Right-wing populism

Modi won – but did India?

In Indiaʹs recent elections, the ruling NDA secured 45% of the vote. The fractured oppositionʹs message of inclusivity and justice was no match for Modiʹs brand of jingoistic populism. But what are the implications for Indian society? By Aditi Roy Ghatak

Soon after winning the general elections in India, Narendra Modi promised that he would be prime minister of all Indians; not only of those who voted for him. Minorities, he said, need not fear. The international media praised this new rhetoric as a welcome sign of moderation.

India’s minorities, including almost 200 million Muslims along with Dalits, Adivasis, Christians and others, however, hope that their worst fears will not be realised. They have been familiar with Hindu extremist speak for decades, and statements by some elected leaders induce fear. The unstated message is that minorities have nothing to fear as long as they accept Hindu dominance, but this rule does not apply consistently, as recent hate crimes and their handling confirm. Indians remember the Gujarat riots in 2002, when Modi, then the chief minister of the western Indian state, failed to stop the massacre of Muslims.

"Enemies of the people"

According to the constitution, India is a secular nation and accepts all religions – a position that is increasingly being questioned. Worse, those who disagree are labelled "enemies of the people". Amongst others, five human-rights activists and academics arrested in August last year are still in jail for having stood up for the rights of the oppressed. Independent journalists, civic leaders and intellectuals are harassed, attacked and even killed. Journalist Gauri Lankesh was probably the most prominent victim.

Video-taped murders of Muslims go viral and vigilante groups carry out attacks over beef eating and inter-caste marriages. Alleged terrorists are even rewarded with political positions.

Indian demonstrators take part in a protest against a spate of murders targeting minorities under the pretext of protecting cows in Mumbai on 3 July 2017 (photo: Getty Images/AFP/I. Mukherjee)
A prime minister for all Indians? Soon after winning Indiaʹs recent general elections in India, Narendra Modi announced that minorities need not fear. Familiar with Hindu extremist speak for decades, India’s minorities, including almost 200 million Muslims, are capable of reading between the lines: minorities have nothing to fear as long as they accept Hindu dominance – but this rule does not apply consistently, as recent hate crimes and their handling confirm

Pragya Singh Thakur, accused of conspiracy in the 2006 Malegaon blast case, is a member of parliament. Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has seen no reason to apologise for his alleged hate speech.

On the one hand, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi is resurrected as a hero, and on the other, fantasies based loosely on ancient mythology now trump scientific insights, as bigotry, xenophobia and misogyny run wild.

Empty promises

The Narendra Modi victory is in keeping with the international trend of victorious right-wing populists. They thrive on divisive action while insisting on organised unity. His policies sound good in theory, but have failed the grassroots test thus far.

The crying shame of the first five years of the Modi government is the collapse of the economy. Growth rates are down; inflation is inching up, and the promised "jobs miracle" never happened. Unemployment and underemployment are increasing, and little has been done to trigger rural development.

Worse, Modi’s ill executed tax reform was overly bureaucratic, crippling small and mid-sized enterprises. His "demonetisation" (banning certain denominations of currency), intended to break the back of terrorism and corruption by eliminating black money from the system, ended in fiasco: new banknotes promptly replaced the old ones, while masses of informal and small scale businesses and farmers took a beating.

Meanwhile, the controversial Rafale jet deal suggests that crony capitalism is in full bloom in the country. Will other things change under Modi 2.0? Hopefully, because surely India’s masses of unemployed, who were betrayed but still voted him to power, will not be patient over the next five years.

The people can only hope that governance from 2019 will include:

putting a check on provocative and fake news on social media,

stopping the emasculation of institutions of democratic governance,

giving minorities a sense of security, and

prioritising issues of economy, ecology and growth; not giving precedence to obscurantism.

Modi, with his unmatched eloquence, manipulated the political discourse away from economic misery and focused attention on supposed enemies. He managed to hold large sections of the country in thrall as jingoism carried the day. A weak and fractured opposition running its campaign on inclusivity and justice for all got swept away, except in some southern states and the northern state of Punjab. The ruling NDA secured 45 % of the votes polled. Modi won; but did India?

Aditi Roy Ghatak

© D+C | Development & Cooperation 2019

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Comments for this article: Modi won – but did India?

You people can’t affect modi’s reputation in front of the whole world…. By doing this kind of silly propaganda. I don’t what is the problems you have with india…. Pellet guns are used against those who throws a 400 gram of stone to the security forces with a speed 90km/hr… U ppl will not show the news of more than 900 security officials are admitted in the hospitals at this moment…. You ppl will not tell about the best policies bjp had to serve the poorest in this 5 years, you ppl will not talk about the rise of ISIS in the kashmir Valley ????????. Wow great journalism… It is people like you who stay in their ac rooms without seing the actual ground tries to fit their contents according to their propaganda..from biased news articles ??…. Good journalism congratulations.. ??????????. Try how much you can…. Bjp have alone got more than 300 sits ??. You ppl can’t do any harm to modi’s image.. But you ppl will get yourself criticised…. Bark how much you can.. It is all becoming very funny nowadays ????

mahak17.07.2019 | 21:39 Uhr

What do you mean "supposed enemies"? Wake up madam!

sankritis29.08.2019 | 19:01 Uhr