Letting The Facts Speak

Addressing the Nation

Biswajit Roy

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got only 31 per cent of the votes polled in the 16th Parliamentary Polls. The Election Commission figures say that the BJP got the  sanctions from 17.16 crore voters. Still Modi has emerged as the superman of Indian politics with BJP alone bagging 282 seats that ensures its brute majority in the 543-member lower house of the parliament. Together with its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies, which have won another 52 seats, the hegemony of BJP in the house of people is unprecedented for a non-Congress party.

Congress had bagged 49 percent vote and 404 seats in 1984 following Indira Gandhi's murder. Considering it as the outcome of an exceptional situation, the BJP onslaught this time has encouraged its big media cheerleaders to claim the end of coalition era and beginning of the American-style bipolar polity in India. According to them, the success of Modi's presidential-styled poll campaign has tolled the bell for the cacophonous and ruptured parliamentary democracy and ushered the era of stable governments at the Centre headed by strong individual leaders. Whether this oracle will endure or not, the Modi bandwagon is reveling in the almost total decimation of Congress as well as the absence of an effective Opposition.

However, the Congress that led the decade-long rule of the outgoing United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has received 19 percent of the total vote-share and secured support from 10.69 crore people despite voters' fury against its scams-tainted regime. But it has managed to pick up only 44 seats, worst-ever since the independence. Interestingly, BJP garnered almost the same percentage of the vote share in 2009 (18.80) but still bagged 116 seats against Congress tally of 28.55 percent of total vote share and 206 seats. Last time, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) received 6.17 percent votes but bagged 21 seats nationally. This time, its vote share has come down to 4 percent but its seat tally has nipped to nil.

These are the queer outcome of first-past-the-post electoral system of the country in which the alchemy of translating the vote shares into seat shares depends on many factors. Thanks to this system that knights the recipient of highest vote share in a multi-cornered contest, representatives of minority electors are allowed to rule the majority population.

Even in Modi's home turf, where provincial sentiment for a Gujarati prime minister has led to sweeping victory for the BJP with 59 percent vote and all the 26 seats to the party's kitty, Congress managed to obtain 33 percent votes despite the saffron avalanche. Almost the same pattern has been repeated in other BJP-ruled states—Rajasthan (25 seats out of 25, 55 percent votes to BJP and 30 percent to Congress), Madhya Pradesh (27 out of 29, 54 percent votes to BJP and 34 percent to Congress), Chattisgarh (10 seats out of 11, almost 49 percent votes to BJP and 38 percent to Congress), Uttarakhand (5 out of 5, 55 percent votes to BJP and 34 percent to Congress).

However, there is no denying of the fact that the so-called Modi-wave has swept the majority voters off their feet in BJP-ruled states. Both the vote and seat shares have increased for BJP in these combine of old and newly converted states. On the other hand, Congress rout in terms of seats is total in 14 states and six union territories while it has survived nominally in others. It has been trounced totally or crushingly not only in BJP-ruled Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP, Chattisgarh and regional party-held UP, Bihar, Odisha and Tamilnadu but also in Congress-ruled Assam, Maharastra, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It fared badly both in Andhra and newly created Telengana. Its only solace came from small states of northeast like Manipur and Mizoram, which have little presence in the parliament.

In addition to its scams-tainted misrule, Congress-led UPA did nothing to contain corruption and spiraling price rise and other daily burdens of millions of Aam Aadmi whom it swore by. The dispirited and disorientated poll campaign of the Congress dynasts and their sycophants put the last nail in its coffin. At the same time, one must admit the success of the mammoth multi-media propaganda machine run by the corporate groups and media tycoons. Relentlessly promoting a larger-than-life Modi as the dream leader or a development messiah, it has also succeeded to hoodwink a large section of the people in many BJP and non-BJP ruled states, particularly, the urban and semi-urban youth.

But Modi does not owe all his glory to his initial developmental rhetoric but to dirty old tricks of communal polarization and manipulation of caste equations etc that he and his minions resorted to in the later phase of labyrinthine poll process. Their barbs against Congress for backing ‘pink revolution’, an allusion to beef processing industry, threats to deport Bangladesi 'infiltrators' (i.e. Muslims) and Modi-critics to Pakistan as well as the branding of certain community and areas as the fifth column of Pakistan and the den of terrorists—all have been aimed at rousing the Hindu fear and wrath.

In UP, the biggest state of Hindi heartland, BJP's vote-share has soared up to 42 percent in contrast to 17.5 percent in 2009. This has led to a quantum jump in its seat number—71 from 10 out of 80—thanks to multi-cornered fight, post-Muzaffarnagar wooing of Jats against Muslims and consolidation of upper caste Hindu votes along while garnering a sizable OBC and Dalit votes by playing up Modi's humble and lower caste background. Though, ruling SP and its principal opposition, BSP have managed to retain 22 percent and almost 17 percent vote percentage respectively, they have plucked only five and zero in terms of seats. A small BJP ally bagged the rest two.

