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Monday, 26 May 2014 07:26

Indian Elections: Victory of Development or Divisiveness

The results of the recent Parliamentary Elections in India that brought a controversial figure to victory are very interesting. According to Professor Ram Puniyani, who took voluntary retirement from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in order to work full time for communal harmony in India, it is early to say whether the victory of the extremist BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi is a victory of development of divisiveness. Please stay for excerpts.


The BJP-Modi alliance won 282 Parliament seats of 31 percent of the total seat, while the Congress with 19% vote share got 44 seats. We should note that this time around Congress’s 19.3% votes translated into 44 seats while during last general elections of 2009 BJP’s 18.5% had fetched it 116 seats. That’s a tale by itself, the crying need for electoral reforms which has been pending despite such glaring disparities which weaken the representative character of our Parliament. Many social activists have been asking for these reforms but in vain. Modi has been of course the flavor of the season and this time around it is being said that it was his plank of ‘development’ which attracted the voters to him, cutting across the caste and religious equations. How far is that true? Keeping aside the fact that Modi was backed to the hilt by Corporate, money flowed like water and all this was further aided by the steel frame of lakhs of workers of the extremist Hindu outfit RSS who managed the ground level electoral work for BJP. Thus Modi stood on two pillars, Corporate on one side and RSS on the other. He asserted that though he could not die for independence he will live for Independent India. This is again amongst the many falsehoods, which he has concocted to project his image in the public eye. One knows that he belongs to a political ideology and political stream of RSS-Hindutva, which was never a part of freedom struggle.

RSS-BJP-Hindutva nationalism is different from the nationalism of the freedom movement of India. Gandhi, freedom movement’s nationalism is Indian Nationalism while Modi alliance’s nationalism is Hindu nationalism. From the sidelines, RSS and its clones kept criticizing the freedom movement as it was for inclusive Indian nationalism, while Modi’s ideological school, RSS is for Hindu nationalism. So there is no question of people like him or his predecessors dying for freedom of the country. There are multiple other factors which helped him to be first past the pole, his aggressive style, his success in banking upon weaknesses of Congress, his ability to communicate with masses supplemented by the lacklustre campaign of Congress and the Presidential style of electioneering added weight to Modi’s success. The Congress, of course, has collected the baggage of corruption and weak governance. The out of proportion discrediting of Congress begun by the Anna Hazare Movement, backed by RSS, and then taken forward by Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Adami Party (AAP) contributed immensely to the knocking out of Congress’ reckoning for victory. Kejrival in particular woke up to BJP’s corruption a wee bit too late and with lots of reluctance for reasons beyond comprehension.

Anna Hazare, who at one time was being called the ‘second Gandhi’ eclipsed into a non-being after playing the crucial role for some time. Kejriwal pursuing his impressive looking agenda against corruption went on to transform the social movement into a political party and in the process raising lots of questions on the nature and potentials of social movements. Kejrival’s AAP definitely split the anti Modi votes with great ‘success’. AAP put more than 400 candidates and most of them have lost their deposits. Many of these candidates have excellent reputation and contribution to social issues and for engaging challenges related to social transformation. After this experience of electoral battlefield how much will they be able to go back to their agenda of social change-transformation through agitations and campaigns, will remain to be seen. Many commentators-leaders, after anointing Anna as the ‘Second Gandhi’ are now abusing Gandhi’s name yet again by comparing the likes of Ramdev and Modi to Mahatma Gandhi. One Modi acolyte went on to say ‘Modi is better than Gandhi!’ What a shame to appropriate the name of Gandhi, the great unifier of the nation with those whose foundations are on the divisive ideology of sectarian nationalism.

Coming to the ‘development’ agenda, it is true that after playing his role in Gujarat carnage, Modi quickly took up the task of propagating the supposed ‘development’ of Gujarat. This ‘make believe’ myth of Gujarat’s development as such was state government’s generous attitude towards the Corporate, who in turn started clamouring for ‘Modi as PM’ right from 2007. While the religious minorities started being relegated to the second class citizenship in Gujarat, the myth of Gujarat development started becoming the part of folk lore, for long, unchallenged by other parties and scholars studying the development. When the data from Gujarat started being analyzed critically the hoax of development lay exposed, but by that time it was too late for the truth of development to be communicated to the people far and wide. On the surface it appears as if this was the only agenda around which Modi campaigned. That’s far from true. Modi as such used communal and caste card time and over again. This was done with great amount of ease and shrewdness. He did criticize the export of beef labelling it as ‘Pink revolution’, subtly hinting the link of meat-beef to Muslims. This converted an economic issue into a communal one. Modi spoke regularly against Bangla speaking Muslims by saying that the Assam Government is doing away with Rhinos for accommodating the Bangla infiltrators. He further added that they should be ready to pack their bags on 16th May when he will take over as the Prime Minister of the country. The communal message was loud and clear. BJP spokesmen have already stated that these Bangla speaking Hindus are refugees while the Muslims are infiltrators.

If one examines the overall scatter of the areas where BJP has won, a very disturbing fact comes to one’s mind. While at surface the plank of development ruled the roost, there is definitely the subtle role played by communal polarization. BJP has mostly succeeded in areas where already communal polarization has been brought in through communal or violence or terrorist violence. Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP, MP, Bihar, Assam, all these have seen massive communal violence in the past. While the states which have not come under the sway of BJP-Modi are the ones which have been relatively free from communal violence: Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Kerala in particular. Orissa is a bit of an exception, where despite the Kandhmal violence, Navin Patnaik’s party is managing to be in power. The socio political interpretation of the deeper relations between acts of violence and victory of RSS-BJP-Modi needs to be grasped at depth; the polarizing role of communal-terrorist violence needs a deeper look. While on surface the development myth has won over large section of electorate, it has taken place in areas which have in past seen bouts of violence. Most of the inquiry commission reports do attribute violence to the machinations of communal organization.

While overtly the caste was not used, Modi did exploit the word Neech Rajniti (Low level Politics) used by Priyanka Gandhi and converted it in to Neech Zaati (low caste), flaunting his caste. At other occasions also he projected his caste, Ghanchi to polarize along caste lines. What signal has been given by Modi’s victory? The message of Mumbai, Gujarat, Muzzafarnagar and hoards of other such acts has created a deep sense of insecurity amongst sections of our population. Despite Modi’s denials and the struggles of social activists, justice delivery seems to be very slow, if at all, and it is eluding the victims. The culprits are claiming they are innocent and that they have got a ‘clean chit’. While there are many firsts in Modi coming to power, one first which is not highlighted is that, this is the first time a person accused of being part of the carnage process is going to have all the levers of power under his control. So what are the future prospects for India of Gandhi and Nehru? What are the prospects of the values of India’s Constitution? Can Modi give up his core agenda of Hindu Nationalism, which has been the underlying ideology of his politics, or will he deliver a Hindu nation to his mentors? No prizes for guessing!

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