The recent electoral victory of Narendra Modi, his third consecutive one (Dec 2012), has drawn lot of applause from a section of society and he is being projected as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. It’s another matter that BJP, itself is in shambles as far as electoral arena is concerned and its NDA allies are unlikely to endorse Modi, given his aggressive communal politics and the authoritarian style of his functioning. One knows that this victory of Modi was predicted by many exit polls, one also knows his victory was not a smooth sail, as by now the dissatisfaction from his policies, his style of functioning is adversely affecting a large number of Gujarat population. The people of Gujarat turned out in big numbers to cast their vote.

Many commentators feel that his win is due to his development policies, that he has won again is an endorsement of his claims of development of Gujarat. The development model undertaken by Modi is a total surrender to the favored industrial houses, which are having a gala time in Gujarat. The shiny malls and roads of Gujarat hide behind them the travails of the deprived and marginalized sections of Gujarat, the villages in particular. Every Nano car rolling out from Tata car is subsidized by the state to the extent of Rs 60000. The hype of development propaganda, managed by the American Company APCO Worldwide, which has already worked for notorious dictators like Sani Abacha (Nigeria) and Nurusultan NAzarbayev (Life President of Kazagistan), has done its job well again. The job by this agency has been done so well that anybody questioning the development of Gujarat is receives various derogatory labels. As a matter of fact what Modi has done is nothing unusual and states like Maharashtra have achieved much better in this direction, without the hype. Here comes one of the roles of Modi, not only to hire an image maker but also to act like Goebbels.

This so called development hides that the social indices of Gujarat which are very much on the lower side when compared to many other Indian states. What matters in popular perception is the image more than reality. So this aspect of Modi’s propaganda did sell well for a section of middle class not only in Gujarat but all over the country. Many a commentators do buy this uncritically and attribute Modi’s victory to this factor. As its not only the mall going middle class but even the suicide committing farmers families, the starving dalits and Adivasis, who also vote, they feel the reality of the ‘development’ of Gujarat in their lives, so a large turn out to vote and in rural areas they did show that the so called development is from the annals of make believe World.

The major factor which has worked in Modi’s favor is the polarization which has taken place in Gujarat after the 2002 carnage. This is one episode of violence, which has separated the communities on religious lines. While Hindus, have bought the line that it is only due to Modi that they are safe, at the same time Muslims know that they have not only been the major victim of 2002, but also that post 2002, they have been totally marginalized in physical space, with ghettoization taking place. They know that they are physically not safe and have been pushed back economically and socially. The real fear is stalking the lives of Muslim community as a whole. They have been relegated to second class citizenship. Modi has given a clear message that the nine percent Muslims don’t matter to him as he has made up his vote bank by consolidating the Hindus by instilling the fear amongst them. Still all Muslims do not vote against them. To begin with the Muslim majority areas have been delimited in a way that they can’t influence in the electoral result, or the impact of their voting is minimized. A section of trader-businessmen Muslims did vote for Modi for sure. Another section had to vote for him out of fear.

As far as dalits and adivasis are concerned the social engineering unleashed by BJP associates VHP and Vanavasi Kalyan ashram has done its job and a section of these deprived sections has been won over to the Hindutva fold and vote for the BJP. The sense of insecurity amongst minorities and minority women is paramount, making them withdraw into their shells. The liberal space in the state of Gujarat has shrunk rapidly, more than in other states. The educational institutions have been thoroughly brought under the management of academics sympathetic to Modi’s ideology. The state now reminds one of a dictatorial state, as pointed out by the ex- BJP chief Minister Keshubhai Patel himself. It can be called as communal-semi fascist state. The major factor in the state is the polarization and abolition of liberal space. This is ‘Hindu Nation’ in one state. One is reminded of the USSR, where ‘Socialism in one state’ was the slogan to begin with. In India while there are many states ruled by BJP, it is Gujarat, which fits into this ‘Hindu Rashtra in one state’.

The real danger today, which is reminded by Modi’s victory are manifold. To begin with the communal fascism is creeping in India through deeper pores of the nation. It is said that RSS is not happy with Modi coming to power and becoming larger than the party, the BJP. This is a contradictory situation. RSS on one hand wants to create a Hindu Rashtra. On the other it wants to regulate the whole process. The contradiction is that RSS ideology pushes the nation towards dictatorial thinking, as RSS itself is modeled on Ek Chalak Anuvartita, (controlled by single supreme dictator), the Sar Sanghchalak, whose writ is unquestionable. At the same time one recalls that one of the characteristics of fascisms the single charismatic leader. Modi fits in to that model very well. It is being said that in Gujarat, the RSS and its progeny VHP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad has been marginalized. One should know that the RSS and its non electoral progeny is there to make the ground for creating a communal space in which BJP can then rough shod and work for Hindu Nation. In Gujarat, these organizations are redundant now as they have already played their role. With Modi’s victory it’s clear that in India the communal fascism is marching state by state, and in the social space, in a gradual manner.

