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Globalisation versus Swadeshi - A tricky problem for Vajpayee

Paper No. 134                                                    

by  R.Upadhyay

" I do not want my house to be walled on all sides and its windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any ."  This statement of Mahatma Gandhi quoted by Union Minister Dr. M.M.Joshi in his write up entitled ­ " Need for selective globalisation " (Organiser dated May 21’’2000) is an indication of the simmering differences within the BJP on the pro-reform economic policy of Vajpayee Government.  It is no more a secret that the RSS is determined to caution the Government against the alleged danger of its global liberalisation policy, which is against the concept of Swadeshi pursued by the BJP while it was in opposition. Though, there is no challenge to the stability of Vajpayee Government on this issue, it definitely has a potential to affect the electoral prospects of the BJP in future elections. If Vajpayee remains unmindful of the advisory protests by anti-reform leaders of Sangh Parivar, the RSS cadres may also reciprocate with their indifference in future elections, which might prove fatal for the BJP.

The RSS is working for a long- term goal.  It will therefore, naturally take necessary steps to guard its cadres against the dilution of the ideological philosophy of the organisation.  Ideologically, the RSS believes in the Hindu concept of development in which economics is considered as means for promoting the welfare of human beings.  Based on Kautalya's Arthshastra, Late Deen Dayal Upadhyay, President of Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the earlier incarnation of the BJP had said: " The fundamental difference in our position and that of the West is that, whereas for the West the accumulation of wealth and capital is the goal of economic activity, we consider them as a means for developing the faculties and skills of human beings." The BJS (Bhartiya Jan Sangh) therefore, was strongly opposed to the Nehruvian theory of development.  In 1991-92, when new economic policy was initiated by Congress Government led by Narsimha Rao, Dattopant Thengdi, a well-known trade union leader and an RSS ideologue founded the Swadeshi Jagran Manch . Senior BJP leaders like Dr. M.M.Joshi, S.Gurumurthi, Jagdish Shettigar, Dr. Jay Dubhashi and other economists in the party were closely associated with this Manch. The purpose behind the formation of this new outfit was to build pressure on the Government to ensure that the new economic policy is limited to selective globalisation in infra-structural sector only.  Another purpose was to guide the BJP in formulating the economic policy of the party.  According to Thengdi " Genuine liberalisation and hegemonic liberalisation can never go together. The Hindu concept of globalisation represents genuine globalisation."    Similarly, the other pro-Swadeshi leaders of Sangh Parivar are of the view that "Swadeshi is not mere economic movement but is a means of bringing about economic reconstruction of the country.  It is a spiritual movement, which comprises not only the objectives of economic development and political independence but all other aspects of national consciousness."

Till 1998 Lok Sabha election, when the BJP was in opposition, its leaders including Vajpayee had been espousing the cause of Swadeshi. In its election manifesto of 1998, in which Vajpayee was projected as Prime Ministerial candidate of the party, a full chapter was devoted in support of Swadeshi model of development, which strongly criticised the concept of global liberalisation pursued by Congress Government and its successor United Front Governments.  It said, " The policies of liberalisation, particularly globalization, pursued by the Congress and later by the UF Government have resulted in economic stagnation. What this nation needs now is a practical approach that is devoid of dogma and is guided wholly by considerations of national interest and what is appropriate for us."

With Swadeshi mindset, the RSS had natural expectations from Vajpayee Government to pursue the economic agenda formulated by the BJP, while it was in opposition. It was perhaps the reason that Vajpayee was reportedly dissuaded by the RSS leadership against the inclusion of Jaswant Singh in his cabinet as Finance Minister. But contrary to Swadeshi spirit, the BJP led Government started pursuing the policy of global liberalisation more vigorously than the preceding Governments.  It opened Insurance sector for foreign competition, offered sale of public sector equity to foreign companies, eased the norms for foreign direct investment, signed agreement with US to remove import restrictions on consumer goods and so on.  This unexpected change in the policy of Vajpayee made the pro-Swadeshi leaders of Sangh Parivar restless and they raised their voice against the anti-Swadeshi policies of the Government.

