Congress non-ideological pragmatism
Posted on September 26, 2010 | Author: C P Bhambhri | View 368 | Comment : 2
The path the Congress,via Rahul and Sonia Gandhi,now seeks to follow is based not on any ideology or doctrine,but on the pragmatic considerations of promoting social welfare of the poor
Rahul Gandhi has been projected by the media as the messiah of the poor,downtrodden Dalits,tribals and farmers.Rahul started his political journey by staying at the huts of poor Dalit families and sharing their frugal meals.Mayawati,in particular,was vocal in her criticism of Rahuls antics because she considers herself the sole custodian of Dalit interests.However,Rahul managed to convey the message that it is not Mayawati but he,along with his mother,who is the real protector and defender of Dalit rights.Rahul went on to visit villages and houses of poor and exploited tribals whose rights to natural wealth were being snatched by multinationals and big industrial houses.On August 26,Rahul congratulated ancient Dongria Kondh on their victory... by succeeding in halting the Vedanta bid to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa.
Rahul championed the cause of poor tribals in their fight against exploiters who,under the garb of industrial development,were trampling on their rights.Many political leaders perceive the ongoing Maoist insurgency against the Indian state as the last-ditch attempt by the exploited tribals of Chhattisgarh,Jharkhand,Orissa,etc,to preserve their rights.It is true that in many places,tribals consider the Maoists as their liberators.But Rahul has accepted the Maoist challenge head-on by reaching out to the tribals to assure them of protection of their rights.
Speaking at a rally at Jagannathpur in Kalahandhi district of Orissa on August 26,Rahul told the tribals that development did not mean ignoring the genuine voices of people.His rhetoric has alarmed votaries of development because the Vedanta project was seen as a symbol of industrialisation in Orissa.
Going further,Rahul has also voiced his concern at the appropriation of land from farmers by big business houses to set up industries and malls.For Rahul,the opportunity knocked when the fertile Green Revolution belt in western Uttar Pradesh was gripped by an agitation by farmers whose land had been acquired by the Mayawati government to construct the Greater Noida-Yamuna Expressway.Rahul led a delegation of UP farmers to Delhi and met the PM,who assured the farmers that their lands would be fully protected.
Rahuls pro-poor,pro-Dalit,pro-tribal and pro-farmer politics was supported by Sonia Gandhi who made a statement amplifying the concerns raised by Rahul.On September 9,she declared: Land acquisition must be done in a way that fertile lands are not lost.Farmers should be provided adequate compensation.The UPA government is ready to bring the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act,2010.
It is clear from the approach of the Congress top leadership that it is absolutely committed to the project of growth and economic development that is integrally linked to industrialisation and private foreign investment and harnessing new technologies.Both Sonia,as chairperson of the UPA,and Rahul,as the general secretary of the Congress,have led from the front to highlight the partys new line of growth with a human face.
The statements of Rahul and Sonia,along with the Supreme Courts concern for the informal sector of economy,including the welfare of construction workers,can lead to an impression that the Congress is abandoning the path of development that it chose in the 1990s and replacing it with the old system of leftofcentre policies pursued by the party under Indira Gandhi.Have Rahul or Sonia given any impression that they are reverting to the old ideology of socialism A caring state that protects the rights of the oppressed and exploited sections of society and practises social welfare policies cannot be described as a socialist system.
THE history of how industrialising capitalist countries of the West dealt with the issue of rights of citizens clearly shows that industrial capitalist societies gradually brought the discourse of the rights of the labouring class within their policy framework.Thomas Paine wrote in his classic Rights of Man in 1791 that both the American War of Independence and the French Revolution were based on the idea of the fundamental right to freedom and equality.
The last decades of the 18th century and the whole 19th and 20th centuries have witnessed working class struggles for rights and their powerful impact was felt on the industrial capitalist classes and the policymaking apparatus of western countries.The enlightened self-interest of the employers became the central point while they were dealing with workers for enhancement of productivity and profits.As a result,the idea of welfare state spread in the whole of Europe.The Green Party of Germany,for example,espouses concern for the environment and ecology but its ideology has not acted as an obstacle in the way of capitalist growth of the country.The Scandanavian countries of Sweden,Norway,Denmark and Finland are strong democratic welfare state traditions.But it has in no way adversely affected profits and productivity of western capitalism.
There is no disconnect between social welfare market economics of Europe and their economic growth trajectory because every social class and group,on the basis of historical experience of industrialisation,has come to realise that a politics that seek to primarily uphold working class interests has to be guided by a pragmatic definition of enlightened self-interest.Hence,European welfare capital is not at all guided by any ideology of socialism because experience has shown that non-ideological pragmatism is a good guide to diffuse social conflicts which arise if the labouring classes are neglected and they are not provided with social security.The message of Thomas Paine has been imbibed by major industrial capital societies.
It appears that Rahul and Sonia have learnt their lessons from European history that capitalism will not be subverted by taking care of the concerns and rights of the socially downtrodden classes.The path they want to follow is based not on any ideology or doctrine but on the pragmatist considerations of promoting social welfare of the poor.They have not abandoned centrist politics.On the contrary,they have just given a pragmatic touch to governance.