Journal des Alternatives

WSF and the Elections in India

Feroz Mehdi, 27 January 2004

Five days after the closing ceremony of the world social forum 2004 in Mumbai where over 100 000 people marched for world peace, yesterday on 26th January the Indian government celebrated its 55th anniversary of the Republic day by a massive show of its military might.

Taking the salute of the military and modern weaponry were the President of India along with his chief guest for the occasion, the President of Brazil. Lula. This year the WSF process travelled from Brazil to India. It gathered in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, to challenge the global neo-liberal onslaught and US aggression, while Lula travelled on the invitation of the rightwing Indian government to the political capital of India called delhi. Scepticism of many involved in the wsf process tilted towards cynicism. Hang in there!

Triumphant in the recently held provincial elections, the ruling coalition (NDA) at the centre lead by the BJP announced early polls to be held by the end of next month. Added to these latest victories for the BJP, is the nearly non-existant secular coalition at federal level which can only be led by the Congress. The Congress non-performance was very clear in the Madhya Pradesh elections where the BJP won a majority government despite the fact that its popularity there only rose by 3% at the cost of the Congrees popularity which fell by 12%. If this is any indication for the future, the BJP led coalition will form a government for the second consecutive term at the Centre.

What can prevent this from happening? The communist party unwillingness to support the Congress in the formation of a secular alternative front does not mean much. They will bring in as many seats as they have traditionally brought from their traditional strongholds in West Bengal and Kerala. A strong secular coalition will only be effective if the Congress can reach an understanding with the two major parties in the two most important (electorally speaking) provinces of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh, the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati and Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalloo Yadav can tilt the balance in favour of a secular victory in the upcoming elections if they support the Congress. The Congress has managed to make one such deal in the southern state of Tamil Nadu where it has reached a deal with the DMK.

For the urban electorate the BJP campaign focus on the foreign born Congress leader Sonia Gandhi has unfortunately been bought by the intellectual left and secular middle class. Pathetic! But for the majority of the Indians this is a non-issue. The foreign born BJP leader and the Vice-Prime Minister L.K. Advani knows better.

Added to the BJP goodies is the recent ’best wishes for the elections’ from the USA. The US blue eyed boy General Musharraf of Pakistan has no choice but to embark on the US dictated Pak-India peace process thus giving the BJP another strong card for the upcoming elections.

Next year the WSF returns to Brazil. We can only hope that the Indian President does not plan his vacations in Brazil in the same period!


(notes from a cybercafe in Aligarh)

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