Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Modi govt is anti-poor and anti-farmer: RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya

The Modi govt is anti-poor and anti-farmer: RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya

PANINI ANAND@paninianand|30 June 2015

The opinion

  • Narendra Modi came to power promising 'Achhe din'. Former RSS ideologue Govindacharya gives his take on Modi's performance so far.
  • He believes 3 sections supported Modi in the elections: core RSS supporters, those upset with the UPA, and the youth.
  • This is a historic opportunity as it is the first time a non-Congress leader has won such a majority.

The performance

  • Under Modi, the party has become personality centric. Institutions and ideology are being neglected.
  • BJP has compromised on its core issues like Ram Mandir. It isn't doing enough for cow protection and cleaning up Ganga.
  • Why is there a greater urgency in aligning with PDP than on abrogating Article 370?
  • Even on foreign policy there has been little consistency.

The priorities

  • Modi government seems more keen on pushing a pro-corporate agenda than addressing the problems of the poor.
  • It is going against farmers by amending land acquisition Bill and pushing for GM foods.
  • Rather than smart cities and bullet trains, the priority should be on intervening in favour of have-nots.

More in the story

  • Criticism of Modi's policies on land, seeds, environment, labour reforms, rural migration, and foreign policy.

At a time when very few people in the BJP and the larger Sangh Parivar are willing to speak out, former RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya doesn't pull any punches.

He has many critical positions against the Narendra Modi government - especially on land, environment, labour reforms, GM crops, crony capitalism, the Make in India initiative and obsession with first world economies.

Many of the core issues he would like Prime Minister Modi to pursue are themselves contentious and debatable. However, his views are a window into what many in the RSS feel but do not voice.

In an interview, Govindacharya discusses various aspects of the Modi government, offering some criticism, a little praise and a lot of advice.

PA: BJP promised 'Achhe Din' during the election campaign. Now, everybody is evaluating whether this promise has been fulfilled. Congress says the Modi government has failed. Barring a few voices of dissent, BJP and RSS are hailing Narendra Modi. What is your take?
KG: It is the first time since Independence that a non-Congress leader has come to power with such a thumping majority. This landslide victory was a result of three kinds of voters rallying behind Modi. 

Out of roughly 31% vote share of BJP, 10% are hardcore RSS supporters. 

Another 10% were disgruntled with the previous government. These voters were not particularly inclined towards the party. Yet, they saw a ray of hope in Modi. The slogan of 'Achhe Din' found resonance with this voter. 

The third section is the youth. They hoped for better employment opportunities. The issue of black money also attracted them. We can say, the youth too was enticed by this slogan.

This government was formed when these three sections came together to exalt Modi. It is more of a Modi government than a BJP government.

PA: Has the organisation been overshadowed by personalities in the BJP?

KG: See, there are two things here. First, centralisation of power and over-dependence on the bureaucracy. 

Second, organisation taking a backseat in governance. Power comes and goes but the weakening of party institutions is more worrisome. Especially for a party which claims that it doesn't hanker for power. 

Today, one doesn't even know who the BJP's office-bearers are. Only the president of the party is known, that too for obvious reasons.

No one knows who BJP office-bearers are. Only the party chief is known

There is no vigour in party agitations. The constitution of the party has no provision for e-membership. It should have been ratified by the National Council of the party. But that did not happen. Every institution in the BJP - working committees, national council, office-bearers - have been marginalised.

PA: Isn't the BJP president known mainly because of the Prime Minister?

KG: The president has no separate existence. This has been one of the reasons for the marginalisation of the party. The situation has come to such a pass because there are no deliberations on such matters in the party.

As far as the achievements of the government are concerned, I think the intentions are right. However, we need to wait for tangible results. About two-third of BJP supporters still look up to Modi. They still hope for 'Achhe Din'. But about a third of the traditional voters are despondent. 

Take the example of Ram Janmabhoomi. The government does not seem to be as keen on this issue as it is on amending the land acquisition legislation.

BJP was in a hurry to form a government with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir but nobody spares a thought for Article 370.

The matter of cow slaughter is also on the back-burner. If they can't stop it altogether, they can at least ban the export of beef. However, beef exports have increased from Rs 22,000 crore per annum to Rs 26,000 crore per annum.

The Prime Minister stresses on the need for protecting cows. However, what will happen to them if they are not taken to the slaughter houses? There is no clear plan for their rearing.

In countries like US and Brazil, cows are treated as mere milk-producing machines. Dairies and slaughter houses are integrated there and the old cows are meant only for slaughtering. However, this is against Indian values. We do not accept this approach towards cows.

