Let us make the space we share better and bring the change we desire. Author is Indian Muslim, a Public Figure, Social Activist, Blogger and Media Personality. On mission to build a givers world rather than takers.
1. The context
The Forthcoming Elections: The forthcoming general elections, expected to be held somewhere in the middle of 2014 are very crucial to the survival of Indian Democracy, as in these elections, the major opposition party, the BJP has already declared its Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. There is a big noise about declaring the Prime Ministerial candidate by BJP. This is very much opposed to our system of democracy, where first the Members of parliament are elected who in turn elect the Prime Minister. BJP wants to take the matters in the direction of Presidential system of elections, which has different sets of problems and is unsuitable for a country with diversity like ours.
With Narendra Modi being projected a big section of media, social media and section of social classes; middle classes in particular are creating an atmosphere as if Modi is the solution to our problems. Modi is a trained swayamsevak of RSS, who rose to the level of Pracharak and after working as Organizing Secretary in BJP, was deputed to become the Chief Minister of Gujarat. When he took over as the Chief Minister, the prospects of BJP were declining in Gujarat. It is precisely at this time the Godhra incident occurred and, making Godhra train burning as a pretext massive communal violence was unleashed, in which the state led by Modi was complicit, to say the least. This has polarized the Gujarat society and due to this polarization, Modi has been rising from strength to strength, winning Gujarat Assembly with huge margin.
After the carnage, the victims were not given the necessary rehabilitation and the struggle for getting them justice is still on and is very difficult. The minorities have been relegated to second class citizenship, and the condition of dalits, women and adivasis is abysmal. At the same time a massive propaganda, with the help of US ad agency and supported by different wings of Sangh Parivar has been launched that there is something like’ Gujarat Model’ of development, due to which Gujarat under the leadership of Modi has progressed excellently. This has by now become part of ‘social common sense’. The attached sheet shows that while this propaganda has caught on, the reality is totally different. Not only that, Gujarat was already a developed state, during the same period of time many other states like Maharashtra, Haryana, Tamil Nadu have made much better progress. The social indices of Gujarat, in a way, are not very good. The nutrition of children, the blood levels (Hemoglobin) of pregnant women, the rate of employment generation all are very bad in Gujarat.
Modi is being projected as a non corruptible strong leader. As a matter of fact where the state Government spent crores of rupees in court cases to avoid the appointment of Lok Ayukta, which is a step towards eradication of corruption. As far as Modi being ‘strong’ is concerned, one should note that Modi is a autocrat, who does not go by democratic model of functioning, he has appropriated all the powers to himself in Gujarat Government, there is no room for dissent in the Government policies. Dissent and debate are the way, the democracy functions. Lot is being stated that Modi will solve all the problems related to security in the society. The point is in Gujarat the sex ratio is has slightly declined (2001 920, 2011- 918) the atrocities on dalits and adivasis have increased. The cases of sexual assault on women are aplenty.
2. Modi: BJP: RSS
Modi is the executioner of the agenda of RSS. It is RSS, which ensured that he be nominated the Prime ministerial candidate for Lok Sabha elections. Modi is the RSS swaymsevak who has been deputed to work in the BJP. BJP is the child of RSS. RSS is the ‘supra political’ organization, which calls itself a cultural organization. It wants to control all the aspects of social and political life by floating different organizations like Rashtra Sevika Samiti, ABVP, BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram to name the few. In addition it has floated organizations to influence education, media and the state machinery through its infiltration in police, bureaucracy and army. It does not believe in democracy, does not hold to Indian Nationalism. Its goal is to bring in Hindu Rashtra by controlling all the aspects of country’s life according to elite Hindu norms. While Indian Nationalism is based on the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, The Hindu Nationalism of RSS is based on the values which give primacy to superiority of males and upper caste. RSS is an exclusively male organization and its subordinate Rashtra Sevika Samiti, shows the real place of women in the scheme of things of RSS. In the word Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the women’s wing of RSS, the word Swayam (Self) is missing. According to all fundamentalist and fascist organizations the place of women is secondary. Many an organizations, which are subordinate to RSS, dictate the dress code and code of conduct for girls and women, to remain controlled by men. It has Smajik Samrasta Manch, which talks that there should be harmony between different castes, not caste annihilation, not caste eradication. For adivasis, it has formed Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. It refuses to call them Adivasis and regards them as a part of Hindu society, so is trying to forcibly bring them to Hindu fold by organizing Ghar Vapasi Programs, the programs which forcible convert Adivasis to Hinduism.
Bhartiya Janata Party
BJP’s main functionaries are RSS trained Swayamsevaks, pracharaks. Most of its Organizational Secretaries are directly deputed by RSS. At crucial times RSS directly intervenes like appointing BJP Presidents or its Prime Ministerial candidates. BJP is guided by the long term agenda of Hindu nation. It does dilute its agenda when in coalition. It has a short term agenda which may not directly talk of Hindu nation. Its short term agenda was visible when it formed NDA and ruled the country for six years from 1998 to 2004. Just to take a chance it tried to change the Indian Constitution, as RSS believes that Indian Constitution is based on western values and it should be changed and made to be based on Hindu holy books. The hint of Hindu holy book is Manu smirti, which upholds the hierarchy of caste and gender. This is the same book which was burned by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. It is another matter that BJP failed in its attempt to change the Constitution.
While forming the NDA coalition it had to drop its major agenda of Ram Temple, Abolition of article 370 and imposition of Uniform Civil Code. Being in power in center BJP did many things helpful to RSS agenda. It communalized the school text books; it introduced faith based curricula in the form of introducing Paurohitya, (Training for Hindu clergy) Katmakand (Hindu rituals) and astrology in the Universities. It gave appointment to many an RSS volunteers to do core social work and other organizations.
During BJP rule also the prices went up tremendously. It was also riddled with many corruption scandals. It went on to do the nuclear test explosions in Pokhran, apparently to checkmate Pakistan. Pakistan in turn went on for more test explosions. The claim that these nuclear bombs will increase our security was quashed to the dust as Pakistan also matched the test explosions. As far as security is concerned, while it beat the drums of nationalism, Pakistan quietly occupied Kargil and later it could be evacuated on the pressure from United States. It is during this period that alleged attack on Parliament took place and in retaliation there was a massive and wasteful deployment of forces on the border, which was quietly withdrawn.
Last three parliamentary elections there is a gradual decline in the percentage of votes polled by BJP. Now the strategy is to project Modi and to try to grab power. Modi is a greatly divisive figure. As he was declared the PM candidate, JD (U) withdrew from NDA. Within BJP also there is a section of leadership which is uncomfortable due to his being so projected, as they know Modi has dictatorial tendencies and that he will marginalize other leaders, and gradually a type of dictatorship guided and supported by RSS will come to the fore. BJP so far has diluted its Hindutva agenda when it came to power in alliance with other parties due to the compulsions of coalition. If it gets simple majority, the brakes and inhibitions of a coalition will be done away and naked Hindutva agenda will be unfolded. Why BJP needs to be halted is clear, BJP is a party with a difference as it a child of RSS.
Modi has employed different mechanisms to dominate social media and large sections of middle class are singing peens for him as they think this will give stability etc. Many a myths are being created about BJP being better than other parties, especially Congress. As such one is sure that Congress is no secular angel, it has faltered times and over again in proper implementation of secular policies, still it is not controlled by any supra political organization like RSS and as such no other electoral party should be compared with BJP as it is an offshoot of RSS.
