Left Perspectives On BJD’s Temporary Compromise Or Permanent Invitation To Hindutva In Odisha – OpEd


The Government of Odisha, led by the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) under Chief Minister Mr. Naveen Patnaik, provides massive funding to revive all religious institutions and their practices in the state. These religious initiatives are part of his political strategy to counter the BJP in the upcoming state and general elections.

“In competitive religious politics, Naveen Patnaik leaves no stone unturned to defeat the BJP and its Hindutva politics in Odisha,” said a well-meaning comrade, who has been in the state leadership of left politics for more than five decades. Such a compassionate and confident political understanding and justification gives secular credentials to the religious politics pursued by Mr. Naveen Patnaik, who has been centrally responsible for providing government platforms by forming alliances with the BJP in the past. However, Mr. Patnaik’s religious politics and funding for all religious denominations in the state do not represent the politics of secular development and empowerment of its citizenry. It neither provides an answer nor an alternative to Hindutva politics but rather a regressive path backward towards a dark political and economic future for the people in the state.

After more than two decades of BJD’s rule, led by Mr. Patnaik, Odisha is experiencing a directionless, ideological-free zone of politics. Bureaucratic and technological interventions undermine political processes, destroying the conditions for the deepening of democracy in the state. Ordinary and laid-back Odia citizens confront everyday crises in the form of unemployment, illiteracy, homelessness, and hunger. No amount of political propaganda by the BJD government can hide its failure to provide basic amenities for a dignified life in Odisha. The political stability has not led to any form of significant economic growth, trickle-down development, or the empowerment of people in the state, as claimed by neoliberal proponents. These proponents are also silent on religious expenditure by the Government of Odisha, yet to acknowledge that religious expenditure is a non-merit good.

The twenty-four years of Naveen Patnaik’s leadership in the BJD government have witnessed a failure to address issues of regional inequality, hunger-related deaths, child malnutrition, gender-based inequalities, and violence in the state. These failures stand out as glaring achievements of Mr. Patnaik’s leadership. Mining revenue is allocated to gods, goddesses, and their abodes, while the people receive false promises when it comes to health, education, and employment. The neoliberal growth proponents remain silent, as this situation aligns with their requirements for the growth of a free-market economy, where people are subservient to religious practices supported by the state and government. Religious citizens, instead of blaming the state, government, and ruling elites for their failures, attribute their own fate and outsource their discomfort and suffering to gods and goddesses. Mr. Patnaik and his Hindutva cronies find comfort in producing more religious citizens than secular, scientific, and democratic citizens who can assert their rights and claim their share in a democratic state and government.

The BJD, Congress, and BJP in the state are not markedly different from each other in terms of class and caste foundations of their leadership and economic policies. These three political parties represent various versions of Indian bourgeois politics in Odisha, prioritizing the interests of corporate elites. 

Left and progressive forces are particularly weak or tend to compromise temporarily in the name of upholding secular politics in the state. This temporary compromise by left forces with Congress and BJD serves to provide a social and moral facade and foundation to the politics pursued by these parties, as people still view left politics as the moral politics of the working class. Despite individual aberrations, people continue to regard left leadership as the custodians of morality in electoral politics. The absence of a clear and consistent left political stance on the BJD led by Mr. Naveen Patnaik and the Congress Party sends a message of political confusion among the masses, which is exploited by mainstream political parties in the state.

The Leninist politics of temporary compromise and conciliation, where the left aligns with bourgeois national and regional parties like the Congress and BJD in the name of secularism in the Indian context, does not contribute to dismantling the exploitative material conditions established under capitalism. These conditions marginalize and exploit the masses on an everyday basis. While Leninist politics of temporary compromise was once a strategic move in revolutionary conditions to weaken ruling elites and pursue people’s politics, it becomes problematic in weak revolutionary conditions where left forces are feeble. In such situations, it can lead to the further erosion of left politics in India.

The left’s historical compromise with bourgeois politics has resulted in its own political irrelevance. Although temporary political and ideological compromises may be shaped by electoral arithmetic, their subjective political and electoral outcomes have been disastrous for left politics in the country, particularly in Odisha. It is the duty of left political parties to shape the class consciousness of the workers, which naturally develops from their work. Left politics should politicize this class consciousness for class organization and class struggle.

The temporary class compromise has led to the subordination of the working masses and their interests to the interests of both ruling and non-ruling bourgeois forces. This results in a class compromise and collaboration that undermines the organic class consciousness of workers derived from their work. This highlights the fundamental limits of the Leninist politics of temporary compromise. In this context, the left parties must mobilize all their political capital to reject the competitive religious politics between the BJD and BJP and offer alternatives to the people in the state.

This proposition is not advocating for puritan left politics but rather a politics of unification of all progressive, social, democratic, and cultural forces against the reactionary politics pursued by the BJD and BJP in the state. These two parties collaborate against the interests of the masses. The BJD is laying long-term foundations for Hindutva politics to grow and thrive in the state. Hindutva politics, with its authoritarian approach that prioritizes the interests of mining-led industrial houses, will erode the existing inclusive culture and democratic achievements in the state.

It is time to reclaim working-class democracy in the state through inclusive mass movements against reactionary political parties like the BJP and BJD. Class politics stands as the sole alternative to the competitive religious politics pursued by these parties. It serves as the primary defence of secular and liberal democracy, where citizenship rights are an inalienable core. Engaging in class struggle is crucial to ensure the deepening of democracy in the state and the defeat of reactionary bourgeois politics. It is the duty of left parties to shoulder these political responsibilities in the state, working towards a prosperous and progressive future.

Bhabani Shankar Nayak

Bhabani Shankar Nayak works as Professor of Business Management, Guildhall School of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University, UK.

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