Vinod Mubayi



At its inception, Modi’s regime bragged about the Gujarat model of economic development that, in its view, would transform the Indian economy. Mesmerized by the advertising glitz of the BJP, supported to the hilt financially by all the leading lights of Indian capitalism, the Ambanis and the Adanis, the Indian middle class succumbed to Modi’s rhetoric and rewarded his party with an unprecedented victory in the national elections.


The Gujarat model marketed by Modi during his long tenure as the state’s chief minister is late capitalism in the context of a developing economy with a history of state control. Inevitably, this has descended into crony capitalism where a favored few with access to political bosses have been rewarded handsomely with cheap infrastructure (land, power, permits to pollute) and low taxes in return for political pay-offs. The result has been significantly greater inequality; one measure is that in a country with the enormous levels of poverty that India has, there are several Indians who are mega-billionaires and figure in the Fortune list of the richest 100 people in the world. A new study reveals that the top 1% own more than 51% of national wealth while the bottom 60% own less than 5%. The 9 richest Indians own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the country i.e. over 600 million people. There are now 100 odd billionaires in India, a country of 1.3 billion people, whose combined wealth is greater than the entire annual budget of $350 billion of the Indian government. 18 new billionaires were created in the last year and one man, Mukesh Ambani, has more wealth than the entire country’s “combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and states for public health, water supply and sanitation.” (The Wire, Jan. 21, 2019)


BJP rule in effect has been classism on steroids, intensifying and accelerating trends that were set in motion two and half decades ago by India’s economic “liberalization.” While rapidly growing inequality is a phenomenon of late capitalism in developed countries as well as convincingly demonstrated by the economist Thomas Piketty, the Modi regime’s policies of privatization of social sectors such as education and health, especially the Ayushman Bharat scheme of tertiary health care based on the discredited American private health insurance model, and its callous neglect of the UPA’s signature National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme have exacerbated this phenomenon. The class-based and pro-capitalist nature of the Ayushman Bharat initiative that places large amounts of public funds in the hands of profit-making insurance companies to pay for tertiary care in private hospitals shows the true colors of the Modi regime despite its talk of helping the medical needs of the poor.


The most compelling recent example perhaps of intensifying inequality as also of deepening corruption is the Rafale aircraft purchase that, in one deal alone, has involved diverting public funds running into tens of thousands of crores of rupees into the private hands of Ambani. In the process, the contract for Rafale manufacture within India that had been allocated by the UPA regime to the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which has many decades of experience in aircraft manufacture, was unceremoniously junked single-handedly by Modi and handed to Ambani’s Reliance Defence, a company not only with no experience in manufacturing aircraft or anything else; it was a company that did not even exist, except on paper, when it was awarded the contract. This mother of all corrupt deals, which relegates earlier defence scandals like Bofors into complete insignificance, has been thoroughly exposed by the trio of Prashant Bhushan, a public interest lawyer, and Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, former BJP ministers in Vajpayee’s regime. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has chosen so far to ignore its corrupt aspects but the story is far from over.



Modi aimed his earlier rhetoric of “sabka saath, sabka vikas” (development for all) at the majority but that, like some of his other promises to put 1.5 million rupees into every Indian’s bank account by bringing back black money stashed abroad, soon turned into another jumla (illusion or trick). Some hare-brained economic decisions like demonetization that decimated the informal economy on which most poor Indians depend, coupled with growing joblessness among the youth and a crisis in farm incomes have removed much of the gloss from the BJP/NDA political image. This was exhibited last month in the state elections in the Hindi heartland. BJP had been ruling Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan for many years and was defeated by Congress in all three states, particularly ignominiously in Chhattisgarh.


Stung by the defection of the upper castes, the most reliable recipients and carriers of Hindutva, in these areas, BJP reverted to combining classism with casteism by enacting legislation creating reservation for economically weaker sections of the upper castes. The criteria for this category was defined so broadly, viz. families with an annual income below 8 lakh rupees, it was estimated that over 90% of the Indian population would qualify. More cynically, since there are almost no government jobs to be had, a 10% reservation would essentially amount to 10% of zero. Hence this law is another election year “jumla” meant only for inducing the upper castes to not desert the BJP in the forthcoming parliamentary elections expected within a few months. We carry two detailed articles on this measure that is very likely to be set aside by the Supreme Court because it violates both the Constitution and earlier Supreme Court judgements.



In a continuing pattern of the fascist use of the police on the political opposition, two episodes bear recounting, the first being the framing of “sedition” charges on JNU students who are alleged to have shouted “anti-national” slogans almost 3 years, and the second the imminent arrest of an eminent Dalit intellectual, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, on false and fabricated charges that have previously resulted in arrests of several other intellectuals, lawyers, and activists charged with being “urban Naxals.”


