• Friday, November 28, 2014

PRAFUL BIDWAI COLUMN

Hindutva-capitalism takes power

Praful Bidwai

INDIA'S election has produced the worst possible outcome: a majority for the BJP under a man widely believed to have been complicit in mass killings of Muslims, and not yet exonerated by the legal system despite its vulnerability to manipulation.
Make no mistake. Despite a limited (31%) vote, Narendra Modi's victory represents a Rightward social shift, and the triumph of Hindutva plus neoliberalism.
It's an ugly scar on the face of democracy, produced by long-festering pathologies, including communal prejudice, belligerent nationalism, social intolerance, paranoid propaganda, and elite craving for authoritarianism.
Contrary to claims, Modi's “presidentialised” campaign, in which billions of dollars and the corporate media played as crucial a part as “56-inch-chest” aggression, wasn't about “development”/“governance.” It was India's most communalised campaign.
Modi personifies and radiates Hindutva. This time, his canvassing was actually lubricated by blood: in Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh), and later in Assam.
He wickedly deployed toxic rhetoric about expelling Bangladeshi “infiltrators” (read, Muslims) while welcoming “refugees” (read, Hindus), and brazenly used religious symbols. Six lakh Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh men ran the campaign with slogans like “love jehad” and “bahu bachao, beti bachao” (protect Hindu women from Muslims) to polarise opinion communally.
Polarisation helped the BJP exploit discontent with the Congress, rooted in high prices, corruption, and economic elitism (Big Business-oriented jobless growth). Also important was micro-level “booth management,” in which 20-25 RSS men “cover” each polling-station.


Thanks to polarisation, the BJP performed spectacularly in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka, won “saturation-level” seat-scores in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, and secured its highest-ever vote in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.  
The BJP's 71-of-80-seats UP victory is the highest there since 1984. Its 42.3% vote decimated its opponents in multi-cornered contests. The Bahujan Samaj Party couldn't win a seat despite a 19.6% vote.
The Samajwadi Party shrank from 23 to five seats despite winning 22.2 percent, only one percentage-point lower than in 2009. There was a weakening of its core Yadav-Muslim coalition because of Muzaffaranagar.
The BJP won over sections of low-caste groups and Dalits by communalising them and promising them jobs which they desperately crave. Another helpful factor was the partition of Muslim votes, attributable to the fear and loathing Modi provokes among Muslims.
Constituency-wise, Muslims rationally chose candidates best-placed to defeat Modi. Ironically, they thus scattered their votes between the SP and BSP, weakening both.
The Lok Sabha now has its lowest-ever Muslim representation: just4%, way below the Muslims' 13.4% population share. For the first time, there isn't a Muslim MP from UP, where Muslims are one-fifth of the population. Also absent is the BSP -- India's third largest vote-catcher.
Such grave exclusion strengthens the case for replacing the British first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system India blindly follows, by widely prevalent (and fairer) Proportional Representation, which allots quotas to parties based on the votes polled, in addition to winning candidates.
The election has put a Hindutva fanatic in power, and established the ascendancy of Hindu-supremacism, for which the Sangh has fought since 1925 using repugnant methods, including assassination, communal riots, and invented threats to “the nation.”
Today, the RSS can hide behind “democracy,” as Hitler did in 1933. But this is democracy's degraded, communalised form, without equal rights for citizens, but charged with ethno-religious identity. India's Constitution defines citizenship universally, independently of such identities.
The Congress and the Left stand reduced to their lowest-ever seat-tallies. They cannot reverse their setbacks without drastic measures. The Aam Aadmi Party, which showed great promise, won only four seats. All its big leaders lost. It faces a grave crisis.  
With the BJP achieving an absolute majority, we can expect four things. First, it will be pressed to revive the core-Hindutva agenda, including the Ram temple, Article 370, and a Uniform Civil Code. The temple is seemingly the least contentious. But if the BJP builds a raucous anti-Muslim agitation around it, it will generate serious strife.
Article 370 will be internationally controversial, and risk militarising the Kashmir crisis further. If a Uniform Civil Code is promoted, not as a universal gender-justice agenda, but imposed on Muslims, it could lead to bloodshed.
Second, the Parivar will soon begin its destructive “Long March” through India's already-weak democratic institutions. It will try to subvert the judiciary, and educational and cultural institutions. It will also manipulate the media. It understands the media's importance and its vulnerability to pressure from corporations, which increasingly drive its agendas.
Third, more militaristic approaches will be adopted against the Maoist movement in the Central-Eastern tribal belt. Under its ultra-neoliberal policies, the BJP will promote rampant extraction of natural resources, especially forests, minerals and rivers.
Handing these over to predatory corporations will provoke more popular resistance, which the government will repress ferociously. This will lead to untold human rights violations and brutalisation of some of India's poorest people.
Finally, there will be very little immediate resistance to the Hindutva-capitalist onslaught from the Parliamentary parties. That burden will fall on grassroots civil society movements which stand for a democratic-secular India. They must prepare for a long, hard War of Position.

The writer is an eminent Indian columnist.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TAGS: Narendra Modi Bharataiya Janata Party (BJP) Indian elections

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