Modi Phenomenon: an attack on Indian Democracy
Currently ( August 2013) Narendra Modi is trying to dominate the media, print social and TV through his carefully constructed propaganda machinery and his potential of being nominated as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate by RSS-BJP. Modi has openly used the words like puppies dying under the car wheel, while referring to the victims of Gujarat carnage of 2002. He has also asserted that he is a ‘Hindu nationalist’. While most of the older allies of NDA, are deserting NDA, RSS-BJP hope that he will be able to win the 2014 elections due to his image of a non corrupt, efficient administrator who has taken Gujarat to the heights of development. In social media and other platforms the polarized section of Hindus and the section of middle class are very appreciative of Modi and are creating a delusion of his becoming the next prime minister.
All this is mostly a pipe dream. One knows that Modi is totally disliked by the victims of communal violence, most sections of religious minorities Those who have gone deeper to the issue of Gujarat development model point out that it is more of a propaganda than reality. We still need to understand as to why ‘Modi phenomenon’ has arisen on the Indian scenario and the dangers of ignoring the politics represented by Modi as such. Even though he may not be able to be the PM after 2014 we need to realize that politics represented by Modi and his ilk is the politics of ‘Communal Fascism’, which at surface looks to be just against minorities, but as a matter of fact, aims to abolish democracy after usurping power through democratic means. Its agenda is to do away with the human rights of the dalits, Adivasis, workers and women in Indian context.
RSS-BJP: Rise in 1980s
Modi is a trained Pracharak (propagator) of RSS, deeply soaked in the ideology of Hindu nationalism, working for the agenda of Hindu nation. In the decade of 1980 multiple factors at global and local level led to the rise of conservative middle classes, the petty industrialists, the rich farmers, the affluent professionals, who are always for the politics of status quo. During this time the global changes, the creeping globalization was on and the attack on working class movement were stepped up. RSS-VHP during this phase started promoting the religiosity all round. Using the Shah Bano judgment as the pretext, RSS launched the tirade against secular values by putting forward the word ‘Pseudo secularism’ and phrases like appeasement of minorities.
In this backdrop Advani started his Rath Yatra for Ram Temple. In the country where the dire need of basic amenities for life and the need for protection of the human rights of weaker sections of society are paramount, the RSS combine deliberately brought forward the issues related to identity of a section of Hindus. At the same time their propaganda targeted the religious minorities, a mix of distorted version of history, and presenting the victims as culprits. The rath yatra of Advani created the atmosphere of ‘Hate towards minorities’ and this led to series of acts of violence.
The major outcome of this campaign for Ram Temple was that the issues related to human rights and the bread, butter, shelter and employment issues got relegated to the background and social-political scene started revolving around the identity issues. As a part of the communal politics unleashed by RSS combine, the anti Christian violence in Adivasis areas also got stepped up. In these areas the corporate giants have got a free hand and have been able to encroach the lands of Adivasis.
Modi: Gujarat Violence and After
The post Godhra violence was a sample of the way state can actively promote violence. So far in the communal violence in India, the police, the state had been by and large an onlooker, mostly police siding with rioters. In Gujarat the equation was worsened much further with state, led by Modi actively promoting violence. Though it is claimed that Special Investigation team has given the clean chit to Modi, the fact is that based on the same report, the Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curie Raju Ramchandran feels the report has enough evidence to prosecute Modi for his role in 2002 violence. After the violence the state of Gujarat totally washed its hands off the responsibility to rehabilitate the violence victims. The process of marginalization of religious minorities went quite far. A large section has been living in ghettoes in Ahmadabad itself, while their civic and political rights have been trampled and they are living like second class citizens. There is an intense propaganda that Gujarat is most developing state, the fact is that Gujarat was already amongst the more developed states, the claims of huge investments through Vibrant Gujarat summits have little substance in them, promises have been more than the actualizations. The real indices of social development are lagging behind. The rate of employment generation is very low, Gujarat is low on the per capita spending, the Hemoglobin level of pregnant women is on the lower side and sex ratio has also fallen during last one and a half decade.
Hindutva: electoral Strategy
RSS combine has been entering into the electoral arena by and by. While in 1984 elections when it was giving the slogan of Gandhian socialism, it had only two MPs in Lok Sabha. In 1996, it went on to more than 150 MPs and it emerged as the largest single party. That time no other electoral party was willing to ally with it. The BJP government fell. After going through couple of ‘third-front’ experiments, BJP managed to cobble up the coalition, National Democratic Alliance. For this it had to give up the core issues of Ram Temple, abolition of Article 370 in Kashmir and Uniform Civil Code. This strategy worked and BJP led NDA ruled for nearly six years. During this time it communalized the text books and recruited RSS volunteers in to various government schemes and supported many NGOs with RSS agenda and RSS got a big boost in the political arena and its dominance was painfully perceptible in different walks of life.
The Hindutva combine knows that it was so far not able to come to power on its own. Now it is hoping that it will go with aggressive Hindutva agenda and by coming to power on its own it will bring in Hindu Rashtra.
Agenda of Hindu Rashtra- Hindutva Politics
Modi is the aggressive form of Hindutva agenda. He has openly started saying that they believe in Hindu nationalism. This is a subtle and open hint at the communal fascism which RSS combine, of which Modi is the major leader, wants to bring in. The major support base for RSS combine, more so with Modi at the helm is the corporate sector on one hand and the middle level corporate employees, the Information Technology-MBA groups on the other. Modi has demonstrated in Gujarat that he can open all the state coffers for the industrialists, land, loans and necessary paraphernalia. This has impressed the corporate sector and they are pitching for him in a large way. The corporate media has uncritically propagated his claims about development. The social welfare schemes have been kept in abeyance, due to which the poorer sections are suffering. As for as minorities are concerned all the central schemes related to Sachar Committee are not being implemented, the scholarship funds for the Muslim students is being returned back year after year. Modi in this sense is ruthless as for as schemes related to religious minorities are concerned.
He is the choice of corporate, middle classes, the traders and the RSS support base. Each of these has their own understanding of Modi and he fits in to the bill of these all. Corporates think he will give them a free hand to plunder, the middle classes know Modi is the best guarantee against social change for betterment of the deprived sections and religious minorities. The RSS, discarded Advani on two grounds, one that he made that statement about Jinnah being secular and other that he is on the wrong side of the age. RSS, the real controller of BJP and other affiliated organizations see in Modi a ruthless swayamsevak out to bring in Hindu Rashtra.
While Modi and RSS agenda is being projected and Modi’s rise is being anticipated it is clear to most that Modi’s coming into the top of power ladder will instill an autocrat who will soon follow the path of Hitler. Our country is rich of diversity with varying interest groups, who know Modi-RSS are going to impose Hindu Rashtra a synonym for communal fascist state. This diversity of the country and the realization of this sort amongst large sections of Indian voters should wake up to this danger to our democracy and ensure their defeat in the electoral area. While RSS combine and corporates will try their best to prop him up, the large section of Indian electorate should not be taken in by such propaganda, as Modi’s reality is too well known to most by now. Though Modi is trying to project as if he is changing his profile and becoming liberal, one knows that a leopard cannot change its spots. And that is the reason as to why Modi’s tricks on the electoral arena should be made to fail in the coming elections.
3. Facts versus myths about BJP
Myth: Congress is also communal as more riots took place during its regime, while since Modi came to power after the carnage of 2002, there is no violence In Gujarat!
Fact: Communal violence is a multifactorial phenomenon.