Modi’s blatant proximity to industrial houses is again in tune with the pattern of a fascist state. Hitler was also the darling of big capital. Hitler had mass following amongst the middle classes and could co-opt the poor as its storm troopers, street fighters. Modi is walking the same path, the difference being that of speed and regional variation. India being the vast diverse nation, the Gujarat pattern stands out very clearly as a repeat of German fascist onslaught with many differences. The other BJP ruled states are adopting different paths, some features being common. These common features are cultural infiltration, and relegation of minorities to the margins.

It is in this situation that those committed to secular democracy need a rethink. At electoral level, the parties like Congress, Samajvadi, Communist and Socialist parties, do not perceive the threat to democracy and secularism as they should be doing. If they understand the implications of Hindu Rashtra, the impact of Modi in hiking up the communal politics and communal thinking, then they have to close their ranks. They need to rise above their electoral and prime ministerial ambitions and take this threat of communalism head on as a united front. That seems to be a very tall order to expect from these electoral formations which so far have not demonstrated their willingness to come together for the sake of principles. Is it thinkable at all these parties will contemplate more in terms of saving democracy and secularism rather than protecting their fiefdoms? Its time these parties wake and realize that unless they hang together, the danger of communal fascism taking over the country in the future is not ruled out. Still one knows all this is an optimistic urge. If wishes were horses!

What can secular elements do at this point of time? They have engaged in legal activism, advocacy work, done rehabilitation work and conducted awareness programs to the best of their capabilities. It seems their best is not good enough. The need for more innovative thinking to ward off the threat of looming communalism has become more menacing with the victory of Modi. It’s a warning signal of sorts to do our utmost to strengthen the values of freedom movement, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It’s time to remind ourselves of what the preamble of our Constitution tells us. It’s time to build a real people’s platform for secularism and democracy. It’s time for social movements to take this issue in utmost seriousness before the situation is created that social movements will themselves will not be permitted to march forward for the cause of human rights of the deprived sections of society.


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

Handling Pakistan

Meghnad Desai

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was keen on establishing a rapport with Pakistan which would be better than the usual quarrelsome relationship that India had with it. He began this process when he was Foreign Minister and continued when he became Prime Minister. Manmohan Singh was passionate about settling all differences with Pakistan in as amiable fashion as possible. Indeed, he took considerable risks with his parliamentary colleagues in the way he did his diplomacy at Sharm-el-Sheikh and later.

The result of the effort of these 15 years is hard to see. No doubt we have better a trade relationship, but annoyances like the most recent LoC incursions and total denial of 26/11 involvement by Pakistan continue to irk. Even during Vajpayee’s tenure, Kargil was a rude shock from which India recovered thanks only to some immensely brave fighting by the jawans.

Why does this pattern of reconciliation punctured by violent incidents continue in India’s relations with Pakistan? Is it just a normal pattern of the younger brother always cocking a snook at the older brother and getting away with it because older brothers have to display forbearance? Is there no end to this schizophrenic behaviour pattern in sight?

The answer has to be no. It is difficult for Indians to realise the deep sense of inferiority and consequent resentment that Pakistanis feel about their larger neighbour. I learned this when, during a month-long stay in Islamabad, the inevitable second question everyone in Pakistan asked me was, ‘Why don’t you give up Kashmir?’ My feeble answer was that I had a UK passport and even otherwise, countries do not give up what they think is legitimately theirs. I did not thereby stop the argument. Each of my interlocutors went on with a litany of complaints about how unjust the international system was to allow the Kashmir question to remain unsettled, about India’s moral hypocrisy etc. I had a distinct feeling that Pakistanis felt their country was incomplete without Kashmir.

All this was 15 years ago. Since then, the growth of the Islamist movement has exposed the central weakness of Pakistan as a nation. It was set up as a home for Muslims; not all Muslims of the pre-1947 India, but a sizable minority. It was, however, not built as an Islamic nation as such. Jinnah had no time for such gestures. Nationalism in his view was about a people, not about a religion. Off and on, attempts were made by various dictators to lurch in the Islamic direction, but without much conviction. The elite in Pakistan wears its religion lightly while sipping whiskies.

But now, there is a groundswell which is Islamist and represents the downtrodden people alienated from the elite. The politicisation of Islam into Islamism was bound to unsettle Pakistan sooner or later. As it is, the state is ambivalent about Islamist movements; in favour if directed abroad towards India or Afghanistan but unhappy as well as unable to control it at home. Even so, the various jihadist movements are not interested in overthrowing the ruling elite as it allows them to use the State as and when they need its help. Occasionally, the elite loses patience as Musharraf did with the Red Mosque, but an uneasy truce has been there otherwise.

Just as Bollywood cannot resist bad remakes of trashy Hollywood movies, Pakistan seems to be staging a parody of Indian political movements. Tahir ul-Qadri is staging what looks like a bad remake of the Anna Hazare movement. But PPP is more fragile than UPA. The Supreme Court is on its own trip in ordering the arrest of a Prime Minister who is accused of some corruption but not convicted of it. The government is nervously awaiting a miraculous completion of its full five-year term, which looks unlikely now. Qadri has brought the government to its knees, which is ominous for Pakistan’s future. If and when new elections happen, any outcome can only be fragile

India has to learn to live with a naughty younger brother who will never behave himself but also never be a serious threat.

[courtesy : “The Sunday Express”, 20.01.2013]

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features