Our constitution guarantees a sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic, which is only right since it was the end product of a struggle that was as much against an unequal social order as against British rule. But these ideals enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution have been utterly disregarded and violated in the nearly five years that the Modi government has been in office.
In fact, the BJP-RSS have made no secret of their opposition to these ideals with the Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, openly speaking against the insertion of the words “secular” and “socialist” in the preamble. The government even came up with an advertisement on the 66th Republic Day in 2015 that depicted the preamble of the constitution without 'socialist secular' as part of it. It is true that both these words were added as amendments to the constitution during Indira Gandhi’s tenure. It is also true that both have been made a mockery of in the decades since then. In practice, the socialist interventions of successive governments led by the Congress remained at the level of adopting planned development and maintaining a façade of ‘socialism’ while advancing the interests of the bourgeois-landlord alliance. And most bourgeois parties in India have opportunistically departed from secular principles whenever their electoral or other interests were served by communal politics. But no other government has been as committed to the idea of dismantling these two principles.
In brazen violation of the principle of socialism, this government is proud of boasting that it has pushed neoliberal reforms further and faster than any other. The BJP has also been championing the of “ease of doing business” an important component of which is undermining labour rights. BJP governments at the centre and in the states have been pushing for ever greater privatisation of even crucial sectors like health and education. The results are there for all to see -- the rich just keep getting richer while the poor and working people become further impoverished. An Oxfam report just released says the wealth of the richest 1% had grown by 39 per cent while the bottom half of the population gained just 3 per cent. The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) has estimated that between December 2017 and December 2018 alone 11 million jobs were lost. So much for Modi’s promise of creating 2 crore jobs a year! The State of Working India report brought out by the Centre for Sustainable Employment of the Azim Premji University put the rate of open unemployment among the youth and higher educated at 16%. The neoliberal economic policies that successive governments have followed inevitably lead to jobless growth, but by pushing them harder and compounding the problem with the hare-brained demonetisation the Modi government has just precipitated matters.
The government and its apologists would argue that there is a ‘national consensus’ that socialism as the guiding principle of economic policy is a defunct idea. If indeed there is such a national consensus and not merely a consensus between the bourgeois parties and their economic masters, what has prevented reformist governments from amending the Constitution to get rid of the word? It is because they know that socialism is an ideal that the Indian people still hold dear and capitalism remains a discredited system.
As for secularism, it is hardly surprising that a government led by someone who has been an RSS pracharak for decades and as CM allowed the massacres of thousands in Gujarat should treat the idea with thinly veiled contempt. The last five years have seen the RSS-BJP indulging in communal rhetoric and violence of varying intensity to suit their immediate political needs. They have openly encouraged lynching in the name of ‘cow vigilantism’ against dalits and minorities. The north-east is in flames today because of a blatantly communal Bill that seeks to discriminate between refugees on the basis of their religious affiliation. The divisive Ram Mandir issue in Ayodhya issue is being fanned again in the hope that it will prove electorally rewarding as it did three decades ago. The BJP-RSS and their apologists like Sri Sri Ravisankar tried to coerce the leaders of the minority community for an out of court settlement. With these efforts failing, the pressure on the judiciary is being ramped up through continuous pronouncements that “Hindu society” is losing its patience and if the courts do not settle the matter fast, the government should facilitate the construction of the temple through an ordinance.
The Sabarimala issue in Kerala is being shamelessly used by the sangh parivar to not only try to divide Kerala along communal lines but to portray the Left as hostile to Hindus. The BJP president has held out veiled threats to the Supreme Court saying it should stay out of matters of faith. The oath of office that all MPs and ministers take to uphold the constitution is being routinely violated by this brazen defiance. The sheer opportunism and cynicism of such politics is evident from the fact that initially both the RSS and the Congress had welcomed the verdict of the SC constitution bench on Sabarimala. That the people of Kerala have seen through this game is another matter.
The attack on secular principles by the sangh parivar must be seen as part of a larger agenda of communally dividing the potential opposition to the economic policies that are impoverishing farmers, farm labourers, workers and small traders. Alarmed by the popular resistance coming up throughout the country against this, the BJP and Sangh Parivar have been trying to divide the people and distract them from their real issues. But the people have shown they cannot so easily be fooled. The BJP government of UP led by Yogi Adityanath tried raising a debate on 'Jinnah' ahead of the Kairana by-election but it was taught a lesson by the people who defeated them by insisting that the issue was not Jinnah but “ganna” – the lack of adequate support prices for sugarcane.