Lands had been acquired on the pretext of development displacing the tribals when the BJP was in power. This could have also been one of the prime reasons for their recent downfall. Even in this manifesto there has been no clear cut measure to mitigate the problems faced by the tribals of this sub continent.
d) The BJP have always had a hard stand on the smaller states especially the northeastern region of the country. They have relentlessly tried to portray this region as one with the highest level of corruption and militancy. The party had once again failed to recognize the positive aspects of this in spite of the known fact that BJP has minimal visibility in terms of representation in the state or the central offices.
e) BJP repudiates the division of Indian society along communal lines which has been fostered by the Congress and the Left in pursuit of their vote-bank politics. Categorization of communities as ‘minorities’ perpetuates notions of imagined discrimination and victimhood; it reinforces the perception of the ‘minority’ identity as separate from the national identity. The BJP remains committed to a common Indian identity that transcends community, caste and gender, with every Indian an equal participant in the building of a prosperous nation and an equal beneficiary of that prosperity. Pluralism is a sine qua non for any democracy and the BJP cherishes the diversity that is also the strength of Indian society and lends vibrancy to our national fabric. But pluralism should strengthen, not weaken our national resolve. If this is to be believed then the BJP must be prepared to shun ties with other radical communal organizations like the VHP and the Sangh Parivar and declare them as a militant group.
f) These close allies of the BJP have often infused in the minds of the Hindus the feeling of hatred and antagonism against the Muslim brothers and sisters. What we saw in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh are glaring and shameful examples to prove the unworthiness of the words of the BJP. Although they have always had the ill feeling against Christian and Muslim minorities they have however tried to use vote bank politics to woo these voters to support them. In their manifest they have said that The BJP will facilitate, under the auspices of noted religious leaders, the setting up of a permanent inter-faith consultative mechanism to promote harmony among and trust between communities. This mechanism will also be used for a sustained and sincere Inter-Faith Dialogue between leaders of the Hindu and Christian communities on all aspects of life, including the issue of religious conversions. The dialogue should be held in the spirit of the unanimous report of the Inter-Faith Dialogue on Conversions, which was organized at the Vatican in May 2006 by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Faith Dialogue and the World Council of Churches, Geneva.
g) There has been too much of emphasis on the disputes that concerns the Hindus at large. This attempt to revitalize their image has gone wasted after the verdict.
The BJP however has still been able to hold on in many states in the state elections. This clearly shows that the people have once again reposed their faith on this party. One cannot take away the credit of the BJP in terms of leadership provided by the former Prime Minister Mr. A. B. Vajpayee and the development in the states like Uttarkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The BJP has however yet to prove its might in the northeastern regions. Another reason for its defeat is the lack of luster in its manifesto when compared to its earlier manifestos previously anchored by Late Pramod Mahajan. Today the BJP is going through a major crisis in terms of leadership coronation and internal fights amongst the party leaders.
The Communist Party of India.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) is a political party in India. In the Indian communist movement, there are different views on exactly when the Indian communist party was founded. The date maintained as the foundation day by CPI is 26 December 1925. But the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which split-off from the CPI, claims that the party was founded in 1920. The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent on October 17, 1920, soon after the Second Congress of the Communist International. The founding members of the party were M.N. Roy, Evelina Trench Roy (Roy’s wife), Abani Mukherji, Rosa Fitingof, Mohammad Ali (Ahmed Hasan), Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T. Acharya.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has been engaged in undertaking a Marxist analysis of contemporary Indian society. As a Marxist-Leninist Party, the CPI (M) has been updating its strategic programme. It is the programme, which determines the path of the Indian revolution and the strategy to be adopted to achieve basic social transformation. In the course of the discussions in preparing the draft of the updated programme, and in the subsequent ongoing discussions within the Party, a number of issues have been thrown up for discussion, for clarification and for a Marxist formulation of the issues involved.
Applying Marxism to Indian conditions today is an exciting and challenging endeavor. At the beginning of the 21st century, if we look around, it is true that socialism has suffered setbacks both at the ideological and material levels. The disappearance of the Soviet Union and the regimes of actually existing socialism in Eastern Europe, mark shrinkage in the field where Marxism held sway even if in a flawed fashion. Outside the four existing socialist countries, China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea, India holds an important position. It is one of the major countries where mass communist parties exist and where the traditions of the left movement are still a vital force. The fact that the Left has always constituted either the second or the third largest bloc in parliament over the last five decades testifies to both the mass influence and the vitality of the communist movement.
It becomes a major responsibility of those who subscribe to Marxism and who believe that a party based on the tenets of Marxism-Leninism is essential for a revolutionary movement to consistently engage themselves in sharpening the tools of Marxist methodology and build up the theoretical resources for enriching and sustaining the class struggle that is taking place and will continue to develop in the coming days. This no doubt is a challenge in a situation, where worldwide, the ideological offensive against socialism has sharpened in the concluding years of the 20th century. Marxism as an intellectual current is dismissed in the advanced capitalist countries. In the erstwhile socialist countries of Russia and Eastern Europe, it is subjected to intellectual censorship in many forms. The globalised communications and media empires controlled by the transnational corporations do not even go through the pretense of formally acknowledging the existence of anti-capitalist currents.
