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Having wrecked the economy, BJP is creating a post-truth society: Yechury

POORNIMA JOSHI A M JIGEESH New Delhi | Updated on January 09, 2018

Sitaram Yechury

The Left and the BJP fought a pitched battle on Delhi streets this week with the BJP President Amit Shah constantly targeting the CPI(M) for “political killings” both in Kerala and Tripura. While the CPI(M) has responded in kind, taking out marches and blaming the BJP/RSS for a spiral of violence in Kerala, the party believes one of main reasons for the escalation in the BJP’s anti-Left rhetoric is that the ruling party wants to divert attention from deteriorating economic situation. In an interview to BusinessLine CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury talked about the “mess in the economy” and the dangers of the BJP’s civilisational agenda. Excerpts from the interview:

To what do you attribute the BJP’s sudden sharpening of attack on the Left, especially the CPI(M)?

There are multiple reasons. The first is their plans for entry into the South. They’re targeting Kerala because of its specific demographic situation. There’s a sizeable Muslim population here. They are trying, very unsuccessfully, to replicate the Gujarat model here. They think they can polarise the population on communal lines. In Tamil Nadu, they are using the divisions within the AIADMK to get their foot in. This is typically what the BJP president has of late started specialising in – The art of losing elections and forming governments like they did in Goa, Manipur and Bihar. The second factor is that they see the Left as a consistent ideological and organisational challenge to their civilisational agenda of turning India from a secular democratic republic to a Hindu Rashtra. It is no coincidence that the RSS chief specifically targets the Left in his Vijaydasami speech.

The third reason, of course, has to do with their economic philosophy, what I’d term as Kerala model-versus-the Gujarat model. In Kerala, at the heart of policy-making are the people which is why the state has matched and even surpassed European countries in its performance on the Human Development Index. The only other state that has surpassed Kerala on some indices is Tripura, another Left-ruled state. This is because of the economic outlook that perceives the basic resource, the land for instance, as belonging to those who utilise it — The people. The land reforms in Kerala and the autonomy given to tribal populations in Tripura are measures stemming from decentralisation of economic authority and the consequence is what evolved in Kerala as the people’s plan which is in direct contrast with the Gujarat model where the land is corporatised and this basic resource is used for maximisation of profit for the industry. Profits can only be maximised when there is greater impoverishment at the other end. You look at HDIs, despite all the Jumlas of Swachch Bharat and Stand-up India, Gujarat fares badly on each one of them. The myth of the Gujarat model can only be shattered if the Kerala model gains currency.

They will try and delegitimise it like the Prime Minister did when he compared Kerala to Somalia. The BJP President’s recent yatra was aimed at projecting Kerala as a basket case where Hindus are threatened and insecure and so on. So, you see, the purpose is manifold. But the people are not buying it as was clear when Mr Shah had to literally escape from here; he was laughed out of Kerala. That could also be due to his son’s corruption case and not because of this so-called emergency meeting on the mess that they have made of the economy. Whatever their reasons, the jumlas are not working anymore because the objective conditions are so dismal.

With the economic crisis deepening, do you see issues of identity, Love Jihad, triple talaq, Ram Mandir getting further steam?

By now it is very clear that they have made a complete mess of the economy. I don’t think they ever had a blueprint on how they were going to handle the economy to begin with. They are forever tweaking figures to create impressions for electoral reasons. They first tweaked the GDP figures to tom-tom that we have become the fastest growing economy in the world. It made them look good when the reality was entirely different and growth in every sector was decelerating. Let me begin with what has happened in agriculture which not only caters to employment but also provides housing for two-thirds of our people in the rural areas. Agricultural distress has sharply deteriorated because they have not invested in any aspect of agriculture and have shamelessly betrayed their main election promise to farmers about calculating MSP at 50 per cent over and above the input cost. The government has virtually stopped procuring, you have sharply cut down agricultural loans and the investments in MNREGA have come down by half reducing livelihood options. The net result is that rural demand, that stabilised the Indian economy during the worst years of the world economic crisis, has shrunk.

Now come to the industry. Their whole focus is on making capital readily available to the industry. The completely misplaced logic is that the greater the access the industrialist will have to capital, the greater will be the investment and hence greater growth and employment. So they have been extremely profligate in disbursing loans to the industrialists and ended up having the worst recovery in NPAs. NPA growth has been the highest under this government, Rs 11.5 lakh crore is the outstanding amount.

