The government of Modis works better than Congress
India after the election
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an absolute majority in the elections in India, and its top candidate Narendra Modi, the current head of government of Gujarat, is the new prime minister. Some people speak of the danger of 'Hindu fascism'. How do you rate that?
In fact, this is a term that is popping up quickly on the Indian left in relation to the BJP. Against the background of European history, I do not share this analysis for two reasons: Firstly, fascism in the European understanding presupposes a political mass movement. These do not exist in India. However, there is with that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which can be translated as Reich Volunteer Corps, a parent organization and think tank of the BJP, whose imagery and culture are based on fascism. There are elements such as public military sport or positive references to Hitler and the Arier. Although leading politicians of the BJP like Modi himself come from the RSS, at the same time it would be wrong in my opinion to call the BJP a fascist organization for this reason. Second, it is no longer possible to differentiate between extreme nationalisms and fascism. An intensification of violent rule could no longer be conceptualized if the current situation is already considered fascism. So the BJP is less fascist than market-friendly and neoliberal. She was in power once before in a coalition government, from 1998 to 2004. After the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodya in 1992 and a massacre of Muslims in Gujarat state in 2002, which was at least willingly accompanied by the local BJP government, there was also fear at that time that Hindu fascism was breaking out. Instead, a ›congress‹ of the BJP took place. She continued the policies of the Congress Party. It could be similar again now.
Then why was the BJP re-elected?
First of all, one has to take into account that the BJP received an absolute majority of the mandates with only 31 percent of the votes because of the direct election system. With a proportional representation it would be far from that. Second, I don't think people have For but the BJP voted against the Congress Party. It has not tackled major problems such as corruption, unemployment, underemployment and other social issues in recent years. Even the fight against the caste system was - at least symbolically - appropriated by the BJP: It was they who created the garlands around the statues of B.R. Ambedkar, the symbol of resistance against the caste system, did not hang Congress. In addition, this time the BJP actually succeeded in addressing groups of Muslim voters - despite Hindutva ideology, which claims that Hindus are superior in India. Of the 1.3 billion Indians, eleven percent are Muslim. In addition, Congress is a parliamentary dynasty, while Modi has worked his way up from being a simple tea seller. The public perception was: Modi has achieved something and will therefore achieve something in the future. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, only inherited. Ultimately, however, the social situation in India was decisive. For example, underemployment is a big problem: Many only work a few hours a day, so the wages behind and in front of them are not enough to live on. Modi addressed precisely this social question in his speeches; he has the nimbus of promoting economic development for the benefit of all. On closer inspection of his policy in Gujarat, he was by no means so successful: India is characterized by a peripheral capitalism that is growing, but not creating jobs. That doesn't seem to change anything about the effectiveness of his story of development. This is also due to the fact that Modi speaks the language of the people and was thus able to establish hegemony. Of course, you can't do something like that just by speaking The BJP also acts in a practical way: for decades, organizations close to it have operated thousands of schools in India; During the religious pilgrimages - so-called Yatras - the infrastructure such as food stands etc. is provided by an environment that is more closely related to the BJP. Now they have reaped the fruits of this labor. Congress and the left have nothing to oppose this hegemony.
What role does religion play in this constellation? Is Hindu vs. Muslim the main dividing line in Indian society?
It is true that the BJP relies heavily on the use of religious symbols and that their cultural hegemony is based on them. Of course, that also has a political dimension. Secularism in the Indian context means that the state does not favor a particular religion. So far it has been the case that decisions about families or inheritance can be made according to Muslim or Hindu rules. One of the BJP's projects is to create a uniform legal code. Such a policy would of course follow Hindu rather than Muslim norms. One reason for the BJP's success was, among other things, that it was able to shed its image as an anti-Muslim party. It benefited from the fact that parts of the Muslim population no longer felt represented economically by the Congress. Muslims have chosen the BJP because of its economic policy and in spite of their connection to the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat.
Of course they will change the school books, that is to be expected in the event of political upheaval in India. If the left came to power, it would too. Otherwise, I assume that the BJP will continue the rather moderate course from its first term in office at the end of the 1990s. In my estimation, there will not be another sharp conflict between Muslims and Hindus. However, if there should be Islamist attacks again, as in Mumbai in 2008, or if a conflict with a neighboring country (most likely Pakistan) worsen, then the BJP may react very differently than Congress. This is where I see the main danger. Less in a planned campaign against Muslims - it is unlikely to happen. Modi invited the Pakistani Prime Minister to his inauguration - that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. Back to your question: Yes, there is a mass media religious-pop-cultural integration of various religious groups and less a conflict between these groups. Anti-Muslim resentments are also repeatedly stoked on the Hindu side. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that the Muslim Mughal era is not discussed in such detail in the public discourse, but instead the Hindu kingdoms or those who fought against the Mughals are placed in the foreground.
What role does the political left play in this situation?
The Marxist forces did not manage to build an alternative to the Congress. They did not have their own anti-capitalist and socialist profile. The left has invested its energies in building a third front beyond Congress and the BJP. In doing so, however, they have largely neglected their own profile. Another problem was that their partners were the regional parties that were very strong in India, but also often corrupt. The left no longer appeared to be an alternative to the corrupt parties. With a protest attitude one could vote for the BJP straight away. As a result, the larger of the two left parties now also has the Communist Party of India (CPM), lost national party status due to poor election results. The CPM had ruled West Bengal for over 30 years and often also in Kerala, now it only rules in the small state of Tripura.
And what about the extra-parliamentary left?
You could say that the whole burden is now on the movement. However, it is not the case that there is a weak party left and a strong movement left. The movements are also strongly localized, focused on one point, inconsistent and relatively short-lived. So there is no force that can oppose Hindu nationalism and neoliberalism. In order to build up such a force, a self-critical examination of the previous politics of the left would be necessary - for example with the rigid separation of the party, trade union and movement left that has existed to date. This separation is also due to the fact that the communist parties have their own run-up organizations such as a farmers' association. When other peasant organizations emerged, the communist parties were rather skeptical of them. After the CPM was voted out of office in West Bengal in 2011, the party wanted to open up to the movement. But this has largely remained lip service. However, it is also not the case that the movement is in so much better shape and one can say: the parties have failed and the movement will do the job. Hope is raised by a series of new attempts at organization, most of which come from the movements but are politically articulated and want to overcome the division, here movement, there politics. To what extent these will have a chance in the long term remains to be seen. We wish it all.
The interview was conducted by Barbara Fried, Florian Höllen and Tadzio Müller.
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