This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Monday, 26 November 2012
India's Impending Implosion
From March 2009
[This is the first of a series of blog posts in which I’ll discuss the reality of India today, and lay out the grounds for my thesis that a general social and economic collapse of the country is only a matter of time; a breakdown, moreover, that will at the least lead to tremendous unrest and quite likely to open civil war.]
Imagine the new Tiger; a nation long shackled by colonial rule and then by wrong-headed governmental policies, a nation now free to follow its own trajectory to riches and its place in the sun, a superpower in the making, to whom none dare say nay. Imagine a nation that is resurgent, confident, on an upward trajectory to glory. Imagine that this nation is a proud democracy, firm and united in the midst of a morass of failed states, a beacon of hope and freedom in darkness.
Right. There you have the Nationalist’s View of India.
Before I go on any further, let me tell you a little story.
I live in a small state in the extreme east of the country, a state which is run by a legislature of sixty members. Last March, there was an election to that assembly, and the Congress party (ruling at the time) won 25 seats. A conglomeration of other parties and independent members cobbled together an alliance known as the MPA which controlled 35 seats, and hence formed a government. However, as everyone was well aware, the Congress was somewhat desperate to get back to power, and so there were plenty of allurements to those wishing to switch sides. This led to the MPA bending over backwards to please its constituents and literally allowing them to get away with daylight robbery and public assault; one minister, for instance, Donkupar Massar, has been named as an accused in several incidents of public violence but no action of any nature has been taken against him. Naturally, during this last year, any governance was by accident.
In the last few days, the MPA seems to have finally reached the end of its rope and a full-scale Congress attempt to retake the government is under way. Several members, including Donkupar Massar, whose head the Congress was demanding should roll just a few days ago, have defected to the Congress side, so that as of yesterday both sides had thirty members each. And last night a reliable source informed me that a notorious Congress political fixer is in town with hookers and cases of Scotch in order to buy more members ahead of Tuesday’s trust vote. Sad but true that legislators are on sale for a drink and a fuck, but there it is.
Why is the Congress so eager to form the government although it lost the election? Well, in the first place, there’s such a lot of money to be made by whoever controls the government, from licences to quarry limestone in areas honeycombed with beautiful and ancient caves like this
and from contracts that are not meant to be fulfilled. There is also the fact that next month elections are due in Delhi for the national government, and with no clear favourite, every seat counts – and when a particular state is ruled by a party, that party can “manage” votes for its candidate. (The local Congress candidate, in this case, is one Vincent Pala, a former bureaucrat who magically acquired a bank balance of many millions on a bureaucrat’s salary.)
I mention this sad story because it’s so absolutely typical of all that is wrong with India today – a democracy where the only purpose to hold elections that will choose who will exploit and drain the electorate for the next five years, whether at the local or national level. It is a process completely without any notion of governance; governance, by these lights, is a non-issue. Politics is a business, and the only goal is to get into power by any means possible.
In order to get into power, therefore, any and all means are OK, just as long as you can get away with them – any and all means, because one stint in power can set you up for life. This is one reason why while politicians in the past used to court and be courted by criminals, nowadays criminals become politicians. It’s such a nice safe way of committing crime in public.
Anyway – sarcasm apart – the point is that what we have in India is a political system of what I might call electionocracy, not democracy, because “democracy” implies rule by the people through their elected representatives. Here we have the elected representatives ruling only for themselves.
This holds not just for the state but for elections up to and including the national level, where power means power for the sake of the exploitation of that power, not for any other or “higher” purpose. Therefore, ideology of any kind isn’t important; in fact ideology becomes a baggage to be discarded as soon as possible. So, except for the extreme right and the far left, no Indian political party has anything resembling an ideology any more – and some Indian politicians, like Purno Agitok Sangma, go so far as to admit the fact, without the slightest trace of embarrassment.
Since the party you vote for doesn’t have any ideology and no programme except self-interest, it has not the slightest reason to fulfil any of the pledges it makes before any election, except the minimum that it thinks can help win the next election. And where those pledges aren’t of immediate and direct interest to the average voter, no matter how important they are in reality (in such “abstract” things as foreign policy, for instance) there isn’t even that little attempt. What you vote for is never what you get.