PA: You are saying that BJP has gone back on its core issues. What about the new slogans that have been coined?

KG: The policy of distracting people can't go on for long. Soon, people will begin to call your bluff. Take, for example, the issue of Ganga. Everybody agrees it has to be cleaned. The government has expressed the same sentiment. 

However, if you look at it logically, Ganga can only be clean if its flow is uninterrupted. How can this be achieved if there are big dams? The government must ensure the ecological flow of Ganga.

The government does not have a clear stand on this matter. To work superficially on this issue would be a grave injustice to Ganga. People will not tolerate this attitude towards the holiest river in the country.

Everybody believes that this government wants to make a positive change. But it has no clear direction. People have started viewing it as an anti-poor, anti-people government.

The main purpose of the state is to empower the destitute. However, the opposite is happening now

Detractors say it is working against the farmers and does not believe in communication. The perception is gaining ground that it is pro-rich and pro-US. 

The focus of the government is on smart cities, bullet trains and land acquisition. Its idea of development seems to be copied from the countries like the US, Argentina and Brazil. It wants big farms and slaughter houses.

The World Bank says it wants 40 crore farmers out of agriculture sector by the year 2020. The government seems to agree with this idea.

In fact, they are publicising 'Make in India' for the same purpose. 'Make in India' would be of little use unless it is transformed into 'Made by India' or 'Made for India'. 

As of now, 'Make in India' is nothing more than an open invitation to foreigners to loot the country. The current course would be suicidal for the country. It will not strengthen India's industrial muscle. We need to increase manufacturing capacity on our own.

PA: What about foreign policy? Surely that has been an area of success for the Modi government?

KG: Let us discuss foreign policy now. Narendra Modi can be deemed as the most active prime minister in this regard. However, merely visiting other countries, making speeches, and clicking selfies is of little use. 

This government started its diplomatic charm-offensive by offering an olive branch to Nawaz Sharif. Look, what is the state of Indo-Pak relations today?

Hurriyat and Pakistan flags are being waved in Kashmir. Who knows by next Independence Day, the clamour for Azadi will reach its peak and people would be seen burning the Indian flag in the Valley.

Much is left unsaid in diplomacy. Myanmar saved India's face after the cross-border operation. Otherwise India had come out looking like an aggressor. This can lead to many difficulties in the international arena. 

India risks isolation, if it is seen as a regional bully. India needs finesse in its' foreign policy.

Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the banks of Sabarmati was a great Kodak moment. What was the ultimate result?

India, Japan and Australia are forging a strategic alliance at the behest of the US. However, this could antagonise China, Africa, Islamic countries along with some European nations. India's foreign policy must be centred around its core national interests. We should not ignore the eastern countries.

PA: The Sangh Parivar has always portrayed America as a 'demon', be it in the context of foreign goods or genetically modified seeds. How do you see the government's economic policies in this respect?

KG: There are two schools of thought in this country. One believes in the devolution of power and economy. It says nobody should be compelled to migrate for a living. This is the 'Swadeshi' model.

To uproot 40 crore farmers and compensate them is a model imported from the US and Brazil. Huge farms, dairies and slaughter houses is essentially a foreign idea. Cattle in every village household, an integrated approach towards agriculture and animal husbandry - this is the decentralised Indian approach.

The government has forgotten two basic facts. They believe small farms are not viable. This can be refuted scientifically. 

Second, ending self-reliance in agriculture and hampering food security will have dire consequences.

Framing agriculture policy and acquiring land at the cost of food security would be counter-productive. Providing safe drinking water and empowering the families should be our priority.

However, policy makers seem to cheer rural migration when it should have been a cause of concern to them.

The promotion of GM is ruining the indigenous seed bank and is one of the biggest hurdles in making farming profitable.

The Indian ideology has three basic tenets- Ram, Rashtra and Roti. Ram is a symbol of spiritual values as well as the Ram Temple agitation. He epitomises national sovereignty. The complete silence on the issue of Ram Temple reflects government's priorities.

The government must encourage an environment of dialogue in the country. Monologues aren't going to work

Instead of bullet trains, the government's priority should be providing water in unreserved coaches. 

According to the Indian model of development, smart cities should after the provision of safe-drinking water to 238 arsenic and fluoride affected villages of the country. As of now, rich are reaping the benefits and poor are being lured by empty promises.

The main purpose of the state is to empower the destitute. However, the opposite is happening. 

Forces of anarchy will stand to gain if the state is perceived as ineffective. The democratic process and the path of development would be endangered, if there is no course-correction.

PA: The government has a huge majority so what is the compulsion?

