Vinod Mubayi and Raza Mir


Political developments in Bihar, where the BJP has managed to fracture an opposition coalition, have been brought into acute focus the problem of envisaging a replacement for BJP and Modi from among the current political parties.


Two years ago a Grand Alliance of six parties under the leadership of Nitish Kumar, JD(U) and Lalu Prasad Yadav, RJD, supported by Congress, was able to comprehensively humble the BJP at the Bihar polls. Widely seen as a repudiation of the BJP’s policies of religious extremism, the Grand Alliance formed a state government, with Nitish as Chief Minister, that was seen as a possibility of a political future of a post-BJP India. Such anti-BJP combinations in different states were viewed as the most likely scenario to defeat Modi at the national level in 2019.


The difficulty of actually implementing this, however, was seen in UP a few months ago. The SP-Congress tie-up was unable to persuade Mayawati to join them in a Bihar-type alliance and all of them were handily defeated by BJP. Now the alliance in Bihar itself has come unglued. Nitish, who had been viewed as a possible challenger to Modi at the national level, presented a relatively corruption-free “clean” image that was the opposite of Lalu Yadav’s but Lalu’s anti-BJP and secular credentials were not in doubt while Nitish had cooperated extensively with BJP earlier. Now it seems that Nitish’s opportunism has surfaced again in a big way. Through a combination of threats and possible inducements, Modi and his cohorts enticed Nitish Kumar to abandon the Grand Alliance and reconstitute the Bihar government with BJP support. The alacrity with which Nitish broke the alliance with Lalu and Congress is as deplorable and disgusting as the alacrity with which he partnered with BJP again so he could resume his position as Chief Minister. When the history of the present is written, it will remember Nitish Kumar as having driven yet another nail in the coffin of Indian secularism. His shameless opportunism will, hopefully, be remembered by the Bihar electorate the next time the state goes to the polls. But the larger issue is: can such wavering and utterly opportunistic politicians hope to challenge Modi who now strides over India’s polity like a colossus?


In other news, the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India in July 2017 constitutes another decision by the BJP to shortchange its petty bourgeois base to appease corporate donors. Like the demonetization decision of late 2016, this move attempts to cut the legs from under the informal economy of the nation, where many subsistence traders operate, and siphon that activity toward the corporate sector. Of course, the conservative elements among this class are being kept within the party fold by appealing to their anti-minority sentiment; to that end the ratcheting up for anti-Muslim activities in BJP-ruled states can be seen as an attempt to deflect attention from the deleterious effects of the corporatization of the Indian economy. One hopes the people see through this move, but the progressive section of the Indian activist space will need to find ways to communicate these issues better to the electorate. Time will tell if this is possible at the scale needed to stem the tide of BJP support among the Indian soft-right. One can only hope, and continue to organize.


Meanwhile, the New Indian Express of July 16, 2017 reports that the Madhya Pradesh government ruled by BJP is planning to start an astrology OPD (out-patient department) in which astrologers and soothsayers will provide consultation to visitors facing diverse problems. “These will be staffed by qualified soothsayers under the aegis of the Maharashi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan (MPSS), a state government institution in Bhopal.“ Astrologers, vastu experts, palmists and proponents of Vedic karmakanda will examine the horoscopes and lifelines of visitors, including patients “at the Yoga Center building situated close to the Red Cross building in Bhopal.” Patients will obtain an astrological diagnosis of their problems (medical, psychological and social) for a nominal fee of Rs 5 (about 8 cents). According to the director of MPSS, the goal of this effort is to “help to establish that astrology is not a hunch, but a calculative science”. No doubt, “achhe din” (happy days), Modi’s winning election slogan, are right around the corner for the sick population of Madhya Pradesh.

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