Sedition was an offence whose legal creation by the British colonial government of India was meant to deter political opposition to the British Raj. It has absolutely no place in a democratic country with a popularly elected government. The fact that BJP has chosen to use it against students staging a non-violent democratic protest against government policies and actions testifies far more to the illegalities of the government. It has long been proven that the “evidence” concocted by the police was based on doctored videos of the student demonstrations almost 3 years ago. Furthermore, if the sedition case goes forward can the accused expect a fair trial? At the time of the initial arrests, one of the accused students, Kanhaiya Kumar of the JNU Students Union, was assaulted in open court by a cabal of right-wing lawyers shouting Hindutva slogans. Neither the police nor the court officials lifted a finger to protect him from assault nor were the offenders prosecuted or otherwise penalized for their conduct. This is worthy of semi-fascist regimes not democratic legal proceedings.


In another blatantly political use of the anti-sedition law, the Assam police slapped sedition charges against eminent personalities in Assam opposed to the communal Citizenship Amendment Bill. These include the literary critic Dr. Hiren Gohain, political leader Akhil Gogoi and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta. The CAB is an attempt to communalize the nature of Indian citizenship by opening it to persecuted minorities in neighboring Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.


We carry below a passionate appeal by the eminent Dalit intellectual and academic Dr. Anand Teltumbde against his threatened arrest that could put him behind bars for years under the dreaded Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, one of a whole set of draconian statutes under which falsely accused persons can languish in prison for years without trial. It seems that Dr Teltumbde’s chief fault is that he is a Dalit intellectual defending Dalit causes and rights and the state is choosing to make an example of him on blatantly false charges to intimidate other Dalit intellectuals.


Political Use of Religion and Religious Identity

Modi and his cohorts make no pretense of their blatant misuse of religion and religious myth to promote all sorts of irrational thinking such as speeches at the Indian Science Congress of all places about the presence of advanced technology in Vedic times (the years left undefined!) in fields such as medicine, energy, and aeronautics. But the presence of such views in social and political issues carries with it the threat of polarization and violence that the BJP is happy to embrace if it benefits it politically.


Sabarimala is a shrine in the forested hilly region of Kerala in south India where devotees of the local saint offer worship. For some decades, women of menstruating age (12-50 years) have been barred from the shrine on the grounds that the object of worship is a celibate who would be offended by the presence of fertile women. It is not clear how hoary this so-called “tradition” of restricting worshippers by sex is; in some accounts it dates back only to 1991 based on a decision of the Kerala High Court while others extend it back further. In any event, the Indian Supreme Court overturned this restriction of menstruating women recently on the grounds of violating constitutional guarantees. Since then, many women of all ages have tried to exercise their legal right to worship at the shrine but have met a ferocious opposition organized mainly by the BJP. The state government led by the Left Front of which the CPM is a prominent member has tried to implement the Court’s verdict. For this they have criticized and mocked by Modi for disrespecting religion. Modi, the self-proclaimed savior of women through his “beti bachao, beti padhao” (save the girl by educating her) slogan seems to have conveniently forgotten it when it comes to making political hay by upholding antiquated, patriarchal traditions that have been declared illegal by the nation’s highest court.


The blatant use of religious identity as a means of perverting the very definition of citizen contained in the Indian Constitution is evidenced by the BJP regime’s attempt to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament to rescue it’s failures in Assam. The proposed bill seeks to extend citizenship rights to persecuted minorities in neighboring countries not only to Hindus, Jains, Parsis, Sikhs and Buddhists but also to Christians. Yes, Christians! The poor Christians in places like Kandhamal in Orissa or the Christians among the Dang tribals in Gujarat who were slaughtered by Hindutva mobs not so long ago would no doubt be amused to learn that their persecuted co-religionists in Pakistan or Afghanistan will be offered Indian citizenship; so their churches can be burnt by Hindutva fanatics just as efficiently as by Islamist fanatics in their home countries. While BJP made use of its brute majority to pass the Bill in the Lok Sabha, their lack of sufficient members in the Rajya Sabha has stopped its passage for now. Lok Sabha CPM member Mohammad Salim deserves to be commended for his strong secular statement against the bill and in support of refugees within India. The Indian Constitution is a summary rejection of the two-nation theory, while the heroes of the current Indian government, such as Savarkar, created this theory long before Jinnah ever thought of it. As Salim correctly indicates this Bill reeks of sordid and unprincipled political calculations.

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