Why shouldn't Sushma Swaraj resign?

Mass protest in India

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Left parties initiated a general strike against the wave of inflation

From Ashok Rajput, New Delhi *

In 13 Indian states, the wheels turned more slowly or even came to a standstill on Tuesday (April 27). The left parties KPI, KPI (Marxist), Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party had called for the "Bharat Bandh", a general strike. A dozen opposition parties joined the twelve-hour strike. It was directed against the wave of inflation, which has been growing for months, and the economic policy of the Indian government.

Especially in the states of Tripura, Kerala and West Bengal, ruled by left-wing coalitions, almost nothing was going on. Offices and companies remained closed. The traffic was still. In the West Bengal capital Kolkata almost 50 flights had to be canceled. The railroad suffered hours of delays. Buses, taxis, motor rickshaws, and trucks didn't go. In various places, such as Orissa and Uttar Pradesh, highways were blocked. Three buses went up in flames in Lucknow. The strike also met with a strong response in the south, in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In Delhi, however, the effects of the Bharat Bandh were minimal.

Brinda Karat, Politburo member of the KPI (Marxist), rated the strike as "very successful". It was noteworthy that the appeal was supported by strong regional parties, including the Telugu Desam Party, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and the Rashtryia Janata Dal in Bihar. In the past twelve months, the prices for staple foods and everyday goods had risen by around 20 percent. Lentils, milk, sugar, wheat, rice and vegetables have become so expensive that they have become unaffordable for the poor.

At the same time as the general strike, left-wing MPs and representatives of the right-wing Indian People's Party (BJP) attacked the government's economic course in the parliament of New Delhi. They called for budget adjustments and the withdrawal of tax increases on petrol, diesel and fertilizers. The ruling Congress Party tried to spread its failure on broader shoulders: Price increases were not just a matter for the central government. The administrations of the states, which are responsible for the public distribution system of food for the needy, for example, could counteract the price increases. Gurudas Dasgupta, leader of the CP India faction in parliament, told the media that the protest was not intended to shake the coalition government of the United Progressive Alliance, but to exert pressure to change neoliberal economic policy.

Last week the BJP, at a reasonable distance from the left, publicly announced its rejection of the government coalition's “wrong policy”. At meetings and demonstrations in New Delhi, she spoke out against "bad governance and widespread corruption". The rich were getting richer, while the poor and middle class were being hurt by price increases. BJP President Nitin Gadkari pointed out that the price spiral had driven a considerable number of farmers to suicide. In the Vidarbha region in the state of Maharashtra alone, more than 150 farmers have seen no other way out of their debt than suicide since January. Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj said that if the government cannot stop the wave of inflation, it should resign.

* From: Junge Welt, April 28, 2010

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