The Swadeshi lobby in the RSS is of the view that so long the developed countries are not honest to pursue the ethics of global economic integration, the possibility of India becoming a buoyant economic power may remain a day-dream. The world super powers according to their perception are insensitive and condescending to the natural desire of developing countries and may not allow them to ascend.  They are mainly interested in marketing their produce among the over one billion consumers of India.  Indian goods may not compete in world market because of high cost of production. India being a weaker player in global economic game should be cautious.

The RSS does not like to allow its concept of the Hindu model of development eclipsed by the short-term political vision of Vajpayee Government. It therefore, gave free hand to its constituents like Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and others for creating mass awareness against the alleged evil affects of the new economic policy of Vajpayee Government. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch in its National Council meeting ( Agra- June 24-25’’2000 ), which was also attended by BJP General Secretary Govindacharya adopted four resolutions under the headings ­

* REVERSE DISASTROUS ECONOMIC POLICIES

* A CALL AGAINST WTO

* SAVE AGRICULTURE

* FIGHT ANTI-PEOPLE POLICY.

It warned the Government, that "India, may face a crisis like that of South East Asia and appealed to general public and all other mass organisations " to participate in Swadeshi Movement and become soldiers of second freedom struggle."  "Swadeshi Patrika " a monthly magazine published by Swadeshi Jagran Manch is full of articles severely criticising  the economic policies of the Government. The Manch also chalked out programmes like Swadeshi ­Week and Salt Movement with a view to create mass awakening by exposing the vulnerability of the economic liberalisation of the Government. The editor of Swadeshi Patrika (July issue) posed a question: "This Government is liberalising economy at a very fast pace. One fails to understand whether we are living in the days of Narsimha Rao Government or we have a Government led by a party, which often talks of national interest? "

Swadeshi Jagran Manch had formulated the economic philosophy of Sangh Parivar keeping the national interest on top but with humane form of development. A.B.Vajpayee was a strong advocate of this philosophy till the BJP was in opposition. But now he is facing criticism from some of his close fellow travelers that " the soul of Narsinmha Rao has entered into the body of Vajpayee." They are known to have developed a feeling that " ideologically Vajpayee is not honest."

The move of Swadeshi Jagran Manch is not in any way an attempt to destabilise the Vajpayee Government.  It is in fact an attempt to build pressure on the Government to review its policies of global liberalisation. But the determination with which the Government is resisting the move is an indication that the Prime Minister may not yield to any pressure.   He has made a categorical statement in an exclusive interview published in his party’s mouth piece "THE BJP TODAY" ( August 1-15 ) that:- "First, I would like to affirm that interest of the nation and interest of the common man are the defining principles of our Government’s economic policies. … Swadeshi in today’s context, is anything that promotes this national goal."  He however, tried to assure his party men and supporters that "As far as external liberalisation is concerned, his Government would continue to move cautiously."

The Prime Minister has tried to explain that the economic perception of the BJP since it came to power- is "more responsive to changes in national and international economic scenario."  His remarks in the interview have perhaps vindicated the general impression that his pro-reform policy is due to some unavoidable compulsions - "I must admit that our understanding of the importance of such reforms and their urgency has considerably increased after assuming the responsibility of governance."  But he is not spelling out who is pushing him into liberalisation?

Yashwant Sinha, Union Finance Minister in a meeting recently held with the leaders of Swadeshi Jagran Manch tried to convince the latter in favour of the economic policies of the Government.  He had said, "the foreign investors lobby was so strong that it could wreak havoc with the country’s economy in a week’s time". (Times of India dated August 2). This however, could not pacify the Swadeshi leaders. Jagdish Shettigar, one of the founding pillars of Swadeshi Jagran Manch is presently one of the key economic advisers of Vajpayee Government. He is also a member of National Security Advisory Board.  In his interview with Times of India (July 31), he has strongly supported the global liberalisation theory. His logic in favour of economic reform may be a debatable issue between pro and anti-reform economists, but his views advocating the concept of "corporate farming" may add fuel to fire in the Swadeshi lobby of Sangh Parivar.