If you’ve been following me so far, you’ll understand that in such a political situation, the political parties will (not having any interest in serving the people who brought them to power) primarily work to help those who can provide them money. This translates into helping the interests of the capitalist class, and since the capitalist class is always right wing (obviously) all political parties steadily drift towards the economic right (no matter what the official political stance) – one of India’s major “socialist” parties, the Samajwadi (Socialist) Party, for instance, is so inextricably entwined with the Reliance corporate house that it’s not easy to tell where one ends and the other begins.
I suppose it is obvious enough that these parties are now no longer political parties as such but money-making concerns, and that politics, therefore, is a business. In good old Indian tradition, therefore, the parties are treated as business concerns belonging to the party bosses and their children, and handed on from father to son. There is absolutely no concept of internal democracy within these parties – the only thing that matters is to be in the good books of the owners of the party if you want to go ahead. It fosters a culture of acute and nauseating sycophancy, where politicians compete to show how abjectly loyal they are to their masters.
Also, since ideology is unimportant and pleasing the capitalist class is all that matters, and since the capitalist class is very closely identified with international capital (and international capital is unalterably profiteering, as the world is finding out to its cost) the foreign policy gets oriented to serving the interests of the people who control the international capital (or are perceived to control it) – ultimately the United States. Therefore, even though governments are voted in on promises of independent foreign policies, in actual performance such policies are of craven subjugation to the dictates of the United States.
A couple of examples will suffice. Back in the “bad old days” India refused to have anything to do with the apartheid regime in South Africa or with the Zionist pseudostate in Occupied Palestine. Today, if the apartheid regime had still been in existence, it would have had an embassy in New Delhi; and India could not even manage a statement unequivocally condemning the Zionazi assault on Gaza in December.
Also, there is a general consensus (even an idiot can see the truth of it) that India is facing immense energy shortages and urgently needs – among other things – natural gas. Iran has large stores of natural gas and was eager to sell a part of it, by pipeline, to India. Till 2007 negotiations were proceeding apace, until India, under open and unconcealed US pressure, twice voted against Iran at the IAEA and virtually abandoned the pipeline. India’s national interest, you see, is less important than the US’ interest.
Therefore, the Indian political landscape is now one of competing right wing formulations jostling for the identical political space, and going to any lengths to secure an advantage in that political space. Therefore, appealing to religious and caste identities is quite all right, and includes carefully applied violence (using semi-legal militias to retain a pretence of deniability) whenever required. Another technique, which is now required for any party wishing to win an election, is to back reservations in education and jobs for “backward” social classes (more of that in one of the follow-on articles) at the expense of merit. All these politics are divisive, not inclusive, of course, but since power is the only goal, the long term effects of divisive politics aren’t even on the radar screen of these people.
Alongside all these comes the attitude of the individual politicians when voted to power. India is still a completely feudal country, and politicians tend to think of themselves as kings and princes, to whom laws do not apply and who can do as they please. As I mentioned above, many of these politicians are career criminals (mostly mafia dons) and they carry on their crime careers, quite unhindered. It’s only at election time that they suddenly recall the people who voted them to power and whom they have never even seen in the intervening years, except maybe as a shadow in the back seat of an air-conditioned chauffeured official car with an illegal red beacon on its roof. Suddenly the politician is back, asking oleaginously for votes and with promises of even more reservations for “weaker sections” and assuring protection of (literal and metaphorical) holy cows.
Not unnaturally, since, despite the overwhelming contempt the average politician feels for them, the people are not stupid, politicians are not exactly popular – in fact they are hated. But there’s the catch – there isn’t an alternative. There’s no provision for the recall of a politician or even for the casting of a negative vote if none of the candidates are acceptable to one. The people have to choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, only both the Tweedles have fangs, and the fangs are buried in the collective flesh.
So far, what has happened is that the electorate has given each group of politicos a chance to rule and redeem their promises – and been thoroughly disappointed each time. But the sands of time will run out one day.
When you cannot fool even some of the people some of the time – what happens then?