Elections to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly were held in May 2023 at a time when workers and peasants in the state are longing for a change in their conditions of life. The elections have resulted in the replacement of a BJP-led government by a Congress Party government. It is being presented in the news media as a big change. However, historical experience shows that this kind of a change from one party of the bourgeoisie to another does not amount to any qualitative change in the living or working conditions of the workers and peasants. It only creates an illusion that something has changed for the better.
Karnataka is considered a relatively more capitalistically developed state. The average income in Karnataka is significantly higher than the all-India average income. However, the average hides a very high degree of inequality. Monopoly capitalists, mining barons, real estate sharks and other exploiters, corrupt politicians and officials have become enormously rich in recent decades. At the other pole, the conditions of life of workers and peasants have grown from bad to worse, year after year.
Workers in the state, including highly skilled IT workers, are spending sleepless nights worrying whether they will get thrown out of their jobs. Youth who are entering the job market are worried about their employment prospects. Those with graduate degrees are forced to work as delivery boys and sales girls at minimum wages or even lower.
Industrial workers have been agitating for an immediate halt to the privatisation of defence production and other heavy industry located in Karnataka. Workers in numerous sectors have been fighting against the pro-capitalist reforms in labour laws, including the replacement of regular jobs with fixed-term contracts.
Peasant unions have been demanding guaranteed state procurement of their crops at stable and remunerative prices. Every bourgeois party promises to fulfil this demand when it is in the opposition. When it is in charge, the same party betrays this promise because it is committed to the program of trade liberalisation – that is, to expand the space for private corporations to reap maximum profits from agricultural trade.
No bourgeois party has any solution to offer for the acute problems of unemployment and under-employment. Both Congress and BJP-led governments in the state have been manipulating the quotas of government jobs reserved for different castes and religious groups. They want to make people of different castes and religious faiths fight against each other for government jobs, which constitute less than 3% of the available jobs in the state. Having no solution to unemployment and under-employment, they exploit the situation to cultivate vote banks based on religion and caste.
The election campaign in Karnataka once again witnessed enormous amounts of money being spent on the mass rallies and propaganda of the contending parties. Both BJP and Congress Party spent far more than all other parties combined. Both their campaigns were financed by the capitalists and big landowners in the state as well as the biggest monopoly capitalists of India and the foreign companies which are present in Karnataka.
Monopoly capitalists use their money power and control over the media to ensure that their preferred party wins the election. Faced with widespread discontent among the working people and rising anger directed at the BJP-led government in Karnataka, the monopoly capitalists decided to back the Congress Party and organise for its victory in these elections.
The need of the hour is for all political parties and mass organisations of workers and peasants to reject the path of tailing behind one or another bourgeois party. We must break with all illusions about finding solutions to our problems within the existing system of bourgeois rule. We must unite around our own independent revolutionary program, aimed at replacing bourgeois rule by workers’ and peasants’ rule. Only then can the economic system be reoriented to fulfil our needs instead of fulfilling capitalist greed.