Shettigar agreed that Indian farmers are emotionally attached with their lands. But his argument to combine that emotional attachment with corporate philosophy may lead to a social disaster in India.  His suggestion to the farmers to become equity holders in large corporate structures may endanger their very survival. Rural unemployment will multiply at an alarming rate, as the marginal farmers may not get any work in mechanised farming. They will have to dispose off their farm cattle to butchers, which would lead to social tension. Thus, the western concept of corporate farming may not be suitable in Indian condition.

The BJP leaders not in the Government but with firm roots in the ideological structures of the RSS are of the view that in the ongoing international order in the blowing winds of global liberalisation, the Prime Minister is not mindful to lend his ears to his inner voice. Govindacharya, General Secretary of the BJP, while inaugurating the Rashtriya Vichar Varga of Swadeshi Jagran Manch (NOIDA May 20’2000) said, " Foreign Powers are trying to deceive us. Through business by hook or crook, they want to increase their influence over this country. Whatever name we may give to the power-flow, whether swadeshi power or Hindu power or cultural nationalism, this is the only power-flow, which can win against foreign forces."

Vajpayee might have a dream to see India a buoyant economic power. He might be under the pressure of some commitments of previous Governments. But an impression of hopelessness is gradually gaining ground within Sangh Parivar that his Government under the pressure of pro-West international institutions like IMF, World Bank and WTO is allowing the foreign ownership also in the areas, which are detrimental to national interests. Cautioning the Vajpayee Government against the alleged economic invasion of the West, which would add further strength to on going cultural invasion, the RSS leaders are not ready to accept the new approach of the Prime Minister. It is a fact that Vajpayee had been projecting the concept of the Hindu model of development in Parliament since 1957 and continued till 1998 Lok Sabha elections. Now Vajpayee as Prime Minister is giving a new definition to Swadeshi, which seemingly does not have any taker among the puritans of Sangh Parivar.

There may not be an end to the ideological debate on the economic policies suitable to Indian condition. Everyone knows that the economic policy in India requires pro-poor orientation with potential to generate employment opportunities for the unemployed youths in the country. The Chennai declaration of the BJP (December 27-29,2000 ) promised to " initiate a national consensus in the political, business and social establishments on India’s strategy for globalisation " but it is unfortunate that even the parent organisation of the party has not approved the global liberalisation concept of the Vajpayee Government. Of the three assembly elections next year (UP, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu) UP will be an acid test for the Prime Minister. His new economic philosophy may not have the magic power to show results so quickly. Under such circumstances if the RSS cadres get indifferent, the electoral prospect of the faction ridden BJP in the state may be of anybody’s guess. The RSS leaders may not like to push him beyond a point in the present term of Lok Sabha but their support in future elections cannot be taken for granted. The RSS may not need the help of the BJP in pursuit of its ideological goal, but BJP coming to power in future elections without the support of the former is a remote possibility.

Vajpayee is now expected to resolve the on going tussle between pro-reformists and their opponents on a priority basis since he is one of the old guards who have been carrying the ideological legacy of Sangh Parivar for over half a century. He should be bold enough to prove that his ‘Angad Feet’ cannot be blown off by the blowing wind of global liberalisation. In fact he is to remove the alleged confusion between the BJP’s concept of Swadeshi as explained in the 1998 election manifesto of the party, when it was in opposition and its new definition suggested as Prime Minister in his just published interview in BJP TODAY.

The BJP was reborn with a social commitment of Gandhian socialism. Vajpayee may like to fit his Government’s economic policies in the frame of Gandhiji’s talisman:" Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? "

7.8.2000

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