Narendra Modi's democracy

A Marxist Enquiry Into Indian State’s Bitter Internal Strife


The year 2018 has been a year of embarrassment for the ‘great’ Indian democratic state machinery. Though undermining the democratic ethos isn’t something new for India’s so-called democracy. The Indian state didn’t maintain a modern democratic relationship with its citizens from its very inception. The Constitution wasn’t adopted through any plebiscite or public debate, rather in a closed-door session with the help of few chosen feudal aristocrats, comprador capitalists and usurers, whose interests this ‘democracy’ has promised to uphold.

The Indian nation itself is not a ‘nation-state’ per se, unlike the European countries; rather, the people of the Indian subcontinent and the present Indian state are of different nationalities, cultures, races and tribes. The primary binding factor of these people was their common hatred towards the British colonial rulers, which brought them under the grip of the Congress Party and the latter duped them with the false promise of ‘freedom’. Despite 71 years passing by, the essence of the ‘freedom’ and democracy was never realised by the people.

Rather than assiduously working towards building an egalitarian India on the basis of equality, harmony and respect, the likes of Patel, Nehru and other much-hyped ‘nationalist’ icons of the right-wing built a union that imprisoned millions of people under the juggernaut of ‘Hindi-Hindu’ nationalism.

Not a single day has passed ever since achieving this so-called ‘independence’ in 1947 that this ‘Republic’ didn’t launch violent campaigns using brute force or filed cases against its citizens using the colonial-era laws, post-colonial draconian laws or violate the hard-won rights and laws regarding workers’ security, land reform, environmental protection and forest rights.

Starting from Tebhaga-Telangana movements of the 1940s to the national self-determination struggles waged by the people of Nagaland-Kashmir-Manipur-Mizoram-Punjab to present-day tribal struggle in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the Indian state’s war against its own citizens continues unbridled.

If embarrassment repeats itself then it becomes the norm. Then the rulers of a proclaimed democratic state start behaving like feudal landlords with the people by treating the latter as serfs. This is exactly how the Indian state and its executive heads, the representatives of the Indian ruling classes, are treating the Indian people despite calling their state machinery a leading ‘democracy’ of the world.

At present even the facade of a minimal modern democracy maintained to dupe the people started cracking at the highest branch of the Indian state, deep inside the state’s structure; that too twice. Firstly, when in an unprecedented move in January 2018 four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court conducted a press conference accusing the then Chief Justice of India of serious misconduct and expressed their concern over the future of the Indian democracy.

What Justice (Retd) Chelmeshwar said in the press conference, with three judges by his side, was, “…it is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation and more particularly this nation. An extraordinary event in the history of this institution of judiciary… it is with no pleasure in our hearts that we are compelled to take this decision to call for a press conference. But sometimes, the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order… four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, the democracy will not survive in this country, or any country. The survival of a democracy, it is said, the hallmark of a good democracy, is an independent and impartial judge…”(sic).

Secondly, another instance of state embarrassment took place in October 2018. A nasty factional feud laid bare the antagonism and internal strife within the highest echelon of the CBI, the country’s premier investigative agency. Top officers of this agency started filing criminal and corruption cases against each other, they started investigating each other’s crime and with the help of the Modi regime, one section started toppling the other in their bid to retain power through a bitter struggle.

While covering this unprecedented brawl within an organisation held in high esteem by the ruling classes, some of the top media houses used catchy headlines like- “War at the top in CBI; Fresh probe against spl director Asthana (Hindustan Times, 21 October), CBI’s credibility has been dented like never before in the history: Yashwant Sinha (The Economic Times, 26 October), CBI’s reputation has taken a hit, say former chiefs (Hindustan Times, 24 October), CBI officers like Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion: Arun Jaitley (Times of India, 26 October).

Unlike Europe, where the democratic revolutions led by an awakened bourgeoisie against the medieval feudal system helped achieve democratic values and consciousness regarding rights, no such consciousness exists in India due to non-occurrence of any such democratic revolution. To safeguard their own interests, their super-profits, the European bourgeoisie, especially the British colonial rulers, curtailed the growth of the Indian bourgeoisie at its embryo stage and preserved the inhuman feudalism by restructuring it according to their own convenience.

By investing capital from outside, they’ve begotten a class of such comprador indigenous capitalists whose interests are closely knitted with that of foreign capital. Thus, though the shell of the Indian state has a modern package, its core remains utmost reactionary. The educated youth of the country openly express their dismay for the political leadership and the parliamentary politics of the country. The downfall of the youth’s faith in parliamentary politics rang an eerie alarm at the headquarters of the ruling classes and they’ve assigned their representatives to wean over the youth towards the parliamentary system.

