Vinod Mubayi

Many commentators have pointed out the significance of the loss suffered by the ruling BJP in the recent national elections. The loss of 63 seats from an absolute majority of 303 to a minority of 240, despite the many boastful speeches of Modi and Shah promising 400+ seats, have forced the BJP into a coalition with unreliable provincial partners like Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh and Nitish Kumar in Bihar to be able to form a government. More importantly, his diminished status has put a spoke in Modi’s headlong rush into sidelining the secular Indian Constitution to erect a Hindu Rashtra.

As a well-known Indian online business platform Moneylife pointed out in an article after the election results were declared, Modi and his cohorts seem to have been deluded by the echo chamber of the mainstream media catering to the richest section of the Indians that the regime had itself created by its policies over the last decade:

“The boast of making India a US$5trillion economy appealed to the richest 20% of the population whose wealth has soared in the past five years, while the average India is suffering from low wages and high inflation. The BJP appears to have been deluded by the echo chamber it had created in a pliant media (thanks to massive government advertising) and digital armies which trolled and harassed critics, while putting out highly exaggerated accounts of shiny development projects. Many BJP leaders openly instigated trolling of critics, ultimately blinding the Party to ground reality. The trolls scoffed at income disparity, rising prices (including taxes and tolls) and the fact that 800 million out of 1.4 billion Indians needed 5 kg of free foodgrain doled out by the government every month for their survival. The devastating impact of demonetization, the trauma of a poorly-handled COVID pandemic, widespread loss of livelihood, closure of medical facilities and ineffective public insurance schemes were all air-brushed by mainstream media. Those raising uncomfortable issues were harassed, slandered, labelled as anti-national and silenced. Too many Indians in the top-20% income bracket, who have flocked to the stock market, are completely disconnected from rural reality.”

However, to expect that Modi would be mellowed and chastened by the loss of his majority in Parliament and follow the dharma of coalition politics would be quite unrealistic. In both Gujarat and the Centre he served with an absolute majority for his party in the legislature until now and has ruled like an autocrat with power centralized under him. His actions in the last few weeks after he again assumed the office of Prime Minister show little change. He appointed essentially the same people as cabinet ministers, made sure to re-appoint the same Speaker of Parliament, Om Birla, who was complicit in expelling 140 opposition legislators from the previous Parliament, and has at the time of writing not committed to letting Parliament appoint a Deputy Speaker who traditionally comes from the opposition. 

The most painful loss for Modi has to be the Hindi heartland of UP, the largest state in the country with 80 seats in Parliament and one in which Hindutva propaganda had gained the BJP rich rewards in the last two elections in 2014 and 2019. In 2024, however, the BJP fell with a thud from 62 seats to 33 and was surpassed by its regional nemesis, the Samajwadi Party, which was able to win 37 seats. To add insult to injury, Modi’s margin of victory in his own UP constituency of Varanasi diminished by a large margin of almost 3 lakh (300,000) votes compared to 2019. Symbolically, while the Indian voters have not quite sent Modi into retirement, they have clearly tried to cut him down to size by rubbishing the enormous cult of personality that he has assiduously assembled and cultivated and permitted to grow around him over the last decade. This cult, whose essence is identical to that of the 20th century dictators like Hitler and Stalin, has been used to promote the One Nation, One Leader image in which every institution of government was converted into Modi’s personal fiefdom, run out of the Prime Minister’s office. This has allowed him and his cohorts to take actions like arresting dissidents and political opponents, including elected opposition party leaders, that are more typical of an autocracy than a democracy in an attempt to run roughshod over India’s diversity.

