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India’s hard right BJP election win stokes fear for future

This article is over 10 years, 1 months old
Socialist Worker analyses the right's victory and concludes that although there is much to fear from India’s new ruling party it won’t all be one-way traffic
Issue 2404
Summary of the story

A cold wind blew among Muslims, liberals and the left in India last week as national election results were announced.

The hard right BJP party, together with its allies, were predicted to win an extraordinary 340 out of 543 elected seats in the Lok Sabha parliament. The scale of the victory means the BJP can govern without making a coalition with more moderate parties.

Their leader Narendra Modi says his new government will modernise India and that the country will become an economic powerhouse. His cheerleaders in big business and the media talk of stock market booms and bullet trains that will criss-cross India to rival those of China.

But many now fear Modi will use the victory to further his long-held ambition to make India a Hindu state.

Schools and universities expect his ministers will insist that curriculums be rewritten with a Hindu chauvinist bias. Mosques built near Hindu temples and shrines fear being torn down.

And, even the limited safeguards offered by the country’s constitution to Muslims and India’s other religious and cultural minorities are now at risk of being struck out.

There is also a danger that resistance to the new government’s plans will be met by thugs from the BJP’s fascist-like core, the RSS.

Memories of anti-Muslim riots in Modi’s home state of Gujarat in 2002, in which an estimated 2,000 people lost their lives, are a constant reminder of what Hindu chauvinism means in practice.

It was the complete collapse of Congress that handed the BJP their crushing victory. Congress governed India for all but 18 of the 67 years since independence, but last week its centre-left UPA alliance won just 60 seats, down from 262 at the 2009 election.

Congress presided over a perfect storm over two terms in office.

Scandals involving government corruption intertwined with the halving of economic growth rates, rampant inflation went hand in hand with the cutting of subsidies on food and fuel that millions of people depend on.

While the rich moaned that their vast fortunes were at stake, the poor were being pushed to the very edge of survival.

Meanwhile, Congress aristocrats continued to believe they could pass the leadership of their party, and so the nation, down the through the generations of the Gandhi family.

The selection of Rahul Gandhi as Congress’s would-be prime minister allowed Modi to present himself as a “common man” fighting back against privilege.

The once mighty Communist movement should have been there to take advantage of Congress’s collapse but its standard bearer, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has been in a deep crisis since 2007.

Then, the party used its government in the state of West Bengal to drive through a programme of industrialisation. It tried to lure in international investors with the promise of cheap land, low taxes and reduced workers’ rights.

This, it said, would be the key to new prosperity that would improve the living standards of the poor.

But when peasant farmers rebelled against the state’s seizure of their land for an Indonesian multinational, the party sent in heavily armed police to put down the resistance.

In the resulting mayhem at least 14 people were killed, and in one swoop the Communists lost the allegiance of millions of its voters.

In subsequent elections, the party was driven from office in West Bengal and has since lost most of its MPs. In 2004, the two main Communist parties combined had 53 seats, today that figure has fallen to just ten.

The BJP victory and the collapse of the left have created many reasons to fear the future in India. But even Modi in his moment of jubilation understands that he will face many battles ahead.

In order to do the bidding of the big business bosses that backed him with millions of rupees he will be expected to slash government spending and further liberalise the economy.

That will bring him into sharp conflict with both workers and the poor, and much of the middle classes that so enthusiastically greeted his victory.

If the Indian left can break with terrible combination of Stalinism and neoliberalism and once again embrace its roots in the grassroots struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, it might be able to galvanise the millions of Indians who are silently appalled at their new government.


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