Modi: Behind the Mask

Sajeev Kumar, a Socialist Review reader, offers his thoughts on the recent elections in India:

Saffron is the colour of hindutva, but for quite some time, it is also the colour of death or shivering fear for the religious minorities of India. For some of them, it is the colour that made their life colourless, it is the colour that brings back chilling memories of those days they ran for life, leaving behind everything and everyone they thought precious till that moment, it is the colour that made them refugees in their own land.

The streets were full of blood. People with Trishuls and swords ran amok like blood-thirsty devils, looking for Muslims or non-Hindus. Within 72 hours there were more than 2000 corpse on the streets, including children and pregnant women. No one was spared, and nothing but religion was considered. Nobody was there to hear their heart-breaking screams. Nobody was there to save them, because, all these were well planned and arranged. 

This was India’s western state of Gujarat in 2002. After the massacre, independent investigations were made and all the findings pointed to one person for ultimate responsibility, the then chief minister Narendra Modi.

And now he is at the helm of the country, the prime minister.

Modi and his party, Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) came in to power with a thumbing majority of 336 seats out of 543. Indian National Congress was swept aside in to a corner with fewer than 50 seats. The left, once a decisive force in Indian politics, is now just a nominal presence with 11 seats.

It was the wide-spread anger among the Indian middle class against the ruling Congress party, and the deliberate propaganda by the corporate-controlled mainstream media that brought Modi in to power. The anger was against wide spread corruption and slow economic growth.  It was in the early 1990s that India, under a Congress government, started to implement the so-called new economic policies, shedding all its quasi socialist pretensions.  These policies transformed India into a favourite hangout of global capital. While the country’s economic growth touched two digits, the life of the poor became more horrible. It increased inequality and brought hundreds of millions of the population into deprivation.  On the other hand the corporates were demanding more.

After the massacres of 2002, it was Modi’s age in Gujarat.  No one was there to question his rule. He rolled out the red carpet for big corporates. Acquired farm or gazing land from farmers and leased for nominal rates to big corporates like the Adani group. Through corrupted news channels and deliberate propaganda Modi was positioned as the candidate responsible for the country’s economic revival. Big roads and fly-overs where portrayed as symbols of development.  In his speech after receiving the nomination, Modi claimed that he was chosen by God to ‘undertake difficult’ tasks for the country. But in real life he was chosen by the corporates.

The Congress had some limitations to go with full throttled liberalizations, forced on it by its coalition arrangements. It was compelled to shelve much of its pro-corporate agenda because of the pressure form coalition partners.  As Vijay Prasad points out in a recent interview,  “The Congress government led by Manmohan Singh had become unable to push through full-bore liberalization (in the retail sector and in finance) because of pressure from regional parties and its own social democratic remnant. The BJP will have no such pressure. It has a large mandate and five years, as well as the backing of the corporate bloc. They will push ahead with the full liberalization, privatization and globalization agenda.”

This is where Modi becomes acceptable to the Indian middle class and corporates. The Indian middle class is living in an illusion of permanent consumerism and liberalisation. Mainstream media, controlled by the corporates, deliberately created a pro ‘development’ image for Narendra Modi.

Even though BJP and Modi has got all the power, it would not be wise to think they are going spend all their time chasing Muslims or making war with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. Modi has more important responsibilities and commitments to the corporates who pumped millions of dollars for his election campaigning.  There is fair enough reason to assume that Modi will definitely start from where the Congress stopped. One of the main sectors, the corporates eagerly waiting to be cleared off is the mining. The country’s largest energy and mining projects are located in areas that are inhibited by poor tribal populations. They, under the leadership of Maoist forces are resisting takeover of these lands.  Corporates were waiting for someone who can sweep aside resistance of all types. As the renowned writer Arundhati Roy opined in a recent article, “The contracts are all signed and the companies have been waiting for years. He has been chosen as the man who does not blink in the face of bloodshed, not just Muslim bloodshed but any bloodshed.”

Narendra Modi has a background in violence and racism, and shares similarities with fascist leaders. Like fascist leaders he claims he was chosen by god to rule the country. He has used the sentiments of the people and patriotism to gain power. ‘Development’ has been used to gain popularity and mass support. He has commanded semi-military-style organisations to carry out decisions at any price.

Even if Modi is not pushing India in to a totalitarian rule, it will definitely be a hard time for the working class and downtrodden of the country. Modi is replacing Manmohan Singh, who in his last term was considered as a meek prime minister by the corporates because of his inability to fulfil all their greedy dreams. Corporates don’t want any unnecessary hurdle on their path. For this they want someone aggressive like Modi. It is 100 per cent sure that even the smallest form of protest will be crumbled to the ground in the name of development.

But people can’t stop fighting back and resisting their oppression. The question is, who is going to lead them. In present situation there is not much to expect from mainstream communist parties, as they have dug their own grave by alienating themselves from the downtrodden. But there are 100s of small groups all over the country bringing up effective resistance to suppressive policies of the government. But how long can they continue their resistance is the question, and if they fail, where will they go?