Under such circumstances, the bourgeoisie of the country is constantly trying to instil the faith in bureaucracy among the youth through films like Rang De Basanti. They ask the people of the country, who’re fed up with the parliamentary political system, to have faith in the judiciary. If this isn’t an irony of the ‘largest’ democracy then what it is when the people are asked not to trust the part that’s elected by them, rather the very part that’s totally unelected? This time, the credibility of the judiciary and the executive came under suspicion, and none but their skippers brought these crises to the institutions.

It’s not abnormal to see internal strife within the top brass of the Supreme Court or the CBI. There must have been strifes earlier as well, and they’re indeed quite normal. However, why the situation worsened so much this time that the top brass of these two highly-regarded organisations had to come out to wash their dirty linen in public rather than upholding the ‘sanctity’ of these institutions?

What Marxism calls a bourgeois democracy is considered as the only democratic system by the bourgeois thinkers. One of their important claims for the same is the presence of a ‘tripartite system’ or separation of power, i.e. the autonomy of the three main pillars of the state – the legislative, the judiciary, and the executive. French revolutionary philosopher Montesquieu wrote about this in 1748 in his Spirit of the Laws. When bourgeois revolutions uprooted feudalism in different countries of the world, then this tripartite system was adopted in many of them as the state’s principal structure.

Though the bourgeois ideologues strongly proclaim their states as neutral, the Marxists know that the real power of the three branches is monopolised by the bourgeoisie themselves. Only the legislative section is elected, while the rest two are unelected, and the composition of the elected part is done in such a way that the bourgeoisie always remain in a dominant position in it. In case the legislative section goes against their interest, the bourgeoisie uses the executive and the judiciary to topple the legislative section and impose bourgeois dictatorship at its place. The toppling of Allende government in Chile, the dictatorship of Suharto in Indonesia and the toppling of the CPI-led government in India’s Kerala are some of the examples of this rule.

Numerous small bourgeoisie who fought against the feudal system had their class interest in liberal democracy. The bourgeoisie required such a state system that will, on one hand, protect the bourgeois from the class rebellion of the workers, and on the other hand, maintain a balance by resolving the contradictions within different bourgeoisie in a nation-state. To maintain this balance an umpire is quite imperative, hence, comes the role of the ‘tripartite system’.

The working class too enjoyed their bit of little freedom amidst the contradiction between different sections of the bourgeoisie. However, as the free capitalist system transformed into monopoly capitalism with the centralisation of capital, the democratic periphery got smaller; though, due to extreme pressure exerted by mass movements, the democratic space at times expanded as well. Through the balance of force between these two, the democratic space for the working people is fixed in the capitalist world order.

In the era of monopoly capitalism, when the bourgeoisie faces an immense economic crisis that transforms into a political crisis, then not only the rights enjoyed by the people but even the compromises, through which different sections of the bourgeoisie maintain peace among each other, become unaffordable, and fascism comes into play. Bourgeois dictatorship has two aspects, one is a bourgeois democracy and another is fascism. Bourgeois democracy means the overall dictatorship of the bourgeois class; democracy for the bourgeoisie and dictatorship for the working class. However, fascism is the dictatorship of one section of the bourgeoisie over not only the people but also on other sections of the bourgeoisie. Fascism tries to destroy that very system through which different groups of the bourgeoisie exert pressure on each other and maintain a balance, i.e. the ‘tripartite system’.

As the contradiction within the bourgeoisie is intensifying due to the global economic crisis, the politics is becoming perilous and turning extremely violent. If one analyses the essence of Justice (Retd) Chelmeshwar, then they will find that he said that the country’s top court isn’t allowed to function independently and impartially. After Modi’s ascension to power, the contradiction between the cabinet and the Reserve Bank of India also became public. Though the contradiction was painted in the binary of ‘honest vs dishonest’ officers or ‘nationalist vs anti-national’ narrative, it’s actually a dispute between different big bourgeois groups adopting policies that hurt the interests of their opponents.

It’s impossible to gauge that whether Narendra Modi goes for numerous foreign trips as the prime minister of the country or as a business development officer of the Adani or Ambani groups(!). As only these two big bourgeois groups have benefited immensely in the last four and half years, while the Tatas and Birlas, who were infamous of running the country earlier, are totally cast in the oblivion at present.

The mobile telecommunication company of Mukesh Ambani – Jio is now evicting other telecom companies from the market. By monopolising the market of mobile telecommunication, this company is now in a position to call shots in the pricing and thereby blackmail the huge customer base it has created for itself.

