The Lok Sabha election has produced what was easily the worst conceivable outcome by giving an outright majority to the Bharatiya Janata Party under a man who is widely believed to have been complicit in mass killings of Indian citizens belonging to one faith, and who even 12 years on has not been fully exonerated by the country’s legal system despite its compromised, semi-functional nature, and vulnerability to diabolical manipulation. Make no mistake. Despite a limited (31 percent) national vote, Narendra Modi’s victory is the result of a Rightward shift in society, and the triumph of Hindutva combined with neoliberal capitalism.
It’s a sign of the pathology of much of India’s mainstream media that it displays the rise of the speculative-trader-industrialist Hinduja brothers to the top of Britain’s (not India’s) billionaire list on the front page, as many papers did on May 12, while blacking out the shamefully persistent phenomena of grinding poverty and rapidly growing income inequalities in this country.
As the momentum of India’s nine-phase Lok Sabha election shifts in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s opponents, a new bunch of writers and social scientists have risen to defend its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Some of them see virtue and talent, indeed even poetic genius, in a man who presided over the mass butchery of Muslims in Gujarat. (One of them compares Mr Modi’s ghastly poetry with Kabir’s!)
Two weeks ago, many public-spirited Indians complimented the Election Commission for banning public speeches and rallies by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttar Pradesh chief campaign manager Amit Shah, and the Samajwadi Party’s fiery Azam Khan, both of whom had made provocative speeches for or against religious groups. This action was seen as in keeping with the Commission’s mandate, legally well-founded, even-handed, exemplary in punishing/deterring the use of communal means during canvassing, and encouraging the conduct of elections in a free and fair manner, as befits a democracy.
Two weeks ago, many public-spirited Indians complimented the country’s Election Commission for banning public campaigning by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttar Pradesh chief election manager Amit Shah, and the Samajwadi Party’s fiery Azam Khan, both of whom spoke provocatively for or against specific religious groups.
Narendra Modi files his nomination in Varanasi, Praful Bidwai believes 'a straight contest against Priyanka would have put Modi on the defensive and forced him to concentrate on Varanasi.'
The Accidental Prime Minister, the book by Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004-08, has become a sensational best-seller primarily because its release was timed to coincide with the election campaign. Unsurprisingly, the BJP seized upon it to repeat its pet charge about Singh being India’s “weakest-ever” PM, and otherwise malign the Congress.
When Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency in 1975, the vast majority of Indian academics, intellectuals and media commentators protested. Barring a few publications like India Today, most newspapers carried sharply critical comments and truthful, horrifying accounts of the excesses perpetrated in the name of defending India against contrived “threats”—until censorship was imposed, and sometimes defying it.
Many Narendra Modi zealots are acting as if he had already been sworn in as Prime Minister, or as if that were only a matter of time. They have taken their cue from Mr Modi’s March 29 statement in Chandigarh, where he declared himself India’s future PM. He says the people have chosen the government even before voting; the national election is a mere formality to be gone through. Such contrived hype about a “Modi wave”, bankrolled by corporations, and propagated by much of the media, ignores four main trends which have emerged in the last couple of weeks. These suggest the election still remains open-ended. Mr Modi has doubtless established an edge, but it isn’t decisive, and cannot ensure the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s election victory.
India’s Left parties, among the world’s biggest parties belonging to the Communist tradition, face a huge crisis as the Lok Sabha election approaches. The election will largely decide if they can reverse their recent setbacks, or go into a steep decline, with waning political-intellectual influence and growing organisational disarray.
'AAP's real value must be measured not by the number of Lok Sabha seats it wins in the election
which may not exceed 10 or 15 and not even by the number of votes it takes from the BJP, but by its ability to deflate Modi's superhuman '56-inch chest' image and the charisma so assiduously manufactured around him by the corporate-controlled media,' says Praful Bidwai.
The Rs 1.5-lakh-crore cut in plan expenditure, which represents productive investment, will impoverish the infrastructure and affect growth. But even more unkind is the 31-percent reduction in the current financial year’s allocation to schemes which benefit the poor and address long-neglected areas like health and education. Indian society will pay dearly for this artificial state-induced automobilisation—through greater road congestion, slower commuting speeds, horrendous levels of air pollution, widespread health damage, and increased fatalities and injuries from road accidents.
India’s Left parties, among the world’s biggest parties belonging to the Communist tradition, face formidable challenges as they approach the 2014 national election. The election will play a major role in deciding if they can reverse the setbacks they recently suffered, or go into a steep decline, with a fall in membership, decreasing political influence, and growing organisational dissonance.
The Aam Aadmi Party has made a shrewd, calculated, well-planned move by quitting the Delhi government and taking a plunge into national politics. The issue on which it ostensibly precipitated its action was the Delhi Assembly’s vote against the tabling of AAP’s Jan Lokpal Bill, its trade-mark platform, based on the ground that its introduction wasn’t approved by the Central government.
Is the Aam Aadmi Party sinking into the same mould as our “normal”, cynical, mainstream parties which routinely use doublespeak and venal means to make short-term gains? Recent developments suggest the answer is yes. Take how former diplomat and founder-member Madhu Bhaduri was heckled at AAP’s national executive for moving a sober resolution rightly calling for an apology to the African women in Khirki who were racially profiled by Somnath Bharti and subjected to degrading medical tests. When Bhandari reminded Arvind Kejriwal of his professed insaniyat (humanism), and pleaded that rape shouldn’t be linked to prostitution, she was humiliated.
“India makes a power point”, announced a front-page Times of India headline with triumphant finality when Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella was named the CEO of the global software giant Microsoft, referring to the company’s well-known “Power Point” programme. “India on the move!” and “India raises its toast”, exulted other major papers. What this crass self-congratulation and nationalist hype exposes is the middle-class Indian’s willingness to suspend critical judgment and read the success of a handful of individual non-resident Indians (NRIs) as a tribute to the Indian nation’s collective virtue, merit and accomplishment as a “talent machine”.
One hopes the higher courts take the extraordinary steps needed to secure justice for the victims. The Gujarat carnage demands nothing less because of its unique nature and sponsorship by the State, argues Praful Bidwai.
Gujarat-2002 was much worse than Delhi-1984, when some Congress leaders incited anti-Sikh violence and the state indulged them. The Congress-led government’s responsibility was constructive, not direct. In Gujarat, the BJP-led government planned, authorised and organised the violence and allowed it to continue into May. Its responsibility was direct – and far graver. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi have at least apologised for the Delhi carnage. But Modi, boasting of a “56-inch chest”, doggedly refuses to show any remorse for Gujarat’s pogrom
A vitally important issue that has altogether fallen off India’s economic-political discourse is growing economic inequality. In part, this is because of the continuing hangover of the euphoria generated by economic liberalisation, and the growth of social-Darwinist ideas and moral indifference towards the poor within our burgeoning middle class. In part, this also reflects India’s Rightward political drift, and the declining ideological-political influence of the Left and its own retreat from egalitarianism.
A month after storming to power in Delhi following a spectacular electoral debut, the Aam Aadmi Party has tarnished its image by taking three false steps. First, its law minister Somnath Bharti and women and child welfare minister Rakhi Birla indulged in obnoxious vigilantism. Second, AAP’s top leadership, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, defended their conduct and even commended Mr Bharti’s actions. Third, AAP’s official Hindi organ “Aap ki Kranti” on January 24 recorded on its website “shortlisting of Bangladeshi infiltrators” as one of the 15 achievements of its government. Although not widely noticed, this was disturbingly reminiscent of the Hindutva forces’ past attempts to illegally expel or summarily deport Bengali-speakers by branding them Bangladeshis.