Who starts the riots: By now it has been propagated successfully that Muslims start the riots and then Hindus retaliate. Teesta Setalvad (Who Casts the First Stone, Communalism Combat, March 98) by citing the extracts from five commissions of inquiry shows that truth is other way around. Following are some of the extracts from the said piece.
Ahmedabad 1969: “There was deliberate attempt to suppress the truth from the commission especially the active participation in riots of some RSS and Jan Sangh leaders” (Jana Sangh is the previous political avatar of present of BJP) (from Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission).
Bhiwandi, Jalagaon 1970: “In his report to his superior the SP, Thane district has stated, “I found that a section of Hindu elements, particularly RSS and some PSP men, were bent upon creating mischief. Their idea in accompanying the procession was not so much to pay respect to the Great Shivaji but to establish there right and, if possible, to provoke and humiliate Muslims.
The villagers shouted provocative anti-Muslim slogans, behaved aggressively, threw on the Moti Masjid at Bangad galli Hyderi mosque situated at the junction of Dargarch Road and Sutar Alli aided by passive police.” (Justice D.P. Madon Commission).
Tellichery 1971: “In Tellichery Hindus and Muslims were living as brothers for centuries… It was only after RSS and the Jana Sangh set up their units and began activities in Tellicherry that there came a change in situation. Their anti-Muslim propaganda, its reaction on the Muslims who rallied around their communal organization, the Muslims league…. the communal tension that followed prepared the background for these disturbances”.
(Report of Justice Joseph Vithayathil Commission)
Jamshedpur 1979: From Report of Commission of Inquiry: “In the run up to the communal build up before the elections prepared by the Intelligence branch, Jamshedpur (March 23, 79) there was a special mention made to the divisional conference of the RSS scheduled to be held on March 31 and April 1, in which among others RSS Sarsangh chalak was to participate.
The dispute on route of the procession became sharp and agitated reactions from a group of persons who called themselves Samyukta Bajarang Bali Akhara Samiti, who systematically distributed pamphlets to heighten communal feeling and had organisational links with the RSS. A call for defiance of authority and administration when it refused permission for one of the routes led to violent mob protesting and raising anti-Muslim slogans. Thereafter incendiary leaflets doing rounds of Jamshedpur (issued on behalf of Sri Ramnavmi Kendriya Akhara Samiti), that is nothing short of an attempt to rouse the sentiments of Hindus to a high pitch to distort events and show some actions as attacks on Hindus that appear to be part of a design”.
Kanyakumari Riots (1982): Justice Venugopal Commission:
“RSS methodology for provoking communal violence is:
So the role of RSS and Congress is not comparable. By and large in most of the episodes of violence RSS is the instigator and conductor of violence, Congress has been inefficient to control these acts of violence due to many reasons. One reason is that many a communal elements have opportunistically entered into Congress. Second is that the police-administrative machinery has also to some extent been communalized, and not enough is done by them to control the violence in time. So while Congress ruled, RSS-combine organized the violence most of the times to strengthen its base. There are some exceptions to this where Congress has played pro active role in the violence, like the anti Sikh massacre led by Congress in1984. This is inexcusable, but still it was a single go anti Sikh pogrom, and demonization of Sikh community ceased after some time. In case of RSS sponsored violence, the process continues, assumes different forms and the pattern of violence and underlying mechanisms also change. The issues they raise to divide the community are related to temple, cow and now, the honor of ‘our daughters’.
Myth: Congress is also Communal while BJP believes in treating all citizens on equal footing. Congress appeases the Muslim community, BJP believes in ‘Justice to all and appeasement of none’.
Fact: As pointed out BJP is the political offshoot of RSS, which has Hindu nation as this agenda. Congress began as the continuation of the Indian National Congress, which led the national movement, has the basic ethos of pluralism, secularism and democracy. BJP tries to show its secular face as a matter of opportunism, as it also has to operate in the electoral space and woo the voters of different religions. So it states that it believes in equality of all. But this is a mere statement. In an unequal society the affirmative action for the weaker sections is essential. As a matter of fact such provisions are there for dalits, Adivasis and women. Sangh combine was deeply opposed to affirmative action for dalits, but for the sake of electoral compulsions it keeps quiet on that. It was also opposed to implementation of Mandal commission, but for electoral compulsions again it did not articulate it openly and instead went on for Babri demolition to consolidate all those opposed to Mandal.
As such due to many reasons Muslim community in particular and Christians to some extent have been marginalized from the economic arena. Congress as a ruling party should have undertaken policies for inclusive growth where even religious minorities are accommodated. Instead of this necessary step, Congress appeased the orthodox leadership of minorities like in Shah Bano case. Congress should have done all to ensure that religious minorities also get space in development process. As a late effort it appointed Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission. Their recommendations have been theoretically accepted but not implemented in practice. Many a BJP ruled states have straightaway refused to implement Sachar Committee recommendations. So the appeasement of none actually means, relegating religious minorities to the margins of society.
This attempt to implement affirmative action is labeled by BJP as appeasement of minorities. This is the ground on which BJP calls Congress as Communal. While what is needed is to implement the Sachar recommendations honestly. BJP is the communal party in the real sense. It has created the situation of insecurity of religious minorities. Its samples are also visible in BJP ruled states where the Hindu norms, Surya Namaskar (Sun Worship), study of Gita are introduced in the school curriculum. Through its associates like VHP and Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram it consolidates the section of Hindus in the name of religion, while BJP dpencding on contingency keeps talking of development, which is a sham.
Myth: Price Rise will come under control with Modi coming into power.
Fact: At broad level the economic policies of Congress and BJP are roughly the same. The price rise is controlled by the global situation; and the local market mechanism in particular. There are instances where the trader’s syndicates have ensured that prices continue to rise. Most of these trader lobbies are supporters of BJP. During NDA rule also prices keep rising as usual.
Myth: The acts of terrorism will come down with Modi in the helm!
Fact: Today terrorism is due to multiple reasons. One is the offshoot of Al Qaeda variety, which is located in Pakistan. The Pakistan Government is not able to control it, and many an acts of terror are taking place in Pakistan itself, with many victims from Pakistan society, including its ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. There are forces which are located in Pakistan but difficult to control by Pakistan Government and should go in to decline over a period of time.
The second variety is that of Hindutva terror, with Abhinav Bharat and Sanatan Sanstha being alleged to be involved in many such acts. Swami Aseemanand’s confession in front of the magistrate gives the indication about the causes of this terrorism. This is closely linked to ideology of Hindutva, which is inspired by RSS. Many of those involved in these acts of terror are currently in jails.
Both these terror acts are political ones’ and one of them the Hindutva variety as such is inspired by the ideology shared by Modi. Both need to be brought under control and eradicated, it is possible only with global cooperation, good professional work by our agencies, free from ideological moorings, which Modi does not have.
Myth: With Modi coming to power, corruption will be rooted out
Fact: There are tall claims about Modi’s incorruptibility. Corruption is a part of the system and autocrats are generally more corrupt in the long run as there are no checks and balances on them. We have seen that when BJP first was striving for power it said that it is ‘a party with difference’, meaning that it is free from corruption and lust for power. When it came to power in different places its corruption was no less. Corruption is a part of our system where ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. It is transparency which has the potential of reducing the scale of corruption. Provisions like RTI are the one’s which should scale down the corruption in due course. Modi has authoritarian streaks and authoritarianism centralizes power that makes the system less transparent. Lesser the transparency, more the corruption. In case of BJP, we have seen the Karanatak Government drenched in corruption apart from other glaring examples when they were in power in center.
