Mainstream, Vol LII, No 15, April 5, 2014
Face of the Danger
Sunday 6 April 2014, by
More than a month ago it was written in these columns in the March 1, 2014 issue of this journal on the occasion of the twelfth anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.
For all secular democrats.... the main objective of the coming elections should be to resist Modi from leading the BJP to victory at the hustings because that would herald the end of the idea of India—a pluralist, multi-religious, multi-ethnic country that can never become a Hindu-Pakistan. But the major pillars of secularism among the present-day public figures are least interested in forging a common front to block NaMo’s advance.
The situation in that respect has definitely worsened as we approach April 7, the date on which the poll process for constituting the 16th Lok Sabha is to be officially set in motion.
The poll scene presents a fierce struggle on the part of the Narendra Modi-led BJP, plush with corporate money power and fully backed by the corporate-driven media, to wrest powr from the Congress-led UPA. There is no gainsaying that in large parts of metropolitan India, and north of the Vindhyas in particular, the middle classes have been swayed by Modi’s mesmerising rhetoric though analysts have almost uniformly admitted that the rhetoric was seldom matched by substance. There is also no gainsaying that a massive anti-incumbency wave is sweeping the country and Modi is trying to capitalise on it to the best of his ability. Needless to underline, the anti-incumbency wave has been generated by the grave economic crisis that has hit the average Indian family with considerable force and the series of mega-scale scams which have tarnished the ruling UPA’s image beyond repair.
Yet for all his exhortations, jibes at opponents, protestations and promises to the electorate, Modi and his colleagues do not possess any magic wand to either overcome the economic crisis or gift the nation a corruption-free polity. And they will follow the same neo-liberal path of development which has brought the UPA Government to such a pass; the six years of NDA rule (1998-2004) bear testimony to this fact.
What, then, is Modi harping on in his election campaign as he criss-crosses the country in a bid to secure the popular mandate to rule for the next five years? Using bluff and bluster he carefully conceals the Sangh Parivar’s divisive Hindutva agenda (witnessed both in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition at Ayodhya and the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat) to project the much-advertised Gujarat model of development.
Effectively exposing the hollowness of Modi’s claims on this score, leading US philosopher and academic Martha Nussbaum explains in an interview to The Time of India:
....Modi’s citing the development success of Gujarat—and I’d question that right away. By human development indicators, Gujarat is not a success. It has growth but it also has tremendous inequality, deficient education and marginalisation of the poor.
No doubt the Congress has been taken unawares by the ferocity of Modi’s attack. PM Manmohan Singh’s mouni-baba approach has added to the ruling dispensation’s woes. Rahul Gandhi has lately been engaged in spirited counter-attacks. But perhaps he launched the counter-offensive rather late in the day.
And yet it is the Congress as the only pan-national party of the country which has the capacity to stop the Modi juggernaut. Obviously not by itself alone. But in cooperation with all other secular forces including those in the Left. This has already been spelt out by someone who is regarded as the person enjoying maxi-mum credibility within the UPA Government—A.K. Antony. Antony has called for an all-encompassing ‘secular front’ to block the Modi advance.
Predictably it has elicited a negative response from other secular elements notably those of the Left. The question is: was anything different expected from them? After all, like all others, the Left leaders too are suffering from acute myopia, failing to view anything worthwhile beyond their nose, and missing the wood for the trees.
None disputes the charges of rampant corruption in the corridors of power during UPA rule, the magnitude of the scams having assumed exponential proportions over the years. The benefactors of the UPA among the corporates (who are also beneficiaries from the powers that be) too are working overtime to ensure their own crucial selfish interests at the cost of those of the people at large. But when the country is facing a situation akin to what happened in Germany in the 1930s one does not have the luxury of engaging in arm-chair disco-urse apportioning blame for the present state of affairs. All-in unity to resist the impending majoritarian-cum-authoritarian bid to seize power in India does not brook the sligbtest delay. To remain blind to this reality is to sign the death-warrant of secular democracy, and hence the idea of India, in the days ahead.
Are the holier-than-thou secular democrats listening? If not, they should better be prepared for the unity of the graveyard that will inevitably follow such a majoritarian fascist takeover. For at stake are both secularism and democracy.
April 3 S.C.