The Saffron Surge

Nothing perishes, Everything changes. It is a myth to think that saffron-forces have only recently—since the Gujarat pogrom engineered by the redoubtable Narendra Modi in 2002—become so powerful and aggressive. They have been trying to regroup and refashion their political orientation since the end of Emergency in the late 1970s. The recent saffron surge is actually a rally for further ‘reform’ scripted by the captains of industry. Those who are hoping, somewhat against hope, to resolve the saffron riddle through the prism of communalism-secularism divide are in reality deceiving themselves. The outcome of the just concluded parliamentary poll was on expected lines as the Congress party’s dynastic problem got further complicated with every passing day during electioneering. In truth the result was beyond the calculation of the saffron party—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—itself. They were no less surprised than poll observers and commentators in the sudden deluge of support they got across the country.

That corporate houses have always been supplying their point-men in key positions since the days of Nehru is a fact of life. Those were the days of Tatas, Birlas and like. Today there are also overseas banias who call the shots in opportune moments. The same tradition continues. This time they bet their money on the saffron party, somewhat openly. In other words it speaks volumes about the shape of Indian democracy during election times because adult franchise in this hapless country is equated with people’s power, albeit the ‘festival of masses’ hardly improves people’s consciousness. For one thing for the first time in India’s grand electoral showbiz vote-bank politics of some regional and yet obscurantist parties didn’t work. Whether this trend can instill ‘positive’ change in backward political thinking is open to question. But this change is very much there for all to see. And the saffron brigade has reasons to derive comfort from the limit which they themselves never thought to cross.

Liberals, democrats, left and dozens of self-styled secular outfits, including the Congress, are worried about the triumphant return of Hindu Right. Intellectuals who hardly take any trouble to build up lasting communal harmony and peace other than issuing pious statements in the wake of communal violence, are now burning mid-night oil to asses the impact of a rightist government at the centre. Even before the start of electoral process the saffron resurgence was visible everywhere which they conveniently overlooked. What all they did was to grill Modi day-in and day-out, only to inflate his image though Modi’s primary constituency was in Gujarat only. But they made him an all India figure by continually locating communalism in Modi, more precisely in his role in neutralising the state administration in anti-muslim riot. Communal he was but communalism in the society is so deep-rooted that it cannot be fought by reiterating the sacred word secularism thousands of times. Their soft gesturing toward minority communalism, as if it doesn’t exist in society, was counter-productive in most cases. Fighting majoritarian communalism is by no means a justifiable reason for ignoring the otherside of the coin. For the political left of all hues to indulge in meaningless debate on secularism and constitution is the easiest way to pursue their strategy of inaction even in difficult times when people need upsurge to break the status quo and market mayhem. If neo-liberal reform is to be carried out it must be carried out ruthlessly and broadly. That is the message of the saffron victory. Also, this is the reason why the corporate lobby is desperate to back their new man at the helm—Narendra Modi. And this man is no longer untouchable to the Uncle Sam. Even before the poll was over Washington expressed its willingness to cooperate with New Delhi’s new government—the Modi factor didn’t arise.

For one thing there is no basic difference in the economic thinking of BJP and Congress. War of words over secularism and communalism is at worst a shadow-boxing. On more than one occasion BJP bailed the Congress government out of the woods on controversial issues in parliament working jointly against the interests of the people. Both BJP and Congress embrace the free market and are inclined to roll out the red carpet for big companies, domestic and foreign as well, even by mortgaging national self-respect. While the Gandhis focused more on foreign investors, the saffron club talked of local captains with some passion.

True, BJP opposed FDI in retail in its election manifesto. It remains to be seen how they deal with the menace called—Wal Mart. It is unlikely for them to antagonise MNCs though they are basically a party of small traders of the north. The crucial issue at the moment is unemployment and they have no magic wand to solve mounting unemployment problem. As per an estimate of V V Giri Institute of Lucknow nearly one-fourth of all youth are unemployed presently. ‘They are so dejected that most have stopped looking for work’. Nor is inflation their headche. Election itself is a remarkable source of inflation and it fuels creation of black money as well. The final cost of the just concluded 2014 General Election is conservatively estimated to reach $4.9 billion—about three times that of the last General Election, and second only to the 2012 US Presidential Election’s cost of $7 billion. For all practical purposes election is now a game of the rich and inflationary pressure in the post-election months is bound to worsen the living standards of the common people.

The rise of religious right is a worldwide phenomenon. Why Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt despite severe repression continues to enjoy such enormous popular support deserves serious attention.

In this parliamentary gambit the left cuts a sorry figure. CPM won just 16 seats in 2009, down from 44 it held in 2004. CPI had four members in the 15th Lok Sabha, while RSP and Forward Bloc had two each. This time CPM contested 98 parliamentary seats in 23 states only to win 9 seats. Tailism to Congress has its own pitfalls and soon they will go into oblivion as European Communists have gone.

Vol. 46, No. 46, May25 -31, 2014