Indian Elections and a Third Front
Vijay Prashad: The two major parties offer right-wing cultural values and neoliberal economics
SHAHANA BUTT, NEW DELHI, INDIA: It has been over 150 days Shyam Rudra Pathak has been sitting outside the office of India’s ruling Congress party, pressing the government for the use of Hindi language instead of English in the high courts and Supreme Court of India. To him, after 67 years of independence, India continues to be a slave of British language.
SHYAM RUDRA PATHAK, INDIAN PROTESTOR: Even after 65 years of independence, we cannot seek justice in any Indian language. English is compulsory language to be used in Supreme Court and 17 high courts. English was the language of elites, language of rulers. Still English continues to be the language of exploiters. English is being used as a weapon for exploitation of the common masses by the elites of India. They use English to stop common people from entering into governance, into administration, into judiciary, and in any powerful position.
BUTT: When asked what he thinks about India’s political setup, he said:
PATHAK: Both these major parties, Congress and BJP, are exploiters of the country. They are enemies of the country. They are ruining the country. Both of them are corrupt and none of them care for the country. Unfortunately, elections in India are play of money, so by money power they do win the elections, and they amass money by doing a lot of corruption
BUTT: The Real News Network talked to journalist, historian, and commentator Vijay Prashad about India’s political scenario.
VIJAY PRASHAD, INDIAN HISTORIAN AND COMMENTATOR: Indian system is a parliamentary system. That means that there are–every part of the country has a constituency, and each place is going to have to elect one member of parliament. They come to Delhi, they select the prime minister. You know, for the first 20-odd years of India’s independent history, the Congress Party dominated the politics. So it really–there was no question but that the Congress was going to win. From the 1960s onward, this Congress hegemony broke down and regional parties came to the picture. But over the last 25-odd years, it’s these regional parties that have played a very large role, a disproportionate role in bringing a government forth in New Delhi, because its their members of parliament that enable the two main blocs, the bloc run by the Congress Party and the bloc run by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP. It’s enabled these blocs to actually form a government
BUTT: India will be soon choosing its next government, and in the run-up to election, the front-running parties are doing their best to make it up. On one side is India’s ruling Congress Party, which has set records in India for its corruption scandals; and on the other is Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, known for its anti-minority and obsolete stiff attitude. And this has made it really hard for the people to choose.
PRASHAD: It’s very likely that the group led by the Congress, the UPA, United Progressive Alliance, is going to win again, but not by the kind of–it won’t have the kind of victory it had in 2009. This last parliament has seen a grotesque number of corruption scandals, which have dented, you know, the standing of the Congress. But it’s important to just underline this: it’s not the Congress that has, you know, misfired, as it were, in this last parliament. It’s just that the Congress was advantaged in the previous parliament, from 2004 to 2009, because it was held back by the left. Untethered by the left, they’ve done what their instinct tells them to do, which is to push for neoliberal corruption. And that is why the Congress is dented today when it comes to elections in 2014.
BUTT: Despite knowing the shortcomings of the two main political parties, Congress and BJP, people in this country are left with least options. Country is still in a process to understand its political system and build a strong third front.
PRASHAD: The Indian electorate is in a very bad position. On the one side, they have a party that’s committed to very cruel cultural policies, cruel political policies. On the other side, they have a political entity that is committed to corruption and to very, you know, full-bore neoliberalism. And the danger of all this is it creates an anti-politics mindset among the people. So what emerged during the course of this year was, for instance, an entity called the Aam Aadmi Party, the ordinary people’s party, the regular folk’s party. The problem with things like the Aam Aadmi Party is they are anti-politics. You know, in making a criticism of the two political parties, they say that all politicians are corrupt. And, you know, this removes people from a sense they should participate in the political institutions. For the sake of the Indian republic, the emergence of a third entity is, I think, paramount.
BUTT: Although being a democracy, India has failed to give its citizens sense of belongingness. Media reports reveal over 70 percent of the people living inside the country live in unprivileged conditions and over 80 percent receive no justice from country’s judiciary. And most of the time people end up casting vote for the sake of money they get paid for their vote.
Analysts point out whichever major party wins in the upcoming elections of India, things are unlikely to change for at least half of its population living in abject poverty, as long as they do not press hard for a political change in its democratic setup that calls for greater equality and justice for all.
For The Real News Network, Shahana Butt, New Delhi.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.