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New Left Review I/154, November-December 1985

Achin Vanaik

The Rajiv Congress in Search of Stability

Never since the early days of independence has any government in New Delhi received the kind of acclaim that Rajiv Gandhi’s has enjoyed from bourgeois commentators at home and in the West. [*] I am grateful to Dr A.R. Desai and Colin Gonsalves for helpful comments on an earlier draft. The eastern bloc, if not so vociferous, has certainly not sounded a dissenting note. The ‘Rajiv wave’ first gathered momentum in the general elections of December 1984, held in the wake of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination. The following March, a Congress(I) party in decay seemed to have been miraculously reinvigorated when it scored a solid performance in the state assembly election. Then came the ‘new wave’ budget, which was promptly hailed as an unmistakable sign that the Indian ship of state had embarked upon a new course, steered for the first time by a talented and determined young captain. In the face of this deluge of rhetoric and hyperbole, any rational evaluation must first attempt to situate the Rajiv government and its prospects within the essential contours of bourgeois domination (and the challenges to it) as these have evolved in the last decade and a half—a context which can hardly be obliterated by the mere election of a new administration. During these fifteen years or so the Indian polity has been marked by an endemic crisis of leadership, within the framework of a real, though weak, bourgeois democracy. It is the relative dynamism of the capitalist economy, however, developing in constant tension with an unsettled political life, which should form the starting point of our analysis. Already at the achievement of independence in 1947, the Indian bourgeoisie displayed considerable autonomy and power by comparison with other ‘Third World’ countries. With the Congress party in government, the structures of the Indian state were then utilized to advance this relative strength. The country was insulated from the world economy, so that it might be later integrated at a higher level when the relationship of forces with the imperialist bourgeoisie was more favourable. In the process a solid economic infrastructure was established with Soviet and East European help, and by the early seventies the foundations had been laid for a self-generating process of industrialization whose dynamics of growth and major constraints were essentially internal.

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