Modi’s saffron tsunami puts India on a revivalist course

May 24,2019

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing his victory rally, has boasted that “no party could dare talk of secularism” after its exposure at the hands of “pseudoto secularists”. Epitomising the retreat of secularism was the massive victory of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in Malegaon, Ajmer Dargah, and Samjhota Express terrorism. Sadhvi declared the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi being a “great patriot”, declared her success as a “victory of dharma (faith)” over the Congress stalwart Digvijaya Singh who on his part took a competing course of soft Hindutava while taking the blessings of every possible priest in the area.

Riding a high nationalist tide and pushing hard Hindutva agenda, Mr Modi trounces his all rivals — secularists, caste-based exclusivists and most regionalists — barring Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and secular Kerala with a Hindu minority. His second consecutive landslide victory pushes India towards a contradictory course of ideological revivalism and modern corporatization. And that is what is meant by Mr Modi’s 21st century’s “New India” on the corpses of the founders of Indian secularism. He is destined to re-write India history as envisioned by the ideologues of Hindutva.

His self-projection of being a strongman, aggressive nationalist rhetoric mixed with religious overtones and tall claims about not an otherwise a great performance, helped him emerge as the sole claimant to the most powerful office in India. While sweeping North (190 seats), East (88 seats) and West (132 seats), he makes an impressive beginning in the South as well where United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by scion of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Rahul Gandhi, have an upper hand with 63 seats. For the Congress Party most humiliating defeat was in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh that it had snatched from the BJP in the recent months. Even the strong-woman of West Bengal, CM Mamata Banerjee of TMC, hardly survive in her bastion of power as my communist comrades recede further into oblivion. The states that have been totally or overwhelmingly swept by the BJP and its allies in NDA are: Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, UP, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Assam and most Union Territories.

More than the Modi wave of 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has improved its tally by 20 additional seats to reach 300 plus mark-- more than approximately 30 seats than the majority number of 272—and with NDA allies it could not do much better than last time with around 349 seats. The Congress Party again failed to improve its standing and could only add seven seats to touch a paltry figure of 51 and along with Its UPA allies, it stands up to 91 seats. The defeat of the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at the hands of BJP’s Smriti Rani from Amethi, the traditional constituency of Nehrus in UP, reflects poorly on the standing of Congress party in the Hindi belt which remained a bastion of the Congress party for decades. However, Mr Rahul was saved by the ignominy of being ousted from the next parliament was secular Kerala that elected him with a greater margin. Those who are completely decimated are: CM Naidu’s Telegu Desham Party in Andhra Pradesh, ADMK in Tamil Nadu, Left-Front in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura and the Congress Party in the states that it is still ruling. The Gathbandon or united front of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in UP failed to make an impressive comeback, though they did improve upon their previous standing despite being arrogant in not forming an alliance with the Congress. The caste-based politics unleashed by the Mandal Commission is now losing on the grounds of internal stratification that the upper-castes based BJP exploited to its advantage. The biggest casualties of this election are the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, even though Madam Sonya Gandhi advised her son not to resign and consult the working committee of the Congress Party.

Mr Modi was vulnerable to some extent in these elections due to higher rates of unemployment, pauperization of the vast rural poor and the peasantry, demonetization and a failure to deliver on his promise of “sab ka sath, sab ka vikas” (comradery with all, progress of all) made in the last general elections. But, to his good luck, came the Pulwama terrorism to his rescue and he went on to build a jingoistic environment forcing the opposition parties to even question the efficacy of air strikes into Pakistan. The Pulwama terrorism offered an exceptional opportunity to Mr Modi to pose as a great warrior and “chowkidar” or defender of national security while accusing the opposition of endorsing the narrative of the “enemy”, Pakistan. Amid a noisy movement to build Ram Temple, the BJP came out more firmly to deprive J&K of its special status under Article 370 and getting away with Article 35-A that prohibits ownership of property by the aliens in the disputed state of J&K. While Rahul Gandhi was making great promises to the Indian poor, this was the Modi government that had already delivered some succor to the poor through some popular welfare steps.

The fact of the matter is that there was no effective challenger to a charismatic populist demagogue, that Mr Modi is, in not only in the last general elections but also in this electoral contest. Supported by the corporate and vernacular media, social media and backed by the big business houses and upper castes, the BJP built a huge and dominant social coalition to steer towards a decisive electoral victory. Modi is now the new strongman of India, after former prime minister Indira Gandhi, who has no formidable challenger. He is expected to ride over the Indian establishment the way he would like to. But, he is also not a freelancer. Being a Hindutva volunteer since he is a lifelong sevak, he is subordinate to the greater design of the Hindutva parivar led by the RSS. It is being speculated in despair that Mr Modi will ideologically take India away from its secular ethos and is destined to reshape India on Hindu majoritarianism. Few people know in Pakistan that the RSS is for far greater affinity among the peoples of South Asia in its outdated original theme of Akhand Bharat or greater India. The question to be discussed in Pakistan is that whether Mr Modi will follow in the footsteps of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee or build his fascist enterprise on the enmity of Indian Muslims and victimization of the protesting Kashmiris.


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