The Left Parties – Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, All India Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party – have decided to present before the people of India the joint Left platform for the 15th Lok Sabha elections.
Five years ago, after the 2004 general elections, the Left Parties decided to extend support to the formation of the UPA government. We did that keeping in mind the verdict of the people, which rejected the BJP and its alliance. Though the Left Parties have some basic differences with the Congress, we decided to extend support to keep the communal forces at bay and in the expectation that the Congress-led government will abide by its National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP).
Role of the Left
During the past five years, the Left Parties have played a consistent role in defence of secularism and the economic interests of the people, to protect national sovereignty and to oppose any strategic link up with US imperialism.
In the four years that the Left supported the UPA government, it tried to ensure that the pro-people measures contained in the NCMP are implemented. Whether it be the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, or, the legislation for provision of land rights for tribal people in the forest areas, or, ensuring an effective right to information legislation – the Left endeavoured to see that these are taken up in Parliament and adopted. The Left can rightfully claim that these three pieces of legislations were improved and their scope expanded due to the Left’s intervention in Parliament and in the UPA-Left Coordination Committee.
The Left Parties were vigilant to check the policies and measures, which were formulated by the UPA government based on their neoliberal outlook. The Left Parties worked in this period to protect the public sector from moves like disinvestment of shares in the ‘navaratna’ companies like BHEL. They halted some of the disinvestment in profitable public sector units. The Left Parties pushed for revival of some of the loss-making public sector units. The Left Parties consistently advocated for increased public investment in agriculture; increasing the allocation for education and health to reach the target set in the NCMP of 6 per cent of the GDP and 2-3 per cent of the GDP respectively. The increased allocations in education and health and some of the measures taken to revive agriculture can be attributed to the constant pressure of the Left Parties.
The Left Parties were firm in resisting all such measures which would have harmed employment, livelihoods and those which would have eroded national sovereignty. One important area in this regard was the financial sector, which was sought to be further liberalized and opened up to foreign capital. The Left opposed legislations on banking and insurance, which would have given foreign capital a grip over these vital sectors. The Left stood firmly against the pension funds of government employees being privatized and invested in the stock markets. This legislation not being passed has saved the hard-earned savings and retirement benefits of lakhs of government employees. The recent financial collapse in the West has led to the wiping out of billions of dollars of pension funds, which were invested in the stock markets.
The Left stood against FDI in retail, as it would have led to the displacement of lakhs of small shopkeepers and traders. The Left opposed corporate entry in agriculture and demanded regulation of corporates in retail trade.
Increasingly, the Manmohan Singh government acted on the basis of the agenda of the Indo-US CEO Forum. This was an outcome of the strategic alliance forged with the United States when the Prime Minister visited Washington in July 2005. Pressure to change the course of independent foreign policy, the military cooperation agreement, the Indo-US nuclear deal and the US-dictated economic agenda taken together was a negation of the NCMP put out by the UPA Government on which basis the Left had supported the government.
When the Congress-led government decided to go ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal, disregarding the widespread opposition voiced by a majority in Parliament and showed no urgency in addressing the serious problems like price rise and the agrarian crisis, the Left Parties were compelled to withdraw support.
The UPA government survived the vote of confidence by shameless resort to large-scale money power being used to bribe, intimidate and purchase members of Parliament.
Subsequently, the UPA government, in the remaining months of its tenure, has shown both contempt for Parliament and sought to push ahead with neo-liberal policies.
At a time when the global economic crisis has discredited the neo-liberal model of finance-driven capitalism, the Congress-led government has sought to further open up to foreign financial flows and announced revised FDI guidelines which virtually allow backdoor entry of foreign capital in all sectors. The manner in which the government is handling the impact of the global crisis in our country displays its class bias. There are bailouts for the big corporates and financial speculators but nothing is being done for the lakhs of people who are losing their jobs. The government ignores the fact that the crisis is affecting agriculture and the peasantry.
The Left Parties have, while opposing the anti-people policies of the UPA government, never relaxed its fight against the BJP and the communal forces. The BJP, in the last five years when it has been in the opposition, has proved that its core outlook is communal and its character is defined by its link with the RSS. All across the country, there has been the disturbing spectacle of attacks on minorities, both Muslim and Christian. Kandhamal in Orissa and Mangalore in Karnataka are the manifestations of attacks on the Christian community. The series of incidents of communal violence in Vadodara, Aligarh, Gorakhpur, Mau, Indore, Jabalpur, Bangalore and Dhulia were all targeting the Muslim minority.
The BJP-run state governments protected and covered up such acts of violence by the various Hindutva outfits. The least that the UPA government could have done was to ban the Bajrang Dal, which was involved in the barbarous violence in Kandhamal and Mangalore, but firm action was not taken.