Modi’s ascent in 2014 rested on two planks: the RSS, the mother ship of right-wing Hindu nationalism, of which Modi himself had been a pracharak (preacher) for several decades before entering politics in his state of Gujarat, and the broader Hindutva ecosystem whose cadres were instrumental in BJP’s victory. The other was the unquestioning support of a section of Indian capital that promoted Modi, despite his sullied record in the 2002 pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat, as an incorrupt, “development” man whose Gujarat “economic model” would usher in widespread prosperity. Within a few years, a couple of Modi’s crony capitalists had vaulted to the Forbes list of the world’s richest billionaires helped by the largesse showered on them by the Modi regime of which some portion was no doubt symbiotically plowed back into the BJP’s electoral funds and in constructing the gigantic cult of Modi all across the country and even internationally. This cult along with complete control of the mainstream media and the decimation of the political opposition along with tactics like the Pulwama episode to secure a larger absolute majority in Parliament in the 2019 national elections served as the legitimating basis of various outright undemocratic actions: the abolition of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave a special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and the abolition of J&K statehood itself and its replacement by two union territories; the black farm laws that were courageously opposed by hundreds of thousands of farmers in perhaps the world’s largest non-violent year-long protest that also saw over 750 protestors sacrifice their lives and where Modi had to ultimately eat humble pie and withdraw the laws suffering his first political defeat; the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act that for the first time made religion an attribute of citizenship, another egregious violation of India’s secular constitution. It is clear that Modi’s boasts of 400 plus seats that would give him a two-third majority and his degrading, vitriolic campaign rhetoric aimed at polarizing the electorate by debasing minorities, especially Muslims, was aimed at making some fundamental change in the secular constitution to be able to proclaim India a Hindu Rashtra by 2025, the centennial year of the founding of the RSS.

However, as the old proverb goes: you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time. It was clear that Modi fatigue was setting in parts of the country and perceptive observers like Yogendra Yadav and Parakala Prabhakar had predicted that rather than the boast of 400 plus, Modi and BJP were more likely to fall well short of a simple majority. The results of the exit polls released on June 2 seemed for a day or two to validate Modi’s boasts and caused apprehension in many observers that some underhanded procedures overseen or ignored by the notoriously opaque Election Commission of India were being contemplated to justify the exit poll numbers even before the actual counting had started. The actual results, however, showed those organizations who carried out the exit were either utterly incompetent or that their numbers were corruptly fabricated to manipulate stock prices that rose and fell precipitously over two days to allow some class of investors to make immense profits. Whether this scam will be investigated and the wrongdoers exposed is unknown as the Modi regime has rarely gone to the trouble of uncovering corruption that may unveil some of its friends or associates.

It is entirely apposite and fitting that the loss of BJP’s electoral majority in Parliament has coincided with the discovery of the vast network of corruption that underlies the activities of the regime in various sectors. On the very eve of the election, the corrupt electoral bonds scheme by which the BJP in particular had been able to enrich itself with many millions in anonymous donations from corporates of all hues, domestic and foreign, was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court after it sat on the case for five years. But it is the extent of corruption in the education sector, which affects the lives and futures of millions of the country’s youths that is now causing the greatest concern. In the last decade, the Modi regime has appointed hacks owing allegiance to RSS or other Hindutva bodies to key positions in higher educational institutions and agencies. While these appointments have been made with a view to furthering and extending the ideological fixations of the BJP in implanting Hindutva notions of history and culture in the minds of students, what is truly shocking is the revelation of sordid corruption at the heart of national examinations administered by central bodies like the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Corruption in education under a BJP regime is nothing new. The Vyapam scam in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, under which the results of exams and tests for competitive government jobs or entrance to professional schools were routinely rigged on payment of bribes, went on for many years.  A Gujarat based company EduTest has continued to get contracts from BJP ruled state governments for conducting exams for various categories of government jobs despite being blacklisted for failing to prevent leaks of exam question papers. It has been claimed that the founder of the company Sureshchandra Arya is the president of a prominent Hindu organization whose programs have been attended by none less than Narendra Modi But the revelation of corruption that is now coming to light in the results of the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) exam that qualifies applicants for medical school has gone from the strictly investigative to the political realm. And it is not only NEET but other centralized tests such as the UGC (University Grants Commission) exams for admission to PhD programs also administered by the NTA have come under the scanner. The opposition INDIA bloc has demanded the resignation of the education minister and a discussion of the scam in Parliament. Whatever happens at the political level, the immediate impact is on the lives of the unfortunate students that have been thrown into turmoil by these shenanigans. Twenty-four lakh (2.4 million) students took the test for only 24,000 positions, i.e., only 1% of the those taking the test would qualify and their anger and frustration at what transpired can be imagined. If that anger can be usefully aimed at the scamsters and ideologues and their political patrons who are running the educational system at the highest level something positive may eventually emerge

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