Ironically, its leading candidate Rahul Gandhi tried to win around voters with avowals to Hinduism: during the election campaign, he hurried from temple to temple and avoided all mention of the word "Muslims". The Left Front, traditionally strong in the states of West Bengal and Kerala, suffered its greatest losses to date. The performance of many regional parties was also weaker than in previous years.
Modiʹs media propanda machine
The third reason is probably Narendra Modiʹs omnipresence in the public sphere and social media: the BJP is better than any other party at harnessing the power of Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp for its own ends. The same goes for private electronic media and its huge Indian audience: first and foremost "Network 18" with its television programmes, magazines and Internet pages, which became the de facto propaganda machine for the BJP. Just a few days after the Prime Minister assumed power in 2014, the Modi confidante and multi-billionaire Mukesh Ambani purchased Indiaʹs largest media company for 700 million dollars.
Fourthly, the BJP is today one of the richest, if not the richest political party in the world. This is partly due to a party financing law passed in 2017. The law may have limited cash donations to parties from around 250 to 25 Euros. The official reason given for this was to combat corruption. However, now every citizen and every corporate body based in India – so in other words also foreign companies based in India – can send large amounts of money to the party of their choice through the National Bank and acquire whatʹs known as "electoral bonds".
During the months of March and April alone, 500 million US dollars were moved in this way almost exclusively to the BJP and as large-scale donations. As a comparison: Between 2005 and 2018, so within 13 years, the "big five" – Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft – donated around the same amount to U.S. Congress. But in contrast to the U.S., in India donors retain public anonymity. Only the government knows who is paying what to whom.
Legislative bonuses for industrial magnates
Modi knows how to say thank you: new laws further limiting trade union activities or permitting environmentally-damaging industrial projects and their associated land expropriation without vexatious obstacles, have long been in the planning.
In order that the resulting conflicts do not become a political conflagration, the Modi government is on the one hand deploying repressive tactics: many political activists are already in jail on flimsy charges and the accounts of organisations such as Greenpeace India, Amnesty International India and many other Indian environmental and human rights organisations have been frozen.
But first and foremost, the BJP is focused on a policy of "divide and rule" along religious identity lines. A policy already deployed in the past by the nationʹs former British colonial power to enable it, as the minority, to rule the majority. For example, it is an open secret that the Hindu nationalists intend to strike secularism from the Indian constitution and officially declare India as "nation of Hindus". The "worldʹs largest democracy" looks to be well on the way to abandoning this designation.
© Qantara.de 2019
Translated from the German by Nina Coon