Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the May 23, 1996 issue of Workers World newspaper
The defeat of India's Congress Party in May's election was predicted. An early count shows this party's defeat to be unprecedented.
No single party or electoral alliance won the majority of seats in parliament needed to form a new government. At present many parties are scrambling to build a coalition that can block the leader of the front-running Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party from becoming prime minister.
The right-wing BJP can't pull together the allies it needs to have a majority of parliamentary seats. Even the Indian ruling class may fear that this upper-caste Hindu party will threaten India's unity.
The ceremonial president of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma, will appoint a new prime minister.
The Left Front/National Front seems to be in the strongest position to build a governing alliance.
The candidate most favored by the left front was Jyoti Basu, a leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and chief minister from West Bengal.
However, the Communists have withdrawn their candidate. The CPI-M was presented with a difficult problem. How can this party realize the goals of its program when the capitalist class controls the Indian economy?
This party doesn't hold a majority of seats in parliament; it wouldn't have real control of the economy or the state apparatus. It would have to ally with reformist parties that support the capitalist system in order to have enough seats. This would leave the CPI-M responsible for an ineffective and unstable government.
It would have to work with the Congress Party, which in order to return to power is maneuvering to undermine the CPI-M.
The Congress Party formed India's first independent government after liberation from Britain in 1947 and has held office since then with the exception of two brief interludes.
Because he has followed an economic program dictated by the IMF and the World Bank that has been disastrous for India's masses, Prime Minster Narasimha Rao was expected to lose the election.
Since taking office in 1991 Roa opened India to U.S. and European capitalist domination on a wide and accelerated scale. The result has been a rapid increase in unemployment and poverty. Living standards for all levels of Indian society except the very top layers have suffered deterioration.
In prior years the Congress Party relied heavily on support from the Soviet Union to maintain some economic independence from world imperialism. In the years after India won its independence, the Soviet Union and Peoples China helped India's economy industrialize with a minimum of disruption from the rapacious world capitalist economy.
This in turn strengthened the working class and gave it an opportunity to fight for better conditions.
At the time of independence, India started out with problems similar to China's at that same period. But India's new government was set up under the rule of a capitalist class represented by the Congress Party.
Today India still has a capitalist economy. In states such as Kerala and West Bengal, which are governed by large communist parties, there have been social advances. But India overall has not achieved the historic successes won by the Chinese socialist revolution in conquering hunger, homelessness, infant mortality, illiteracy, and low life expectancy.
The vast population of India is angry about the increase in deprivation caused by Roa's restructuring program. All the parties opposing the Congress Party campaigned against this Western domination.
The Bharatiya Janata Party appealed to voters more with anti-Western demagogy than with Hindu chauvinism. The BJP even charged that the U.S. was financing Rao's campaign. This upper-class party was in a position to know.
India state television estimated on May 10 that the BJP would win about 185 seats in the 545-seat parliament, not enough to create a stable government. The Left Front/National Front would win between 140 and 150 seats. The Congress Party, which held 253 seats prior to the election, would come out with about 130 to 140.
'BANDIT QUEEN' FIGHTS FOR THE MOST OPPRESSED
There was news of increased participation of the most oppressed sectors of the population. Together with the communist parties, many organizations of the oppressed were active in their own name for the first time.
These forces will fight against rule by the BJP, which supports the Hindu caste system. The BJP was responsible for razing the Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya in 1992. This attack led to the death of 3,000 people, mostly Moslem.
Phoolan Devi is a famous woman fighter against the Hindu caste system. Her militant struggle became known internationally when portrayed in the movie "Bandit Queen." Still facing severe repression by the government, she ran as one of the candidates of a socialist party and won in Uttar Pradesh, a state with 140 million people. Her party is in the left alliance seeking to block the BJP.
It is expected that a new government will be formed before the final vote is in. That won't be until the end of May. India's elections occur in 800,000 polling stations among 14,700 candidates in 522 political parties. There are counting difficulties in areas such as Jammu and Kashmir where Congress government policies have fueled a separatist movement. There are also remote inaccessible villages that take a long time to reach.
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