Myth: Our borders will be safer if Modi comes to power.
Fact: Modi has been accusing the current government of softness due to which he claims that the incidents on border, encroachment on the border are rising. As per Modi an aggressive policy towards neighbors is needed.
Being in opposition and being in power are two different situations. The neighbors are to be dealt with tactfully and the situation of war is to be avoided at all the cost. BJP earlier had been making loud noises against Pakistan. When BJP led NDA came to power, realizing the compulsions of situation, but when they came to power, BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the bus to Lahore in an attempt for peace. Even when Kargil was occupied right under the nose of BJP led NDA, the peace had to be negotiated. It is true that Pakistan has been going through the rough patch where democracy is slowly rooting itself again. The elected representatives of Pakistan are talking of peace and dialogue, which India also wants and that’s the way to live with neighbors. With China also dialogue is the only solution. With countries like Sri Lanka and Bangla Desh good relations are possible, these have to be diplomatic, principled without any aggressive language or intent.
Some Lies and Truth
How significant or substantial are the claims of Modi supporters frequently quoted Modi’s achievement point wise in Facebook
Was Gujarat a sub-Saharan underdeveloped desert region before Modi’s advent? No, Gujarat was among India’s top progressive states, with a proven record of industrialization and entrepreneurship.
Modi’s achievements are lots of hot air, no amount of hate propaganda against people who question that, can suppress this truth. Fan-boys want only to hear stories of achievement; an extremely small achievement becomes huge and achievements are created out of thin air, any counter to that comes with hate and abuse, no matter how powerful the argument is.
When the fan boys profess rationality they try every trick to move you away from the point you are making. Well all this does come with some fun, hilarious stupidity of claims and talks to justify them.
Gujarat’s GDP growth under Modi is exceptional.
Gujarat’s growth is in line with other progressives states of India.
2003-2013 is the only 10 straight years ever in Gujarat history which are complete Riot-free.
Large scale riots happened within Vadodara in 2006 and regular stream of incidences kept on happening regularly all over Gujarat.
Automobile majors are flocking to Gujarat because of great industrial climate Modi has created.
Tata was given sops worth Rs. 30 Thousand Crores for investing only a fraction (Rs 2 Thousand Crores) in Sanand, Gujarat. That’s what brought Nano to Gujarat.
Gujarat is only state in the whole India to provide 24*7 and 365 days electricity to almost all of its 18000 villages.
Still 8% of Gujarat ‘s households use Kerosene as the primary means of lighting. Gujarat was 100% electrified even in 1996.
Every Gujarati is in love with Modi
Less than 50% Gujaratis are voting for Modi and around 40% are voting for Congress. BJP’s high vote share pre-dates Modi.
In WikiLeaks US diplomat described Modi as “incorruptible” — in fact, “the lone honest Indian politician”.
No US diplomat mentioned that. On the contrary, complete reading of the cable is an another proof of “pseudo-secularist” charges on Modi (downright communal, big-ticket corruption and low on achievements).
Gujarat’s agriculture growth is 10-11% since whole last decade.
In last 6 years, Gujarat’s agriculture had -ve years of growth -1.08% (2007) & -8.71% (2009), and a zero growth year 0.3% (2010).
Gujarat tourism is growing faster than ever before.
Gujarat tourism’s percentage share and rank is stagnant during most of Modi’s tenure.
According to central govt’s labour bureau’s report, Gujarat has the lowest unemployment rate in country.
As per 2012 report, Gujarat was ranked 1st among states (excluding UTs), which has fallen to 5th in 2013 report.
Gujarat is the first state in country to have “high speed wireless broadband” service in its all 18000 villages.
BSNL brought WiMAX to Gujarat. Ironically this is one of deals for which former Telecom minister A. Raja is under investigation.
2010 Forbes magazine rated Ahmedabad the fastest growing city in the India and 3rd in World.
Everything about this claim is falsified and misleading.
Modi made the Asia’s biggest solar plant.
Intending: Solar energy revolution was started by Modi.
Solar energy revolution in India was started by UPA govt in 2010.
World bank’s statement of 2011 said, Gujarat roads are closer to international standards.
World Bank gave no such statement. Claim is a gross exaggeration of a World Bank report.
Inquiry Commission Reports on Communal Violence
The Inquiry Commissions appointed to give their reports on the causes of riots have, after properly appreciating the evidence before them more often than not, blamed the communal organizations following Hindutva ideology and having Hindu Nationalism as their political goal. If Congress led regimes were blamed for offences of omissions, the Commissions also blamed the sister organizations of the then Jan Sangh and now the BJP. Let us look at the observations of some of the Inquiry Commissions very briefly for the lack of space.
The Raghubar Dayal Commission appointed to give its findings on the causes of communal riots in Sholapur, Maharashtra, in September 1967 observed that the Hindu Maha sabha and Muslim league were active in the incident, as they wanted to use the incident for their political purpose.
The same commission was appointed to study the communal disturbances in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, between 13 to15 October, 1967. The Commission found that Jan Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha and other communal minded Hindus were involved in the agitation and had contributed to communal tensions just before the Jaganath temple incident. Jana Sangh workers were found to be participating in riots. According to the Commission, the Jan Sangh workers and communal minded persons created trouble and spread rumors.
The D. P. Madon Commission, investigating Riots in Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad, in the year 1970 found that the following organizations were operating in Bhiwandi which fomented communal tension in the said places:
1) The Bhiwandi Branch of the All-India Majlis Tameer-E-Millat,
2) The Bhiwandi Branch of the Shiv Sena,
3) The Bhiwandi Branch of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh,
4) The Bhiwandi Seva Samiti,
5) The Rashtriya Utsav Mandal.
The Madon Commission found that Bal Thackeray, made a communal speech about Bhiwandi and its Muslim inhabitants at a Shiv Sena meeting held in Thane on May 30, 1969 in the course of which he referred to Bhiwandi as a second Pakistan and said that such shameful incidents were taking place in Bhiwandi that he was ashamed to speak about them in the presence of ladies.
The Madon Commission further found that the news of the Bhiwandi disturbance and exaggerated rumours were circulated in Jalgaon, inflaming the communal passions of the Hindus against the Muslims. As the tension heightened, an ordinary quarrel which took place at the ‘Pan’ shop at the Rath Chowk between a Muslim and some Hindus at about 2.45 pm on May 8, 1970 triggered off the riot.
The Madon Commission also held the communal activities of the Jalgaon City Branch of the Jan Sangh and the Shree Ram Tarun Mandal managed by the Jalgaon City Branch of the Jan Sangh responsible for the communal riots in Jalgaon in the background of impending Municipal politics. Stones were thrown on the Jumma Mosque situated in Maniyar Wada usually at the time of the night prayers to heighten tensions.
To briefly recall in the previous issue we argued that more riots may have taken place under the Congress regime, the Sangh Parivar and the Hindutva followers have greater culpability. We also examined the observations of the Raghubar Dayal Commission and Madon Commission pertaining to the role of Sangh Parivar during the riots in Bhiwandi, Sholapur (Maharashtra) and Muzaffarpur (Bihar). We examine observations of some more Inquiry Commissions below.
The Joseph Vithayathil Commission appointed to study the communal Riots in Tellicherry on 28th December 1971, observed that the underlying cause of the riots was the propaganda carried on by Jan Sangh against the Muslims league after the league became a partner in the government that the league was taking undue advantage of its political power in the state created a general feeling among the Hindus that they would not get justice in the hands of police in cases in which Muslims were on the opposite side. The Vithayathil Commission further observed that the statements made by the politicians contributed to the cause of the disturbances. The Jan Sangh and the R.S.S were always attacking the Muslim league. A part of their Political propaganda was that the league was interfering in matters of administration.
