Vinod Mubayi


Six months into his term Modi’s electoral magic, which dipped slightly in the September by-elections in U.P. and Bihar, seems to have recovered.  In Maharashtra, BJP doubled its erstwhile tally of seats to emerge as the largest single party though it fell short of a majority. In Haryana on the other hand, BJP had a ten-fold increase in seats (from 4 to 47) and emerged as the majority party.  While Modi can claim credit for this result, another factor, the decimation of the Congress Party in both states, should not be overlooked.


In Maharashtra, Congress in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an earlier breakaway from the Congress, had been ruling for 15 years.  After the election results were declared the NCP offered unconditional support to BJP that would enable it to form the government without making any compromise with its former ally Shiv Sena, with which BJP had a falling out on the eve of the election over seat sharing and leadership issues. This not only shows that key elements of the Congress coalition have no longer any scruples about allying with BJP, in fact it reveals the deeper rot at the heart of the Congress. There have been reports in the newspapers that Congress was literally absent in the elections, its leader Rahul Gandhi missing from the scene in sharp contrast to Modi who campaigned energetically in both Maharashtra and Haryana. In one sense, BJP may have won these elections more by default with its major opponent absent and not providing a contest.  As Congress is the only national party besides BJP, this fact has larger implications for India’s political future.  Attempts to cobble a Third Front by the CPM based on a motley collection of regional parties utterly failed in both 2009 and 2014. If Congress cannot resuscitate itself through a change in leadership by the next round of elections, the BJP/Modi steamroller will continue to roll. In a recent interview in the Hindu newspaper, the Congress leader Chidambaran hinted at this change – when asked if Rahul Gandhi should stay on as the leader of the party he gave a non-committal response. However, only time will tell if Congress can get rid of its dynastic coils and develop fresh leaders.


From politics we may pass on to economics, social and cultural matters. The Modi regime has made clear its intent to downgrade and perhaps eventually demolish the social welfare legislation enacted by the previous government.  At the top of the list is the flagship program of the UPA, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) that promises a minimum wage to the poorest sections of society.  As shown in a companion piece in this issue, the Modi government is taking steps to restrict the scope of the program. Other notable measures passed by the previous government like the Food Security Act are also threatened.  While Modi never tired of pointing out scams attributed to Congress while he was running for election, his own government does not appear too anxious to go after the scamsters.  The maverick Ram Jethmalani, Rajya Sabha member, has publicly accused the government of shielding those with black money stashed in Swiss banks.  This is not surprising; while some with Swiss bank accounts may be associated with Congress others could be close to BJP.


At the same time, many environmental regulations in place, no matter how haphazardly they were implemented in the past, are also on the chopping block.  The big capitalists, including foreign players like Vedanta, who wish to extract primary resources like coal and iron ore are now waiting to get their pound of flesh.  Having given their millions to the Modi campaign, they will now in the words of the cliché “leave no stone unturned” in attaining their objectives.  The process has already started and can be expected to accelerate leading to further destruction of India’s environment.


In social and cultural matters, nothing more needs to be said than to view the appointment of low-grade Hindutva propagandists with no discernible academic qualifications to high positions.  Soon we may expect school textbooks claiming that in the golden age of the Vedas, India possessed all the appurtenances of the modern era, television, supersonic planes, satellites, and, of course, anu shakti or atomic power.  This is not fanciful; votaries of Hindutva have said as much and there is no reason to disbelieve them.  While none of this will bother the RSS or the Modi-bots, thousands of who were gyrating in Madison Square Garden and the many thousands more watching Indian TV channels, whose interest in science runs only as far as gadgetry, it will ultimately have dire consequences for the future of the country.  At some point, the Modi magic will wear off, and “bure din” may begin to emerge for any number of reasons. In that event, what will a generation raised on Vedic miracles believe or do to remedy the condition? Will minorities be made scapegoats? Will the hordes of the Bajrang Dal or other similar movements be mobilized to crush any opposition as was done to the poor Muslims of Gujarat in 2002?

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