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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Hypocrisy and the neoliberal consensus

Debate over farm laws among political parties has made it clear that when in power they support corporate interests and in opposition, they pay lip service to constitutional values

Written by Prem Singh | December 28, 2020 8:54:21 pm

Since the beginning of the farmers’ agitation against the three new farm laws, there have been allegations and counter-allegations against the government and opposition parties. The pace and volume of these allegations increased significantly after the Opposition actively supported the Bharat Bandh called by the farmers’ organisations on December 8. The government and Opposition have presented documents and media footage accusing each other of doublespeak — of being against or for the laws depending on whether each is in office — creating confusion in the minds of people. This war of “reform versus reform” has revealed once again that liberalisation-privatisation is the common agenda of the ruling classes of the country. However, the pertinent point regarding the reforms has not been properly discussed.

This shared agenda of the ruling classes has continued for the last 30 years. When Manmohan Singh introduced the new economic policies in 1991, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said, “now the Congress has taken up their job”. H D Deve Gowda, who became the PM of the United Front government after Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh in 1996, was in favour of liberalisation-privatisation. During his six years as PM, Vajpayee took forward the process of liberalisation-privatisation mostly through ordinances. This process continued during the two tenures of the UPA.

The politics of the country has gradually become corporate politics. The first political party directly born out of the womb of corporate capitalism — the Aam Aadmi Party — has been a darling of the country’s sarkari communists and secular-democratic socialist intellectuals. Recently, after holding “Diwali Poojan” in Delhi’s Akshardham temple with official paraphernalia and propaganda, Arvind Kejriwal preached to his “liberal” friends that “they should pray for peace of mind”! The anti-corruption movement, from which this party emerged, deeply hurt the nationwide movement waged against the onslaught of liberalisation-privatisation, and seemingly paved the way for Narendra Modi to win office in Delhi.

The new farm laws are structurally pro-corporate. But few opposition political parties/leaders have sought their total repeal. In Parliament, apart from suggesting some amendments, all parties demanded the Bills be sent to a parliamentary panel. For example, take the statement by Communist Party of India (CPI) MP Binoy Viswam: “I request the minister… if the statement about the MSP is true and sincere… he should move an official amendment here, saying that he will add a clause ensuring the MSP for the farmers. In that case, I promise you, even though we oppose you politically, the Communist Party of India will support this Bill.” The demand for complete repeal of the three agri-laws was made only by the farmers’ organisations.

The ruling classes of India oppose liberalisation-privatisation, citing the Constitution when out of power, and when in power, take decisions in favour of liberalisation and privatisation in the name of the Constitution. If India is not to be turned into a hypocritical nation, then this phenomenon needs to be addressed seriously.

In the current consensus on neoliberal reforms — from education to defence sector — would it not be better if the ruling classes honestly accept that they back these reforms? Should they not give a clear message to domestic and foreign investors/companies that liberalisation-privatisation is India’s accepted national policy and tell the institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organisation that India has now come into its own in terms of accepting neoliberalism? Do they not need to display that India has not crossed the barrier of having “too much democracy” and can compete with communist China’s market socialism?

Such a suggestion may seem shocking to some people. But if we have to avoid being transformed into a hypocritical/fraudulent nation, then there is no choice but to face the truth. Three decades of hypocrisy are enough.

The writer teaches Hindi at Delhi University

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