Another Ambani, Anil Ambani, made a great fortune under Narendra Modi’s rule with huge loans his numerous companies received from various public sector banks, with almost free land and an opportunity to bag a multi-billion rupees Rafale Jet deal through the mediation by the Modi regime. The Rafale Jet scam is a classic example of how comprador capitalism mixed with cronyism hurts the country’s economy and even can paralyse key sectors like defence, which is held dear by the bourgeoisie. The statement of the former president of France tells us how the liasoning by the Indian government replaced an experienced player and handed over the key deal to a fly-by-night operator owned by Anil Ambani, even when the latter has no experience in building any military aircraft.

The Adani Group is trying to perch tightly over the key sectors of the economy. After experiencing a meteoric rise under the patronage of Narendra Modi’s rule in Gujarat, the Gautam Adani-led Adani Group has monopolised its control over India’s domestic gas supply, got a large tract of farm and forest lands violating all norms. The huge amount of tax rebates that the Adani Group received from the government has resulted in nationwide controversies and the infamous company had to gag the free media from publishing its wrongdoings by using legal channels.

In the mining sector the Modi regime’s direct support to big mining corporations is visible; in the last four and half years, it has helped the mining companies to plunder India’s resources and destroy its environment and ecology to extract maximum profit. Essar, a partner of Vodafone is also involved in large-scale mining and regularly receives government support. Vedanta, another foreign mining giant, whose former director was the former home and finance minister of the UPA regime – P Chidambaram, has expanded its business interests in the country and its greed is appeased by the Modi regime alike the Congress regime by providing it legal immunity from prosecution for its criminal deeds. The police firing on protesters in Thoothukudi is an example of how the state has taken up arms unashamedly against the very people whose blood-soaked money keeps its machinery oiled.

When one section of the bourgeoisie will try hard to seize the power of the state, then the other sections will not sit quietly. The corporate-controlled mainstream media participated in this internal strife of the Supreme Court’s judges and the CBI top brass. They are identifying one or the other player as their competitor and are exposing their corrupt deals to the public. The people are now knowing how specific cases related to loan default by big tycoons or other crucial cases are reaching specific judges or officers for hearing or investigation.

It’s found that cases related to all those bourgeoisie whom the government either wants to protect or punish are given to Mr Asthana. The close ties between Mr Asthana and Narendra Modi, when the latter was the chief minister of Gujarat, and other BJP leaders, is an open secret. It’s no more a secret to anyone how Mr Asthana served the BJP during the Gujarat riot investigation or the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter investigation. No one lost their ‘Astha’(faith) in Asthana all these days, it was only when P Chidambaram and his son felt the heat of the CBI that this faith crippled.

The former CBI Director Mr Verma took interest in the Rafale Jet scam and tried to remove Mr Asthana by using corruption charges against him. By not caring about the rules and regulations, by showing total disregard to the ‘tripartite system’, Narendra Modi disposed of Mr Verma as a counter-measure to do away with the chances of scam exposures. As Narendra Modi managed to dupe a lot of upper-caste Hindu elites and urban middle-class during the 2014 general election with his anti-corruption rhetoric, he is eager to maintain the tempo of the propaganda by nipping at bud any attempt to systematically expose scams that his regime is involved in, including, but not limited to, the Rafale Jet scam.

It’s beyond doubt that the open dog-fight between the different sections of the bourgeoisie will leave a long-term impact on the politics of India; now, due to the consolidation of power at the hands of one section of the comprador bourgeoisie it’s not only the human rights activists or the leftwing workers who are accusing the government of being undemocratic but also the very top brass of the Indian state are expressing anguish over the future of India’s democracy.

There are two possibilities before India today, either fascism will totally destroy the autonomy of the legislative, judiciary and the executive, or fascism can be smashed altogether through joint resistance. The people have already lost their faith in the legislative, which is why the Election Commission and big business houses have to spend millions on advertisements to lure people to the polling booths. Those who cast their votes even don’t believe that the polls will change any aspect of their lives at all. Now this clash within the ‘sacred’ institutions of the judiciary and executive blackened the image of these two in front of the people. It may be a bad thing, however, it also has a good side as real democracy can be achieved only by outcasting the sham one. The more the people will see the mask falling off the grotesque face of the fascist Indian state the more they will fight for true democracy, a people’s democracy.

Soumo Mondol started his journey as a student activist in West Bengal. He is a radical Marxist thinker, a left-wing activist who fights for the cause of the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed people.

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