Socialist Worker

Modi and the BJP’s victory means religious and caste minorities under threat in India

Issue No. 2656

Narendra Modis BJP have won a big victory, now the fight against their hate must begin

Narendra Modi's BJP has won a big victory, now the fight against its hate must begin (Pic: President of Russia)


Hard right prime minister Narendra Modi and his BJP party have been re-elected by a landslide in India’s general election.

Despite some votes still being counted, the BJP easily got more than the 273 seats needed to form a government.

The result is a disaster for the poor and also for religious and caste minorities in India—and it will make the world a more dangerous place.

Modi’s BJP uses Hindu nationalism to motivate its base, and deliberately fans the flames of communal violence. His supporters say India’s 200 million Muslim citizens are the “enemy within” and target them with allegations that include molesting Hindu women and eating cow’s meat - an animal Hindus regard as sacred.

Mixed religion couples are also threated, with BJP supporters alleging they are part of “love Jihad” aimed at undermining the “essential Hindu character of the nation”.

Targeted

From these rumours come riots in which Muslims are targeted and beaten, and sometimes killed.

Officially, Modi is against all such outbursts, and his parliamentary henchmen call for calm. Privately, Modi knows he needs this reaction because it frightens his opposition and solidifies his support.

That’s also why Modi is all too keen to threaten war with Pakistan if he feels it boosts his support.

The Indian left needs to return to its roots. That means basing itself on the struggles of workers and peasants who are being squeezed by the rich, and defending minorities set to endure another five years of fear

Earlier this year, after a terrorist attack in the disputed Kashmir region killed scores of Indian soldiers, he ordered airstrikes. Indian bombers launched attacks deep in Pakistan, putting both nuclear-armed countries on red alert.

Modi told his fans that by voting for him, they are not “pushing a button” on a voting machine, but “pressing a trigger to shoot terrorists in the chest”.

While the BJP’s distraction campaign works by intimidation and division, its economic policies have made the rich and the middle classes far wealthier. Indian economic growth rates are among the highest in the world.

India’s stock markets, which rose sharply when exit polls suggested a BJP win, soared again as the size of Modi's victory was confirmed.

But there is growing anger at the way the lives of richer Indians are increasingly detached from the poor majority.

The unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the 1970s.

Such facts should have allowed the Indian National Congress party to make an election breakthrough. But as a centre ground political force, entirely dependent on the Gandhi family name for its success, Congress is fading fast.

It secured roughly the same number of seats as in the 2014 elections, which was one of its worst ever performances. Embarrassingly, party leader Rahul Gandhi lost his seat in Uttar Pradesh—a seat that was previously held by his mother, father and uncle.

Congress has few economic differences with the BJP. It too lauds the middle classes and wants India to be a global economic power, with its own powerful elite.

Where once the party at least spoke to the country’s poor farmers and hard-pressed workers, now they barely feature in the party campaigns.

Prepared

And, while Congress is certainly less publicly anti-Muslim than the BJP, the party has always been prepared to fan fthe flames of conflict with Pakistan to win votes.

The other big election casualties are the Communists.

Twenty years ago Communists won more than 30 parliamentary seats and were one of the biggest opposition parties. They ran the crucial state of West Bengal and were regularly in government in Kerala and many other states.

Now they are routed. For the first time in its history the CPIM party has won not a single seat in West Bengal, and looks likely to get only two in Kerala.

The left should have been able to take advantage of huge social movements involving women and students in particular. It should also have capitalised on a general strike earlier this year that involved tens of millions of workers.

While Indian Communists have been ever more focused on trying to win elections, struggles outside parliament are regarded as secondary.

Now the various left parties are paying the price. But while the CPIM talk of a period of “introspection”, the hard right is making plans.

Instead of licking its electoral wounds, the Indian left needs to return to its roots. That means basing itself on the struggles of workers and peasants who are being squeezed by the rich, and defending minorities set to endure another five years of fear.


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