The RSS challenged the secular concept of life as enshrined in the constitution, noted the Commission. Shree Balasaheb Deoras the then Sar Sanghchalak (Chief) in his speech at the Regal Maidan on 1.4.79 said that in Arab countries the Hindus were not allowed to construct Hindu temples but here in India where the Hindus are in great majority the Muslims and the Christians were not only free to raise the mosques and the churches but they were free to propagate their religion……’. The Commission squarely blamed RSS for the riots stating that the R.S.S had raised evocative religious issues there by rousing communal passion and recommended that holding of meetings of communal organizations such as the RSSS and the Jamat-I-Islam be prohibited.
Justice V. S. Dave Commission looked into the communal disturbances in Gujarat in the year 1985 which followed the anti-reservation agitation. Simultaneously, it was being propagated that mosques and shrines of Muslims in Ahmedabad were built on Hindu monuments, and the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back was refusal by Muslims to close their shops on the call of bandh on March 18, 1985 which had marked the start of communal riots in Ahmedabad.
It will be relevant to mention here that there had been several pamphlets issued by Hindu organizations and Muslim organizations. Some have been attributed to VHP and the circulars issued by Navrachna Nirman Samiti led by the ABVP. A perusal of the pamphlets showed that they tend to increase the gulf between sawarnas and backward classes and Hindus and Muslims. The captions of the said pamphlets had been quoted while dealing with the role of press. Similarly, the Muslim organizations distributed pamphlets every effort was made to incite the people of rival sections and rival communities. Thus, the press and the pamphlets contributed too much to the fanning of the riots and the course of riots.
Justice Malvankar Commission appointed to look into the communal riots in Umapur (District Beed) opined that the immediate cause behind the riot was that on May 10, 1986 at about 6.30 p.m. when Shiv Sainiks came to Abdul Hamid Chowk, they first garlanded the Ganesh Idol and then went to Shri. Gaulum Gaus who was selling milk at Dudh Katta. They demanded money and he gave them Rs. 20. After some time again, some people including Rajendra Bagul, Shyam Kankaria and others demanded money but he refused. At that time, they assaulted him and Gulam Gaus fell down unconscious. There was a scuffle between Sakil and Javed on the one hand and some Shiv Sainiks on the other. In that, Sakil and Javed were assaulted and were chased by a Hindu Mob. Immediately after this incident, Hindus & Muslims started pelting stones at each other. A few more incidents where Shiv Sainiks abused Muslims, they had removed the wooden poles of the compound of Muslims and had thrown them in the bonfire on account of Holi.
L K Advani’s rath yatra left a trail of communal riots behind – some say, 3000 riots as provocative speeches were made during the rath yatra. Shri R H Heera Man Singh Commission found that arrest of Shri. L.K. Advani in the State of Bihar on 23.10.1990 started communal incidents in parts of Ranga Reddy District and twin cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad. The riots went on from October to December 1990.
During the 1992-93 communal riots in Mumbai, the Congress Government found itself helpless, more than responsible for the communal riots. The Chief Minister Sudhakarrao Naik was twiddling was wholly unprepared for the demolition of the Babri Mosques and its aftermath. Turning to the events of the January 1993, the Justice B N Srikrishna Commission’s view was that “though several incidents of violence took place between 15th December and 5th January 1993, large-scale rioting and violence was commenced from 6th January 1993 by Hindus brought to fever pitch by communally inciting propaganda unleashed by Hindu communal organizations and writing in newspapers like Samnaa and Navaakal. It was taken over by Shiv-Sena and its leaders who continued to whip up communal frenzy by their statements and acts and writings and directives issued the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray. The attitude of Shiv Sena as reflected in the Time magazine interview given by Bal Thackeray and its doctrine of ‘retaliation’, as expounded by Shri Sarpotdar and Shri Manohar Joshi, together with the thinking of Shiv Sainiks that Shiv Sena’s terror was the true guarantee of the safety of citizens’, were responsible for the vigilantism of Shiv Sainiks. Because some criminal Muslims killed innocent Hindus in one corner of the city the Shiv Sainkiks ‘retaliated’ against several innocent Muslims in other corners of the city.”
The Commission further observed that “from 8th January at least there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organizing attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the Shiv Sena from the level of Shakha Pramukh Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran General, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims”.
Justice B N Srikrishna appropriately observed that the Ayodhya Controversy was heating up where the Hindutva leaders were strongly appealing to the Hindu sentiments of the people. L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra, which started from Somnath Temple, was on its way to Ayodhya, wherein it gathered a huge crowd along with it. On 6th Dec, 1992, the worst day in the post partition era, Babri Masjid was demolished and it sparked of what were the bloodiest days Mumbai had ever witnessed before. Shiv Sena organized celebration rally as the news of demolition of the Babri Masjid percolated on 6th December, the day of demolition.
Justice Ramanad Prasad (Hon’ble Chairman), Justice Ram Chandra Prasad Sinha and Justice S. Shamsul Hasan (Hon’ble members), of the 5 member Commission of Inquiry appointed to look into the 24th October 1989 communal riots in Bhagalpur made some pertinent observations – “We have set out extensively various factors which attributed to the ultimate outbreak of the communal disturbances. There were sufficient indications since more than a year before the commission of the riot. From what we have stated above, atmosphere of suspicion and hatred had been created between Muslims and Hindus of Bhagalpur in the sphere of the communal hatred, political aggrandisement and religious fanaticism and unjustified misunderstanding. The District administration as we have said, suffered from culpable amnesia deliberate indifference and patent communal bias, incompetence in not anticipating the riot. Lack of impartiality in the District Administration also compounded the problem.”
These observations broadly sums up the respective roles played out by the administration and the communal forces. Communal forces convert incidents of ordinary occurrence to build communal tensions and hold the entire community responsible for the incident in question. The build up goes on for days, and sometimes for months. Without the build up, there are no communal riots. It is here that Sangh Parivaar is culpable. Paul Brass suggests that an institutionalized riot system have been created since independence in certain regions, particularly in north and western states in India, which can be activated during periods of political mobilization or at the time of elections. Communal violence is far from being spontaneous occurrences. The production of a riot, Brass argues, involves calculated and deliberate actions by key individuals, like recruitment of participants, provocative activities and conveying of messages, spreading of rumours, amongst other specific activities. There are frequent rehearsals until the time is ripe and the context is felicitous and there are no serious obstructions in carrying out the performance. If the Congress party is guilty, it is for overlooking the existence of institutionalized riot system in various towns and cities of India. The Ramanand Prasad Committee aptly brings out the failure. Each riot and thereafter failure of the criminal justice system to punish the guilty strengthens the riot system and the organisation that nurtures and sponsors it. Communal disturbances produce communal divide where there is none and deepen and widen the prejudices where they exist. Post communal disturbances, the RSS and the Sangh Parivaar work continuously to deepen the wounds and turn it into a festering one. Over the years the Parivaar has developed and perfected its institutionalized riot system. The riots too have become more lethal and destructive from minor and localized and urbanized incidents to regular cyclical events that can be sustained for over 72 hours and in case of Nellie, 1983 take lives of 3000 innocent citizens, Gujarat, 2002, that continued for over a month and caused loss of about 2500 lives and Kandhamal that was sustained for more than a month in a rural theatre killing 70 people.
