Vinod Mubayi


Two phases of the more than month long Indian elections are over with several still to come before the results are finally declared late next month.


The election is widely considered to be a watershed. Several activists of the ruling party BJP have openly declared their resolve to overturn the democratic, secular, socialist Indian republic and replace it with a Hindu rashtra (nation). One BJP MP openly boasted that if Modi won in 2019 there would be no need for any further elections. BJP President Amit Shah also stated that BJP would be in power for at least 50 years and, in wake of the turmoil over nationality in Assam, would rid India of “termites”, i.e. religious and ethnic minorities or non-Hindus. His choice of language reminded some commentators of Hitler’s characterization of European Jews and everyone recalls what happened to them. India would then become a mirror image of the Islamic republic of Pakistan, bringing to fruition the Two Nation Theory first proclaimed by the Hindutva hero Savarkar in the 1920s, long before it was espoused almost two decades later by Jinnah to justify the demand for and eventual creation of Pakistan. Parenthetically, it may be remarked that the 2-nation theory was in its death-throes a half century ago when Bangladesh was created but the victory of the BJP in constitutionally secular India has revived it. If BJP wins decisively with a majority in the Lok Sabha one could well witness a demise of secular India, not immediately perhaps but more likely in gradual fashion over the next few years.


Since the advent of the Modi regime, a systematic attempt has been made to emasculate institutions and strip them of their secular character. While this effort is most pronounced in the sphere of education, other institutions like the police and the court system have been severely impacted too as witnessed by the impunity enjoyed by Hindutva lynch mobs or the deliberate “go-soft” policy on Hindutva fanatics accused of terrorist acts, such as bombing mosques, churches, trains, and other public facilities.


It is no secret that the BJP has been by far the largest recipient among all political parties of monetary favors from big business in India. In the familiar adage of the pot calling the kettle black, BJP’s winning campaign in 2014 highlighted alleged corruption by the predecessor UPA regime and promised the Indian people that it would bring back the black money stored illegally by Congress and its allies in Swiss banks and put 15 lakh (1.5 million) rupees in every Indian’s bank account. A year later, Modi’s chief henchman Amit Shah admitted shamefacedly that the 15 lakhs figure was just a “jumla” (trick). What cannot be doubted anymore is the fact that BJP under the Modi/Shah duo has ascended the pinnacle of corruption! The detailed reporting on the Rafale fighter aircraft deal by N. Ram in the Hindu newspaper has revealed the facts of this corrupt transaction in which one of the Ambani brothers, with no previous experience in the aircraft industry was suddenly handed a gift of thirty thousand crores by Modi. No wonder big business loves him.


Beyond Rafale and transcending it is the electoral bonds issue.  Electoral bonds were invented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to allegedly provide greater scrutiny of the funding of political parties to fight elections. Greater scrutiny? While electoral bonds are purchased through the State Bank of India the identity of the purchaser remains hidden. This is an open invitation to corruption as the voters remain entirely unaware of who is giving large amounts to political parties and thus unable to judge what kind of quid pro quo will be demanded by the giver.  Recent data show that 95% of the electoral bonds purchased so far went to fund the BJP. But it is the pusillanimous decision of the Supreme Court to defer its decision on electoral bonds to May 30, one week after the results of the elections will be declared, that robs this decision of any meaning. Why is the Court so afraid to tackle this issue before the elections?


Another aspect of the current elections is the curious statement of Imran Khan to a group of foreign journalists on the eve of the Indian elections that peace between India and Pakistan has a “better chance” under Modi. What makes this statement strange is that Modi and Shah have staked this election almost entirely on stirring up a hyper-nationalist stew of anti-Pakistan rhetoric in the wake of the Pulwama episode when 40 plus paramilitary jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed by a suicide bomber belonging to the Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. In December 2018, Modi and BJP had suffered stinging defeats in state elections in the Hindi heartland: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh were all ruled by BJP and voters chose the Congress. It is now admitted that Pulwama came as a godsend for BJP to craft a campaign based on solely rousing nationalist anti-Pakistan fervor. Completely shorn of its previous “sabka saath, sabka vikas” (development for all) rhetoric which was in any case infeasible given record unemployment, acute farmer distress, and slowing economic growth, BJP has focused its electoral message on shrill nationalistic slogans and claims to be the country’s chowkidar (protector) against enemies (e.g. Pakistan).


So why does Imran think that Modi would promote Indo-Pak peace when the evidence is all to the contrary? At the time of the Pakistan election last year, Imran was widely regarded as a creature of the Pakistan Army, which had made no secret of its desire to discredit and destroy Nawaz Sharif and his party and promote Imran Khan to the position of Prime Minister. It can be safely presumed that whatever Imran is saying has the blessings of the Army. Over the seven decades since India and Pakistan were created, powerful segments have developed within the countries and their governments that have a vested interest in maintaining a state of hostility. Their livelihoods and their very raison d’etre seem to depend on feeding this sense of conflict and hostility. It is not difficult to identify these groups; in Pakistan it is mainly the Army along with various “lashkars”, “tehriks” and “jaishes” plus their hangers-on and followers in civil society. In India, it is the assorted bunch of “Hindutvawadis”, whose nerve center is the RSS, which dreams of Akhand Bharat, and whose political face is BJP, along with their numerous sympathizers in the bureaucracy and the military. It would be natural for the Pakistan Army to wish for a Modi victory as this would help maintain the Army’s dominance in Pakistan’s polity.


In earlier elections, Indian voters have displayed a sagacity that belied the predictions of pollsters and politicians. In 1977, they turned out Mrs. Indira Gandhi just two years after the Emergency when publications like Time magazine were anointing her as the Empress of India. In 2004, they laid waste to BJP’s self-congratulatory slogan of India Shining. One hopes they do something similar in 2019.

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