KG: I don't believe that the government has any compulsion. I do not doubt Modi's intentions. However, his priorities smack of neo-colonialism.

PA: What is the cause of disquiet among several MPs, ministers, the Margadarshak Mandal and Sangh-affiliated bodies like Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh?

KG: Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh and Bhartiya Kisan Sangh represent the economic thought of the RSS.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch is disappointed because the government is going ahead with FDI in the retail sector.

BMS workers can see how labour reforms are against the interests of the working class. The contract labourers are being exploited. There is no parity between work and the wages. They are miffed at these basic issues.

Similarly, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh is at a loss to explain the haste in bringing an ordinance on land acquisition. Its content is a matter of separate debate. 

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is asking what has the government done on the Ram Temple? This is the sentiment among the most committed cadres of the BJP. They worked hard for the party's victory and are now finding it hard to give answers in their constituencies. This is not a good sign.

You mentioned the Margadarshak Mandal, all Murli Manohar Joshi ji has said is that the ecological flow of the Ganga must be ensured. He is right in saying so, because Ganga can't be revived unless this happens. The government must not obstruct the flow of the Ganga.

The environment ministry says forget about forests, let there be land for humans first. But five crore landless labourers don't have any shelter. You should have given them the possession of land. Nothing of this sort is happening. If the government's image has taken a beating, then who else is to be blamed?

Most sectors are infested with crony capitalism. It is the responsibility of the government to intervene in favour of the have-nots. However, the government seems to be reneging on this commitment.

PA: Several questions have been raised over the choice of central ministers. The government is neither following the party line, nor the agenda of the Sangh. What is the reason for this?

KG: They are groping in the dark due to lack of ideological commitment. However, trust and dialogue are the fundamental premise of any organisation.

BJP's core supporters are a product of the same organisational culture. Today, they are silent and insecure. Speaking your mind is prohibited in the party. This cannot be good for any government or organisation.

PA: But what has tied the hands of the RSS?

KG: Sangh has its own character. It works for the party in the national interest. They came out in open support during the last general elections. I don't think it was a right thing to do. 

However, their style is to go back to the pavilion after the elections are over. RSS thinks Swayamsevaks working in the party should put the house in order. The onus to reform the party is on them.

Only 15% of the Sangh works actively in the party. Rest of them sit pretty at home after ensuring victory in the elections. But they have to face tough questions from the public. This section is the first one to get frustrated. It can't understand its role after the elections.

The govt is only thinking of taking land. Nobody speaks about distributing it to the needy

The Sangh ideology also says that only a person who has his boots on ground can understand the real situation.

This demands patience from the Sangh Swayamsevaks. Sometimes, this attitude worsens the situation to a point of no-return. Its also affects the election results. 

However, the most important thing is that the ideal of Ram, Rashtra and Roti is damaged. Organisations will come and go but this is the cause of real concern for the nation.

PA: There is no dearth of leaders in the BJP who make communal statements. Doesn't it reflect the hardline Hindutva nature of the party?

KG: Such statements are like the Myanmar faux pas. They remind me of a saying, 'befriend a fool and suffer a thousand falls'. It is always better to speak less in politics. 

Once the Sangh Parivar plays an active role in elections, it cannot escape hard questions. Then, the statements by the Sangh leaders will also be identified with the government. 

Therefore, there is a need to rethink the concept of inter-dependability within the Sangh Parivar.

PA: How can Modi overcome this crisis?

KG: Sometimes it's good to tread slowly. If the direction is right, there is nothing wrong in getting a little lost. Politics is a marathon. More than speed, It requires stamina. 

Therefore, dialogue, trust, decentralisation and participation are paramount. The government must encourage an environment of dialogue in the country. Monologues aren't going to work.

BMS workers can see how the govt's labour reforms are against the interests of the working class

The government still has four years to deliver. It is for the first time after Independence that a non-Congress leader has won such a huge majority. This experiment must not fail. 

It is the responsibility of the whole Sangh Parivar. Within the Sangh Parivar, it is the BJP which has to shoulder this burden and among them, the prime minister has to take the responsibility. 

I bear no ill-will towards Modi. He is an old friend of mine. I want him to succeed but he needs more sagacity.

PA: Is any scope of ideology left in the BJP, especially when they have Ram Vilas Paswan as well as PDP as their allies and nothing stops them from making more political compromises?

KG: With such a huge majority, BJP must come out of this alliance mentality. It should move ahead firmly on its ideological path. The party is still not out of the election mode. Just forming governments is not enough. The need of the hour is to work with the confidence of a government that has a full majority.

No comments: