Shahid Lone is a writer from Indian-occupied Kashmir. His essays have featured in various international publications. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Political Economy. You can follow Shahid on Facebook.
The raw wisdom of Narendra Modi, that earned him the title of “divider-in-chief”, is a realistic reckoning in India. Employment, healthcare and education may have escaped the radar of his raw wisdom but despite clouds, he magically pulled of “Balakot” without any scientific intervention, and was just short of saying “I flew the planes myself and conducted the surgical strikes.” Ergo, such an un-scientific genius!
Apparently, it almost seemed curtains for the BJP in the run-up to the general elections but then the Pulwama attack happened, which gave it a new lease of life. Lo and behold, the BJP was all left to eat, drink and make merry.
What unfolded in the Pulwama aftermath was Narendra Modi’s pure Hindu machismo grounded in subliminal messaging and tough talk on patriotism, nationalism and national security. It required sone new imagination to counter the formidable coalition of morbid right-wing mercenaries but the Congress, being the tentacles of the same squid, had none in the offing, and instead received an unprecedented pummeling.
Modi’s toxic products like “Hindutva, national security, schemes, national prestige and Modi as one man army” sold like hot cakes among the masses.
Amidst the aggressive McCarthyism, the Modi juggernaut scripted history by sweeping the 2019 elections with a landslide victory, and for the first time India will have a parliament in which 50% of the parliamentarians bear horrific criminal records.
Given that terror accused Sadhvi Pragya, who is out on bail, will be the new lawmaker, makes justice a frightening concept. What terrible times to live in. In a scathing critique, the Guardian editorial termed the BJP victory as “India’s soul lost to dark politics”, while author Pankaj Mishra writing in New York Times termed Modi as “leader of world’s largest democracy is dangerously incompetent”.
Modi and the BJP appeared secretive and separate yet forceful and privileged with unlimited capacity to polarise communities and bring in the vote.
They did this by making sure that Gandhi-Nehru’s India is presented as disappearing history to the economically starved, corruption-prone public. The BJP outdid Congress in being a watchdog and a blood hound, in most grotesque ways led by Modi, an insidious character who was described by Indian Supreme Court as “modern-day Nero” after the Gujarat massacre in 2002, in which at least a thousand Muslims were massacred.
RSS: Divide and rule
Caste and religion have always played a major role in Indian politics and the BJP had done its homework on the grassroot levels to divide the electorate on these lines, through its parent organisation RSS.
RSS is an amalgam of fascist-right-wing-majoritarian Hindu nationalist organisations, the epicentre of right-wing bigotry. It’s like a bead necklace, the beads on their own may be lovely but when they are threaded together, they are not really free to skitter around as they wish.
What consolidated the BJP’s vote bank politics and made Modi the victor is RSS and, I believe, there is no alternative currently available that can match its organisational commitment and grassroot mechanism, and of course, the ideological commitment.
Its impact is so widespread that even the media isn’t beyond its reach of ideological indoctrination. RSS’s organisational wisdom and strength lies in rule by numbers and the BJP is merely a political arm that executes the subsequent de facto praxis: tyranny by the majority. By focusing on the BJP and ignoring the invisible had of RSS, opposition and analysts couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
The BJP exploited and mobilised rage to an extent beyond control; it embraced hate and domesticated bigotry and deployed it with full potential against Muslims, whom it deems exterminable.
Narendra Modi’s election campaigns were devoid of any government achievements, since there were almost none; on the contrary it was projection of fear which formed the main element of speech in his campaigning.
Muslims witnessed a monster unfolding in real time during the last five years of BJP rule. A recent report on Islamophobia in India by University of California claims that under the last BJP term “violence against Muslims increased exponentially with considerable depth while the geographical pattern of Islamophobia was pronounced”.
The BJP’s consolidation of long-held belief of the majoritarian Hindutva project, which is predicated on anti-minority agenda has otherised Dalits, liberals, Christians, feminists, but most of all, Muslims, and is mulling “majority support” to erode the constitutional guarantees as well.
The Beef ban, Ghar-Wapsi, cow vigilantism, mob-lynching of Muslims, love-Jihad propaganda, fake encounters of Muslims is the new idiom of law and order under BJP rule. Its business as usual for BJP, so to speak.
A bleak future
If the dark undertone of BJP’s victory which speaks of fascist future is ugly, the speed at which it is igniting and magnifying ancient antagonisms against Muslims and other minorities is intimidating and downright scary. What differentiates BJP politics from others is that it makes sure that there is no lid to the clamor of this deep-rooted antagonism, and then successfully managed to import it to public institutions, and now this new indignation has become an inalienable part of India’s national discourse. A new discourse whose terms and conditions are covertly set by RSS and a contrary position this new indignation by anyone is termed blasphemous by BJP’s vigilantes-on-the-wheels, who are followed on twitter by Modi and his cabinet ministers.
With Modi as premier, BJP’s re-election to the seats of power, will further limit the choice of political spectrum. The luxury of dissent will be available only to its ‘chosen few’. As happened in its last tenure, more and more BJP affiliated appointments in public institutions will see an upsurge, not the least, managed and controlled mass media as a surveillance and propaganda tool, helps it to increase the scope of its ‘raw wisdom’.
“Divert and rule”
With unemployment at a 45-year high, the BJP has meticulously tamed the huge section of India’s middle class in lieu of the interests of billion-dollar corporations that fund its election campaigns.
The cold-blooded construct here makes a very interesting case: reduce public expenditure on education and research and development; keep the ever-growing middle class less educated; divert the funds into government schemes that profit corporations of the BJP’s interests; engage youth in government schemes where they get everything but education and critical thinking; address the burden of agricultural distress and make India a rich agricultural state again.
This is the modus operandi for vote bank domestic consumption.
This “divert and rule” construct reaches its pinnacle by methodically inserting Pakistan and Kashmir into the equation, which acts as a crown in this modus operandi.
Pakistan as the prime threat to national security and Kashmiris as terrorists, where it has adopted the predatory profile of catch and kill, goes down very well with the obedient Indian public, and here Modi is projected as a saviour and cure for all ills, who will act uncompromisingly tough unlike Congress.
All this game plan essentially revolves around the capital and the BJP not just controls, but owns the channels through which capital changes hands. The internationalisation of capital, which yielded benefits for the BJP in the recently held elections in the form of electoral bonds is worth millions.
The BJP by appointing itself as the arbiter of collective nationalism and patriotism, has made people swallow fascism so obediently that I wonder did they elect BJP out of fear or out of love. The only plausible conclusion I can draw is that it is the former masquerading as the latter.
What prevails now is a paranoid gibberish about Muslims, referred affectionately by BJP as “termites”. The current mental disposition, which is systemic and comforts the chosen few, is like war to the knife with Muslims and peace and friendship with Hindus.
Bringing the BJP back into the office is valuable in so far as it is the return of a disturber of the political peace. It cannot just wish away the fact that they have made communal politics a huge dividing line, not a short-term irritant that will go away soon and hope it can talk about development instead.
By electing a long-term disaster for India in the form of the BJP, how much evil will India tolerate in order to remain good, remains a big question.