The Left Parties have consistently fought against the forces of majority communalism politically, ideologically and organisationally. It has shown determination not to allow minority communalism to succeed by feeding on the fears and alienation of the minority community.
The Left Parties are clear that all forms of terrorist violence must be firmly combated. Terrorism of domestic origin, or, with external links seeks to disrupt our society and create communal divisions and harm the democratic framework. The Left Parties have stressed that people must unitedly fight terrorism whatever is its origin. At the same time, the Left has opposed the efforts to pose the problem of terrorism from a communal angle as the BJP does.
The Left Parties have been advocating alternative policies as against the policies, which are in the interests of the big capitalists, landlords, big contractors, foreign finance capital and multinational companies.
The Left Parties platform consists of the following:
Defence of Secularism: Prevent communal violence and ensure justice to all riot victims; Act firmly against attacks on minorities, ban Bajrang Dal; Promote secular values in education and culture; Combat terrorism effectively; Revamp the intelligence machinery, modernize the security forces; Remove draconian provisions of anti-terror laws
Economic Policies: Increase state intervention and undertake massive public investment to generate employment in rural and urban areas and develop agriculture, social sectors and infrastructure; Mobilise resources by increasing taxes on the affluent sections and speculative capital, removing tax concessions to corporates and launching a drive to unearth black money; Scrap FRBM Act.
Agriculture: Implement land and tenancy reforms; Expand MSP coverage to more crops, ensure agricultural credit at a maximum 4% rate of interest, expand public investment in power, irrigation, seed and fertiliser; Protect biodiversity and the safeguarding of traditional knowledge rights; increase tariff protection for cash crops.
Food and PDS: Universal PDS to ensure food security; Providing all essential commodities including sugar, pulses and edible oils through the PDS; strengthening public procurement of foodgrains through FCI; curb on private procurement and prohibition of futures trading in essential commodities.
Industry: Strengthen the public sector in the core and strategic areas; Encouragement to small and medium enterprises in labour intensive sectors, protection of traditional industries such as handloom, coir, etc.; Prohibit FDI in Retail Trade, encouragement to small and unorganised retailers; Review of FDI norms in sensitive sectors; Review SEZ Act and Rules; Modernize mining companies in the public sector; Increased public investment in infrastructure
Financial Sector: Maintain predominant state control over banking and insurance sectors; strict controls on the outflow and inflow of finance capital and discourage speculative finance; No privatization or diversion of pension and provident funds to the stock market
Employment and Social Sector: Remove 100 days ceiling on the NREGA and extend it to urban areas; Increase Public expenditure on education to 6% of GDP and on health to 3% of GDP, reverse privatization and commercialization of education and healthcare; Ensure Right to Education; Universalise ICDS
Rights of Working People: Increase minimum wages for all urban and rural workers; Strict implementation of labour laws; Defend right to strike; Universal social security for unorganised sector workers; Separate social security legislation for agricultural labour; Waive farmers’ loans owed to private money-lenders; Universalisation of crop insurance; Protect the rights of fishing communities
Social Justice: Enact Women’s Reservation Bill; Comprehensive law against sexual harassment; Eradication of dowry and female feoticide; Provide reservations for SC/STs in the private sector; clear backlogs in reserved seats and posts for SC/STs; Properly implement the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006; Expand welfare measures in the tribal areas; Formulate a minority sub-plan to implement Sachar Committee recommendations; Expedite development in the sphere of employment, education and health in Muslim dominated districts; promote Urdu language and modernize madarsa education
Foreign Policy: Pursue an independent and non-aligned foreign policy; Review the 123 Agreement and Defence Framework Agreement with the US; Resist discriminatory nuclear treaties like NPT and CTBT while pursuing universal nuclear disarmament; promote multipolarity in world relations; Strengthen the UN and democratize the Security Council; Promote SAARC cooperation and coordinate efforts with South Asian countries to combat terrorism and religious extremism; Pursue Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline; Extend support to the Palestinian cause; Sever military and security ties with Israel
In the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, we appeal to the people to support the Left Parties and their alternative platform.
The Left has to be strengthened:
If secularism is to be firmly defended
If national sovereignty is to be protected
If a self-reliant economic path of development that is
balanced, equitable and just is to be attained
If social justice is to be rendered for the working
people, dalits, adivasis, women, minorities and all
oppressed sections of society
If the country is to emerge with a strong and
independent foreign policy
The Left Parties are working with the non-Congress, non-BJP parties, so that after the elections, there can be an alternative secular government, that will pursue pro-people policies.
Strengthening the Left and supporting its alternative platform will ensure that the struggle for a new direction to policies will go ahead.
Strengthen the Left
For an alternative secular government
For pro-people policies
Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Communist Party of India
All India Forward Bloc
Revolutionary Socialist Party