Investment per se cannot lead to growth and employment. Whatever produced has to be consumed. It’s elementary. For the product to be sold, you need a domestic market and that market is shrinking. We are paying a very heavy price for this. Our industrial side is showing 96 lakh job losses in the last one year. Companies like Cognizant, Infosys and Wipro are talking about laying off 67,000 people. International agencies say two-thirds of our IT professionals will be redundant by the end of the year because of technological changes. All this is reducing the domestic demand. Industry in crisis, services in crisis and agriculture in crisis. Global trade has sunk. Percentage of exports to the GDP is the lowest in the last two decades.You cannot sell what’s produced in the world and you cannot sell what’s produced in India. Where do you have to look at?

Instead of dolling out these loans as NPAs to the big industry, if those resources were used for augmenting public investment and building up much needed infrastructure, it could have generated a fresh wave of new jobs. Huge number of jobs and that would have sustained your domestic demand and given a fresh impetus to the manufacturing sector to grow.

Do you think this is happening because they lack a vision or are suggesting there is a design?

There is a reason for following this faulty economic direction. If you want an insular polity in India which is pushing the RSS agenda, you will require international support. All the visits of the Prime Minister are for the purpose of eliciting international support. It also means serving the interests of the foreign capital. So the economic direction was to open up the Indian economy to the foreign capital in all areas, including defence production, railways, airlines, financial institutions… They are appeasing international finance for garnering support for their domestic political agenda.

By allowing Indian economy to become less and less autonomous, the Centre has started the process of domestic deindustrialisation. Big players may survive. But the MSMEs have gone. On top of this comes demonetisation that virtually crippled the informal economy which is a major component of growth and employment. None of its so-called objectives were fulfilled. They pardoned all black marketers and fake currency holders and made their money legal. GST was a knee-jerk reaction. We have been warning that don’t push it with great hurry. Look at the duties on petroleum products. You are looting the people for augmenting your exchequer and then claim fiscal discipline! Neither is the economy growing nor people’s welfare taking place.

The growing discontent in the form of kisan agitations and trade union protests, even their BMS, is being channelised into political expression. That would mean that this government is in serious trouble. This can only be countered by sharpening communal polarisation and thereby deflecting attention from real issues. Gau Rakshak Samitis, Romeo squad, Love Jihad, Ram Mandir… All these fake issues are trumped up to shift attention away from the handling of economy and to keep the people and the Opposition divided. It’s a classic strategy. The agendas they are pushing forward are exclusive agendas in a diverse country like India. We are living on a dangerous precipice at the moment. All these issues will be trumped up further and communal polarisation will be deliberately sharpened as the ground realities of the economy deteriorate further. There will be greater economic squeeze of the people and there will be a greater communal polarisation which will be much worse in the days to come.

But surely, there is resistance to this strategy.

They will suppress it. A dangerous part of their strategy is to undermine all democratic institutions by using a compliant media to constantly caricaturise them. Parliament is turned into something like an elitist debating club. Instead of engaging in serious debate, the Prime Minister chooses to absent himself. I have never ever seen the Prime Minister answering the questions in Parliament. He does not deign to participate in debates. This is completely contrary to the democratic spirit. Our Constitution begins with “We The People”. People are supreme custodians of democracy. They exercise this sovereignty through electing their representatives to Parliament. The government is answerable to Parliament. If they break the link between people/Parliament and government, then the whole question of people’s sovereignty breaks down. That suits the inherently undemocratic BJP. Some of the legislatures in the BJP-ruled States, in particular Gujarat during the present PM’s tenure as CM, met for less than a week in a year.

Then, authority is exercised and manufactured information is circulated by strict control over the media. Mann Ki Baat has to be broadcast by all media. He (the PM) never addresses a press conference or answers questions. There cannot be a worse dictatorial attitude than this. Muzzling of non-official media through corporate control is taking place. They do not allow anything other than the Modi-Shah narrative in media. Political parties are also muzzled using central investigation and prosecuting agencies such as the ED and the CBI. The technique is that you decimate and delegitimise the Opposition so that they stop opposing you or join you like what happened with Nitish Kumar. They will try making deals or buy people off.

For that, they have changed the laws of political funding distorting the electoral process. Instead of banning corporate funding to political parties, they removed the limit of corporate funding and made it anonymous. They do not want to check the supply side of corruption. The BJP is distorting the electoral process to be in power. They are creating a post-truth society that doesn’t go by ground realities. They follow jumlanomics to control the minds of people. As the famous director Manmohan Desai once said – a film is successful if you do not allow the audience to think. They will not allow the people to think. The net result is sheer propaganda blitzkrieg.

Look at the BJP president’s son’s corruption. It’s a classic case of money laundering. They are not tired of accusing earlier governments. But investigations have begun not even in one case where the BJP leaders are facing corruption charges… Sahara diaries, Vyapam Scam, Srijan scam… Scams are galore in the BJP-ruled States but they will not investigate them. It is like the whole of the Opposition is corrupt and the BJP is the only pure party. We are living in very difficult and dangerous times.

Published on October 12, 2017

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