There is no gainsaying that more communal riots under the Congress regime as compared to the BJP regime is a proof that Congress is communal. The BJP’s double standards are exposed when they refuse to take any responsibility for riots that occurred under their regime, particularly under Modi in Gujarat in 2002. If the BJP is not to be blamed for the riots under their regime, how can the Congress Party be termed as communal on the basis of number of riots that occurred in their regime? Modi refuses to offer even regrets, let alone take the blame for the riots. On the contrary he uses the metaphor of “kutte ke pilley” (puppies) for the survivors of the 2002 pogrom. This is not to say that Congress is exactly secular.
It is only sustained effort for justice along with efforts to build peace that we shall overcome this deadly virus and build peaceful India with meaningful development – but that is herculean effort to counter the prejudices and communal attitudes – not an impossible goal. The journey begins from realizing the true culprits and obstacles in the process.
The Sexual Politics of Narendra Modi, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar
The systematic use of gang-rape as a weapon occurred in the Surat riots after the Babri Masjid demolition, and an ugly innovation was the videotaping of the gang-rapes. This was not a case of some random bystander filming the attacks, but a meticulously-planned spectacle with the venues flood-lit despite the fact that electric wires to the rest of the neighbourhood had been cut . According to Praful Bidwai, Modi was the mastermind of the unspeakable atrocities against women in the 1992 Surat riots . Modi is pictured there with Advani in their wake .
A decade later, the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 continued the grisly tale of gang-rape, sexual torture and mass murder; fake reports of sexual assaults on Hindu women were used to justify gruesome crimes against Muslim women and girls . In some places, the rapists were actively supported or even instigated by Hindu women . On this occasion, Modi presided over the sexual assaults as Chief Minister and Home Minister. His administration allowed the police to participate in sexual assaults, and made it impossible for survivors to get justice. A court in Gujarat closed the case of Bilkis Bano’s gang-rape and the massacre of 14 family members. She was able to get justice only because the Supreme Court directed the CBI to take over her case, and the case itself to be shifted out of Gujarat .
Sexual violence was also evident in the anti-Christian pogroms in Kandhamal (Odisha) in 2007-2008, including the gang-rape of a nun, Sister Meena. Harsh Mander notes the striking similarities to the Gujarat pogroms, including ‘the stunning brutality of the violence, often targeting women and girls,’ the inhuman conditions suffered by the survivors, and the complicity of the state government with the perpetrators .
The September 2013 anti-Muslim pogroms in Muzaffarnagar (UP), where Modi’s trusted Home Secretary Amit Shah had been sent six months earlier, also bore a striking resemblance to the Gujarat carnage. Once again, the violence included ‘using women’s body to inflict all kinds of violence, attack on children, rape of young girls and women and subsequent killings’ . As in Gujarat, a fabricated incident of sexual assault on a Hindu girl was the pretext for carrying out a hideous ‘revenge’ on the bodies of helpless Muslim women and girls .
The pattern, over a period of more than two decades, is unmistakeable. Women and girls are seen, and treated, not as persons but as sexualised embodiments of their community’s honour, and consequently deliberate, systematic sexual assaults are carried out against them as a way of destroying their community. In each case, the attacks are accompanied by arson, looting, massacres and ethnic cleansing, the refusal to let survivers from the minority community return to their homes, or allowing them to return only on condition that they convert to Hinduism.
This reading of the BJP’s attitude to women is confirmed in a very different context: the Delhi gang-rape in December 2012. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj referred to the victim while she was still battling for her life as a ‘zinda laash’ (living corpse) and demanded the death penalty for the rapists, with feminist activists objecting to both . Swaraj repeated her demand for the death penalty in the aftermath of the Shakti Mills gang-rape in Bombay (August 2013), when the survivor was very much alive and had expressed her determination to continue working as a photo-journalist . Since in India the death penalty is supposed to be reserved for the rarest of rare crimes, what qualifies the crime of rape to belong to this category? Since not all murders attract the death penalty, it is clearly the belief that not only is the life of the survivor over once she has been raped, but that the honour of her family and community have been assaulted.
However, in other rape cases they make no such demand. Dalit women and girls are raped every day; most of these attacks are never reported, but in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape, when the issue was in the news, we heard about some of them (see  and ). Yet BJP leaders never demanded that the perpetrators be punished at all, much less hanged; indeed, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat claimed these rapes never happened . There was no protest from them when Adivasi teacher and activist Soni Sori was subjected to sexual torture in Chhattisgarh under the supervision of SP Ankit Garg, not even when he was given a presidential award . No call for the hanging of an uncle whose two-year-old niece died after he raped her . And instead of protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides impunity for armed forces personnel accused of rape, BJP leader Arun Jaitley strongly opposes even a dilution of the act to allow for prosecution in cases of sexual assault .
The most glaring case was when a minor girl alleged that self-styled ‘godman’ Asaram Bapu had sexually assaulted her. Far from calling for him to be hanged, BJP leaders like Uma Bharati, Kailash Vijayvargiya and Prabhat Jha leapt to his defence . Even when Asaram’s wife and daughter admitted supplying him with girls  and it became evident that the man was a serial rapist, Subramaniam Swamy of the BJP appeared on posters in trains plying from Gujarat alleging that the case against Asaram was ‘bogus’ . Are these people really so naïve as to believe that he is innocent of all charges of sexual assault? Surely not. In his case, as in all the other cases where the BJP does not call for punishing rapists, the implicit assumption is that dominant men of the majority community are entitled to use and abuse the bodies of women and girls deemed to be subordinate to them.
If women have no right to say ‘no’ to unwanted sex with dominant men, they have no right to say ‘yes’ to a man of their choice either. The whole BJP campaign against so-called ‘love jihad’ targets cross-community friendships and romances. After being used to beat up young men and women in Karnataka , it was a potent weapon in Muzaffarnagar, where they used a ‘bahu beti izzat bachao mahapanchayat’ to launch a massive pogrom . In Maharashtra too, Hindutva vigilantes target Hindu women in consensual relationships with Muslim men . In the Gujarat pogroms, Geetaben was sexually assaulted and brutally killed by the Sangh Parivar because she tried to save her Muslim husband , and she was not the only Hindu woman attacked. If women are not acknowledged as persons, then their will and consent are not recognised either.
It is undeniable that some of these reactionary attitudes to women and girls can be found among members of other parties. But it is only the RSS, which appointed Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, that has the distinction of seeking to replace the legal and constitutional rights of women in India with the law of Manu (Manusmriti), which dictates that women shall be subordinate to men from the cradle to the grave .
Corruption, poverty and pollution in Vibrant Gujarat
The average GDP growth rate in Gujarat over the past ten years has been above the national average, but in line with the growth rates of comparable large states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi. Gujarat’s growth has been achieved at the cost of handing over complete control over the economy to corporates, and wholesale privatisation: ‘Key sectors – traditionally held to be the preserve of the state – such as ports, roads, rail and power have been handed over to corporate capital. This has meant, inevitably, that the government has abdicated all decision making powers, as well as functional and financial control over such projects. Nowhere else in the country has this abdication of responsibility been so total, nowhere else has the state given over the economy so entirely to the corporates and private investors’. Infrastructure and access to water and electricity favour industry over agriculture and individual consumers. Employment growth in manufacturing and services turned negative in the last five years, and even prior to that was concentrated in the informal sector.
