Peaceful or Maoist?

A solitary VP Singh could take on the corporates in the past, as he is doing now, and it is this ‘one hundred years of solitude’ that sets him apart. He is transparently alienated from the ‘herd mentality’Amit Sengupta DelhiIn his heyday, when he could cycle and campaign with his band of supporters across the arid landscape of the Hindi heartland, he not only took on Rajiv Gandhi at the height of his popularity, he also had the guts to take on the big guns in the corporate sector, something unthinkable in the feudal-corporate backed political establishment in India. The BJP withdrew support to his government in 1990, but the real story is that he had to go because the corporates got after him. Besides, his campaign on corruption and the Bofors gun deal had shaken the corrupt empires ruling the roost, inflaming the political terrain with an energy last seen after the Emergency.  A solitary VP Singh could take on the corporates, as he is doing now, and it is this ‘one hundred years of solitude’ that sets him apart. He is transparently alienated from the ‘herd mentality’. Indeed, if the Left is the “natural ally” of VP Singh, as he said famously in 1989, the Brahmastra of the Mandal Commission was not an uncanny aberration: it was predictable because this man who could take risks and push his politics to the threshold, which he did, and thereby decisively changed the political equations of a stagnant, upper caste- dominated India. So much so, while the Kamandal is gasping for breath, Mandal is still ruling supreme, and the more the anti-reservationists protest, more intense will be the polarisation among the vast majority of the backward castes, dalits and adivasis, who will quietly consolidate their strength in the poorest interiors against the selfish urban upper caste onslaught. So why should the fruits of democracy be usurped by a handful?Despite his compromises, as during the Emergency or when he was the chief minister of UP, VP Singh has evolved into an aesthete, a man of sense and sensibility, who has proved that he is not a clichéd politician; that he is ready to change with the times, that his integrity and tactics can be tested with real milestones of a terribly unequal society, struggling with the seductions of chaotic globalisation; that, basically, his heart beats with the right causes, because it understands the sound of the heartbeats ticking away in silence in invisible India. That is why you can see him surrounded by the slum-dwellers of Bombay and Delhi, arrested at the Parliament Street police station, with Medha Patkar, missing his lunch and daily medicine, fighting his devastated body, pushing the insensitivities of bourgeois liberal politics to the threshold. That is why he goes to UP, travels to that village near Varanasi, meets the farmer’s family which committed suicide and backs the CPI-ML (Liberation) struggle against farmers’ suicides and starvation death. And that is why he has taken on Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh on Anil Ambani’s Dadri power project and blown their bubble of fake socialism with just about as ease as a grandmaster’s masterstroke in a chess game.It is in this context that VP Singh’s love for lost causes might resurrect a paradigm shift in neo-liberal superpower India which is desperate to join the globalised big league. This is because this insatiable materialism of the affluent society, where the faster you run the more stationary you are, where one desire can only be replaced by another desire, is bound to turn upside down, as Marx turned the Hegelian dialectic upside down. Hence, when Patkar says that globalisation and fascism are the double threats to Indian society, she speaks the inner voice of invisible India. Hence, when VP Singh says, that the movement is more important than electoral politics, a new language of the people’s right to self-determination emerges, a new people’s struggle, a new rainbow coalition of resistance and hope, as social scientist Rajni Kothari has so well documented in his books. That thousands of farmers are committing suicide and tens of thousands are being displaced for the relentless lust of profit sharks sucking up indigenous land, forests, rivers for special economic zones, etc, might not be front page India Shining news – but VP Singh knows that this is the stuff that makes and unmakes a nation. Between life and death, this tragedy also hides the hard realism of hope, which, if imaginatively ignited, can become a revolution.Peaceful or Maoist? Time will tell.