It is in such a situation that in India Marxists have to not only kept the faith, but to nurture Marxism so that it becomes once again a revitalizing and creative force. The updating of the Party programme provides the opportunity for a significant section of the Communist movement, the CPI (M), to engage in a critical appraisal of the theory and practice of the communist movement. Strategy, as all communists know is vital. No strategy and all tactics is the recipe for opportunism. While strategy devoid of a living analysis of classes and their interrelationship can be reduced to a dogma
Election Manifesto of CPI (M).
The election manifesto of the CPI was to create a new space for the general public to think of an alternative rather than going traditionally for either the Congress or the BJP. To halt the ruling classes from pursuing this disastrous course, the CPI and Left is joining the electoral battle with the slogan of providing a non-Congress and non-BJP alternative that should carry forward the glorious tradition of anti imperialism, secular polity and independent economic development ensuring economic and social justice to all. The CPI has always tried to be the voice of the classless and weaker sections of the society. According to the manifesto, the CPI was born and grew in the course of the Freedom struggle against British rule. Thousands of revolutionary fighters who spent several years in jails and concentration camps, and never hesitated to sacrifice their lives joined its ranks. Communists have been the initiators of the organized workers, kisans, khet mazdoors, women and students and youth movements from the pre-independence to the present day linking them up with the struggle against imperialism, feudal princes and monopolists.
They were the organizers and heroes of the glorious Telengana, Tebhaga, Vayalar –Punnapara, Pepsu and other struggles. Communists were in the fore front in the struggles against princely states and for integrated India. Continuing the heritage of the freedom struggle, Communists courageously initiated struggles for defense of secular polity, national integrity, for the rights of workers, for self independent economic development, dominance of public sector in the national economy, for land reforms, fair wages to agri-workers, gender justice, education to all, social security and health care for each and every citizen. They consistently stood up for the rights of the minorities, tribal, dalits and other deprived sections. They upheld the banner of parliamentary democracy that is constantly coming under threat in recent days.
Some of the highlights of the CPI manifesto are:
- In response to the demand and pressure of the Left, the UPA government took certain measures to meet the promises made in the CMP. It banned the recruitment of mercenaries for US aggression in Iraq, for some time restored the policy of solidarity with the struggling Palestinian people and took certain initiatives to normalize relations with our neighbours.
- Laws for right to information (RTI), tribal and other forest dwellers rights, and law against domestic violence were enacted. Some measures were also taken to de-communalise the education. But simultaneously it took steps to meet its class interests. Unscrupulous disinvestment of PSUs, unbridled entry of FDIs, particularly in the secondary market continued.
- Ensure hundred days employment all over the country under the Left Pressure. It was first restricted to 200 districts (0nly in rural areas) and only later extended to all districts (though only rural). Implementation is mired in corruption.
- Strive for the development of our domestic market by putting money in the pockets of the workers and peasants and the youths looking for jobs. This will stimulate the economy, rather than all the bail-outs to the Corporates.
- CPI is totally opposed to acquisition of land by government for so-called SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE (SEZ). SEZs are not inevitable for economic development.
- NO TO PRIVATISATION AND COMMERCIALISATION OF WATER RESOURCES IN ANY FORM.
- Expansion of the scope of the Employment Guarantee Act (EGA): This includes
- Individual entitlements: Expansion of the work guarantee from “100 days per household per year” to “at least 100 days per adult per year”.
- Enactment of an Urban Employment Guarantee Act.
Some of the criticisms of the Communist Party of India are:
a) There is too much of emphasis on economic policies of the country. Its stand against the International community especially the United States of America has perpetually brought the CPI to bite the dust in the recent elections.
b) Although the CPI is against any form of privatization as such yet it was incapable to curb the recent violence’s that emerged in West Bengal which is apparently the Party’s home ground.
c) The CPI has very little to talk about the rights of women and gender in particular in its manifesto. The ongoing debates about sexuality and sexual abuse flashing in the newspapers everyday seemed to have little impact upon them
d) Affirmative action in private sector will be introduced and all such private sector industry which does not adhere to affirmative action will be made ineligible for incentives, exemptions and tax concessions given by the government. All Multi National Companies will have to fall in line with the affirmative action programme of the country. Such thoughts and comments made by the CPI in its manifesto seems a little utopian in nature. Scrapping up the anti-reservation bill passed by the previous UPA government will not be that productive as they have not yet come out with a detailed plan to implement an alternative bill if any.
e) While fighting against terrorism, politically, administratively and ideologically, CPI is committed to oppose all such oppressive laws that curb human and democratic rights. This again is contradictory to what they adhere to. In fact the CPI has never raise any voice about the AFSPA or POTA or the ATS squad in Maharashtra during their tenure at the centre.
f) CPI will continue to demand comprehensive electoral reforms to curb money power and muscle power. Party will also campaign for proportional representations system and state funding. Bengal had seen the surplus throw of money and muscle power where the CPI runs the office.
g) Not much has been spoken about Dalits and their issues of concern except that they will safeguard the interests of the weaker sections of the society.
When one tries to analyse the election manifesto of CPI one would automatically place them in the Marxist paradigm as their belief lies in the values of Freedom, Collectivism and Equality. The CPI (M) as the name itself portrays believes in the public ownership of the economy which is planned in such a way that the distribution is planned for the need accordingly. Their idea of transformation of capitalism is only by class conflict which is based on Marxian ideas. The CPI have had tremendous success in states like Tripura and West Bengal but it seems their charm is slowly and gradually fading away because of their hope of having an emancipatory image of an ideal welfare system which is well structured