The Modi administration’s largesse to corporates can be judged by two examples. One is the staggering subsidies offered to Tata for its Nano plant and other projects. Against an investment of 2900 crores, Tata received a loan of 9570 crores at 0.1% interest, to be paid back on a monthly basis after 20 years, in addition to land at much below market rates, with stamp duty, registration charges and electricity paid for by the state. Tax breaks mean that the people of Gujarat will not be getting any of this money back in the near future. All the rules were bent to provide Adani with a power supply contract costing the state of Gujarat an excess Rs 23,625 crores over 25 years, and other companies, including Reliance Industries and Essar Steel, were extended similar favours. So when these companies praise Modi to the skies, support his candidature for PM, use the media they own to promote Modi and silence criticism of him, and put their aircraft at his disposal, this is merely quid pro quo.
Any objective definition of ‘corruption’ would include such activities. The scale of corruption in Gujarat is stupendous, and those who campaign against it have not fared well. With only 5% of India’s population, 22% of the murders and 20% of the assaults of RTI activists in recent years have occurred in Gujarat, which has only two RTI Commissioners compared to eight in Maharashtra and nine in Tamil Nadu. The post of Lokayukta (corruption watchdog) was not filled for ten years since 2003. When the Governor and Chief Justice of the High Court selected Justice R. A. Mehta for the post in 2011, as they were empowered to do according to the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, Modi fought tooth and nail against the appointment, reportedly spending Rs 45 crores to challenge it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Even after the Supreme Court had upheld the appointment, the state government refused to cooperate with Mehta, leading him to decline the position. Subsequently the state government amended the Lokayukta Act to make it a toothless body under the control of the very government whose corruption it was supposed to monitor! Apparently Modi learned a lesson from the fate of his friend Yedyurappa, former BJP Chief Minister of Karnataka, who was forced to resign due to corruption charges against him initiated by the Karnataka Lokayukta, and resolved never to give any Lokayukta the opportunity to do the same to him.
The ordinary people of Gujarat have paid a heavy price for its economic growth. Gujarat has one of the highest poverty levels of all the Indian states. Huge swathes of land allocated to corporates have displaced lakhs of farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, agricultural workers, Dalits and Adivasis. During Modi’s tenure, 16,000 workers, farmers and farm labourers had committed suicide due to economic distress by 2011. Gujarat has the highest prevalence of hunger and lowest human development indices among states with comparable per capita income, its implementation of NREGA is the worst among large states, and Muslims, ‘in particular, fare poorly on parameters of poverty, hunger, education and vulnerability on security issues’. Refuting Modi’s claim that the high level of malnutrition in Gujarat is a consequence of vegetarianism and figure-consciousness, an eminent scholar has pointed out that the real reasons are extremely low wage rates, malfunctioning of nutrition schemes, lack of potable water supplies, and lack of sanitation: the state ranks 10th in the use of toilets, with more than 65% of households defecating in the open, with resulting high levels of jaundice, diarrhoea, malaria and other diseases. Uncontrolled pollution has destroyed the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen, and subjected the local populations to skin diseases, asthma, TB, cancer and death.
Contrary to the myth that Gujarat is a powerhouse attracting large FDI inflows, in 2012-13 its share in FDI was a meagre 2.38%, ranked 6th, compared to Maharashtra’s 39.4%. Most damning of all, for a state that purports to provide a template for the whole country’s economy, is the Modi government’s ‘lack of financial discipline. The Gujarat growth pattern relies on indebtedness. The state’s debt increased from Rs 45,301 crore in 2002 to Rs. 1,38,978 crore in 2013… In terms of per capita indebtedness, the situation is even more worrying, given the size of the state: each Gujarati carries a debt of Rs 23,163 if the population is taken to be 60 million’ [3.
The Gujarat economic model is a more extreme version of neoliberalism than the version practised by the UPA, which retains elements of regulation and social welfare. This is clearly the reason why the majority of CEOs want him to be the PM. It bothers them that the policy of endless credit from public sector banks has come under scrutiny by the UPA, and billionaires like Sahara boss Subrata Roy can be arrested for robbing small investors of Rs 20,000 crores. They look forward to a Modi regime where they can continue to loot the public unhindered by regulations, where small concessions to working people like NREGA and the Food Security Act can be shelved, and the NDA’s old programme of scrapping protective labour legislation can finally be realised. Importers of gold and other luxury consumption goods can’t wait to have a PM who is clueless about technicalities like current account deficits and fiscal deficits and would allow the whole country to become as indebted as Gujarat is today. It is also instructive that the very same ratings agencies and investment banks indicted for making trillions by bringing down the US economy and causing a global crisis have been busy downgrading the UPA economy and batting for Modi. All these firms, Indian and international, would be least bothered if the Indian economy were to crash; they would have parked their profits elsewhere by then.
Modi’s policies are exactly the same as those which destroyed the economy of the US, the richest country in the world, resulting in the global crisis: wholesale privatisation and deregulation, extreme disparities in wealth, and unsustainable indebtedness. And they would have the same results in India, such as massive job losses, and worse. The US dollar has maintained much of its value because it is a global reserve currency, and other countries buy it in order to maintain their currency reserves. The Indian rupee is not a global reserve currency, and there is nothing to stop it from plummeting due to the rising deficits, leading to runaway inflation many times worse than India has ever experienced. Ironically, it is the same sections of the middle class who look to Modi as their saviour who would be hardest hit, because they have so much more to lose than the poor, who would also be hit.
Perhaps Modi would leave the economy to be handled by others in the BJP, but who is competent to do it? Yashwant Sinha, the finance minister during the NDA regime, does not exactly inspire confidence. ‘In 1990, Sinha was finance minister in the government of Chandrashekhar, when the bottom fell out of the Indian economy. The government’s policy response then was to ship all the gold in the Reserve Bank of India’s vaults off to the Bank of England as collateral for a loan… In 1998, by a peculiar coincidence, Sinha was again finance minister, this time in the BJP-led NDA coalition government… In March 2001, soon after Sinha presented his Budget, India experienced one of its worst market crashes: about $32 billion worth of market capitalisation was wiped out that month… In the NDA era, a little less than $4 billion entered India each year on average. Under the UPA, this number stands at a little less than $25 billion, more than six times the NDA average’. According to investment broker Shankar Sharma, ‘The BJP is the only mainstream political party that has no economist. And the BJP rule between 1999 and 2004 had the worst nominal GDP growth in the last 30 years in India, the worst by far. They ran the country into a huge debt trap. India’s debt to GDP ratio went from about 78 percent in 1999 to 91 percent by 2004. So again, whatever GDP growth the BJP delivered in those five years, the growth was with very high debt’.
At a time of downturn and global crisis, putting India’s economy in the hands of a party that has no competent economist is tantamount to economic suicide. In accordance with their-frog-in-the-well perspective, Modi and the BJP never mention the global crisis or inquire into its causes. Anyone who takes the trouble to do so would realise that the ‘medicine’ they prescribe for the economy, which is suffering from slow poisoning by neoliberalism, is a lethal dose of the same poison.
Data on Gujarat Development
—9. The 2014 Elections, the Left, and the Aam Aadmi Party
With the Lok Sabha elections just weeks away, the priority of all left-wing and anti-communal activists should be to ensure the defeat of Modi and the BJP. Regardless of whether or not we characterise Modi’s politics as fascist and see the coming election as containing the very real threat of fascism at the Centre, it is undeniable that fundamental rights and the rule of law will be fatally undermined if he comes to power. At present he can use the Gujarat state machinery to ensure that he isn’t chargesheeted in any of the Gujarat cases and to file false cases against activists like Teesta Setalvad and others. His absolute control over the state machinery and use of it even for purely personal affairs is demonstrated by the Snoopgate scam. And his determination to eliminate any authority that is independent of him is highlighted by his spending crores of public money to ensure that the Gujarat Lokayukta is under his thumb. But his writ does not extend beyond Gujarat. If he comes to power at the Centre, his first priority will be to shut down the cases against himself, Amit Shah and the Hindutva terrorists, crush those who are fighting them or who oppose him in any way, tighten his grip over the state machinery countrywide, and assert control over all independent authorities including the judiciary.
However, this possibility looms over us only because the various secular parties (both national and regional) are hopelessly divided among themselves and against each other. Almost every state replicates the potential tragedy of UP, where forces deeply opposed to the BJP on both social and political grounds are set to divide the non-BJP vote between them in what may well turn out to be a stunning political miscalculation. Modi cannot be stopped without consolidating the anti-BJP vote, and one way of achieving this is to work for an electoral United Front of all secular parties and independents including the Congress Party. Even if intense rivalry (for example between the JD(U) and RJD) rules out an electoral alliance, informal seat-sharing could be advantageous to both, with fewer seats contested but more seats won. If there had been a United Front of this sort in Chhattisgarh, it would have won the assembly elections there.
The refusal of almost the entire Left to consider a United Front that includes Congress is reminiscent of the refusal of the German Communists to take the Nazi threat seriously while concentrating their fire on the Social Democrats in the early 1930s. The equation of Congress with the BJP and insistence on a ‘Third Front’ is reminiscent of the suicidal ‘social fascism’ theory that helped Hitler to come to power by splitting the opposition to the Nazis. It is difficult but still possible to fight against neo-liberalism under a flawed democracy, but under a fascist regime all today’s fighters – trade unionists, RTI activists, journalists, and so on – would be in jail or dead.
Where the secular candidates remain divided, voters themselves should organise strategic voting in each constituency for the anti-Modi candidate who is most likely to defeat the BJP. An all-out campaign against Modi and the BJP and formation of an electoral secular alliance against them is the most urgent need of the hour.
What is the place of the Aam Aadmi Party in this scenario? Left-wingers and anti-communal activists who join or support AAP on the grounds that it offers the only hope of defeating Modi and the BJP in the elections face a strange paradox. How can this end be achieved? One way would be by AAP forming a government at the Centre on its own, but this is not a realistic prospect. Another way would be by being part of a coalition at the Centre that excludes the BJP, but AAP has publicly ruled out alliances of any sort. The third way is by winning a significant number of votes and seats that would otherwise go to the BJP, thereby making it impossible for the BJP to form a government. This is entirely possible; indeed, it is what happened in Delhi.
Who are the AAP voters who would otherwise vote for the BJP? By definition, they are people who wouldn’t mind having a prime minister who presided over a massacre of Muslims in Gujarat (whether or not they know what role he played in it). This is where the AAP and BJP constituencies overlap. But these voters are fickle. AAP issued just one statement during its election campaign about the violence in Muzaffarnagar, and apparently that was enough to make the overwhelming majority of Jats, who constitute a strong voting bloc in outer Delhi constituencies, decide to support the BJP. In other words, the more AAP makes anti-communal statements or takes left-wing positions, the less it is a threat to the BJP.
There is thus a logical fallacy in the actions of pro-democracy and anti-communal activists who join AAP in order to defeat Modi, because their intervention will only send right-wing AAP supporters scuttling to the BJP, thus helping Modi. At present, it is not at all clear whether AAP will help to defeat Modi and the BJP or help them to come to power. AAP seems to appeal to the urban middle classes who have otherwise been favouring Modi, but the Delhi election shows that they cut more deeply into Congress and BSP votes. Think of a state like UP, where they plan to contest: if BJP votes are consolidated and the secular vote split four ways – SP, BSP, Congress and AAP – AAP could actually help the BJP to win many seats.
Even so, joining AAP might have made sense if it could be shaped into a left-of-centre mass party, but that seems unlikely, at least in the short term. Prashant Bhushan’s statement on Kashmir was extremely mild – he was not saying there should be a referendum on whether it should be part of India, only on whether the army should be deployed there for internal security – yet Arvind Kejriwal immediately contradicted him by invoking ‘national security’. When founder-member Madhu Bhaduri tried to move a resolution in a National Council meeting chaired by Yogendra Yadav, apologising to the African women targeted when Law Minister Somnath Bharti took part in a violent racist mob and distancing the party from racist comments, she was shouted down and the microphone snatched from her. If senior leaders like Bhushan and Bhaduri are unable to shape AAP’s positions, how can newcomers hope to do so? Far from apologising to the women, Kejriwal went on a dharna demanding the suspension of the cops who the women said were protecting them! His argument that ‘prostitution and drug rackets’ are the cause of rape recalls AAP’s election poster claiming that corruption is the cause of rape and will stop when Sheila Dikshit is replaced by Kejriwal: a disturbing instrumentalisation of sexual violence and obfuscation of its causes for electoral gain.
Another AAP leader, Kumar Vishwas, has been in the news for making racist and sexist comments about Kerala nurses; indeed, his message that ‘black is ugly, fair is beautiful’ not only demeans all women by defining them as sex-objects for men, but also reveals deeply-held upper-caste prejudice. Vishwas has also made communal, jingoistic, homophobic and transphobic jokes, tweeted that ‘every Indian’ wants a Ram Mandir at the Babri Masjid site, and expressed adulation of Modi. Insincere apologies for some of these remarks do not indicate any change of attitude. Yet he remains prominent in the UP campaign, and is frequently seen beside Kejriwal. AAP’s advertisement of its achievements in its first 20 days of office included the boast that it had made a shortlist of Bangladeshi infiltrators in Delhi: a favourite target of the BJP. (Up to 26 January, this page was available in their official e-zine: http://communalism.blogspot.in/2014/01/india-aam-admi-partys-delhi-govt-has.html It was taken down after objections to it were raised, suggesting that it was not official policy, but evidently some members thought it should be!)
In its short period in power, AAP has demonstrated that its notion of ‘participatory democracy’ is devoid of any link to human rights or the rule of law, and more akin to majoritarian mob rule. And it has shown it is capable of the worst kind of corruption, namely the use of prejudice and violence against the vulnerable in order to garner votes and popularity. Its politics appeals to the right-wing middle classes, and that is precisely why it poses a threat to the BJP. Its carefully-articulated policies are aimed at this constituency: refusing to take a stand against communalism or in favour of labour (for example, refusing to support the Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers because ‘tum logo ne to manager ko zinda jala diya’, i.e. naively swallowing management’s story wholesale, or expressing discomfort that NREGA raises agricultural wages and thereby causes problems to farmers who employ them); and implicitly endorsing popular sexist attitudes (for example endorsing khap panchayats, ignoring the fact that they are patriarchal to the core).
The conclusion seems to be that left-wing and anti-communal activists who are serious about defeating Modi in the coming elections should stay out of AAP and refrain from campaigning for it (because their support for AAP will help the BJP by further fragmenting the anti-BJP vote and driving right-wing AAP supporters to vote for the BJP), and vote for an AAP candidate if and only if this candidate is secular and has the best chance of defeating the BJP/NDA in that particular constituency. After the elections, there will be time enough for those who have already joined AAP to try and push it to the Left, gender-sensitise it, or whatever – but not now. At present, campaigning against Modi and the BJP, working for a broad secular electoral United Front, and organising strategic voting against the BJP are the priorities.