Another crucial state in the region, Bihar, too witnessed surge in BJP vote and seat-share—29.4 percent vote and 22 seats out of 40 this time from 10 seats and 14 percent vote in 2009. Changing caste equations following cracks between ruling JD(U) and BJP, upper-caste Hindu consolidation in favor of Modi and Communal polarization to a good extent notwithstanding, BJP-LJP alliance's vote share (approx. 36 percent) in Bihar is still lower than RJD-Congress alliance (28.5 percent) and 16 percent of the ruling JD(U) together. If the cynical and callous attitude of SP government in UP in dealing with a series of riots and its victims have alienated many Muslims and Hindus alike, its absence in JD(U)-ruled Bihar and deliverance in developmental front could not save Nitish Kumar's party from losing badly to caste and communal machination in a multi-cornered fight.

In the West, Scam-ridden and unpopular Congress-NCP combine-ruled Maharastra, the BJP-Shivsena alliance has swept the polls by bagging 41 (23+18) seats and 48 percent votes against 6 (2 Cong+4 NCP) seats and 34 percent votes of the ruling parties. Sena, the regional party of most rightwing Hindu Fascists, has led a brazenly communal poll campaign with BJP's tacit support. In Congress-ruled Assam in the northeast, BJP's vote and seat shares have gone up to 36.5 percent and 7 out of total 14, in contrast to the earlier tally of 16.21 percent and 4 seats. Here too, BJP has clearly benefited further from Modi's campaign for communal polarization on the emotive issue of ‘infiltrators’ from Bangladesh in the largest state of the region.

The non-Congress, non-BJP states that withstood the Modification are Tamilnadu, West Bengal and Odisha despite anti-incumbency factors. In Tamilnadu, ruling AIADMK has polled 44 percent votes and bagged 37 out of 39 seats, in a quantum-jump to its earlier tally of 23 percent votes and 9 seats, while BJP and it's local ally PMK have got the rest two. Congress has long been sidelined in Tamil politics but its UPA ally DMK drew a blank too despite receiving almost 27 percent votes, a slight increase to its 2009 results. The 'Amma' of Tamil politics may be elitist and authoritarian to the core but compulsions of competitive electoral politics had prompted her to initiate some pro-poor schemes that apparently sailed her through in addition to public apathy against DMK scam-stars. However, BJP is likely to warm up further to the former NDA partner since she enjoys rapport with Modi.

Though in power for four consecutive terms, the ruling BJD in Odisha received 44 percent votes and along with 20 seats out of 21. BJP bagged a single seat despite its 21.5 percent vote shares. Last time, the state ruling party got 37.2 percent votes and 14 seats. Congress' vote share has shrunken further and it drew a blank in account of seats. The chief minister Nabin Patnaik, another former NDA partner, is known for his pro-corporate policies but likely to maintain certain distance from Modi in view of Christian and Muslim population in the state.

The ruling Trinamul Congress in Bengal has romped back with 39 percent votes and 34 seats, a big leapfrogging by the Mamata Banerjee dispensation, in contrast to its 31 percent votes and 19 seats in the last term in alliance with the Congress. This has helped the party to emerge as the fourth largest party in the 16th Parliament and a major non-BJP force after Congress and AIADMK. Mamata- Modi harangue, particularly in the wake of Modi's tirade against illegal migrants from Bangladesh, rather its explicitly communal sub-text that made distinction between Hindu 'refugees' and Muslim 'infiltrators', as well as his crafty game of playing up parochial sentiments among Hindi-speaking resident population have helped both sides.

Whatever the threats emanating from the BJP's impressive performance in her fiefdom, Mamata Banerjee has succeeded in rallying Muslim voters who comprise around 30 percent of the state population, as well as other anti-Modi voters behind her. This partly explains her ability to sail through the Opposition attacks on the Saradha scam that is now awaiting CBI probe much to the chagrin of Mamata as well as huge corruption charges in teacher recruitment and increasing crime against women in the state.

But the fine print of poll results underscores the fact that Modi's party has made huge dent in red-turned green Bengal. It has gained from a good consolidation of upper caste Hindu-Hindi votes while wooing a sizable section of Hindu OBC and Dalit voters in bordering areas. Its 2009 vote share of 6 percent has jumped up to 17 percent this time that also secured two seats on its own in industrial constituency of Asansol and in Darjeeling with the help of Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha. Further, the BJP has emerged as the runners up in at least three parliamentary constituencies including the two in Kolkata by replacing the CPM. The lotus has bloomed more than the grass-flowers in Mamata Banerjee's assembly constituency in the city south.

More startling is its ascendancy at the third position in as many as 30 constituencies across north and south Bengal, mostly at the cost of Congress. Altogether the outcome has turned the Saffron brigade euphoric about its prospects in forthcoming polls in 17 municipalities as well as 2016 assembly election. Despite being demolished at the national level, Congress has managed to retain all but one of its six pockets of influence in north and central Bengal, though its vote share has gone down substantially, from 13 percent in 2009(in alliance with Trinamul) to 9.6 percent alone this time.

In Contrast, CPM and its Left Front allies received 29 percent (CPM got around 23 percent) but managed only two seats in contrast to 43 percent votes and 15 seats in 2009. The Left’s plan to harvest the anti-Modi minority votes by questioning Mamata's secular credentials in view of her earlier ties with the NDA as well as their effort to exploit anti-incumbency sentiments against Mamata in a multi-cornered fight has backfired. With Congress being a drowning ship at the national level, anti-BJP voters including Muslims mostly have supported Trinamul along with Mamata's still intact support base in rural Bengal. Instead of eating mostly into Trinamul and Congress vote bases, the saffron scourge has mauled the reds more as their desperate support base has been looking for a strong counterweight to Trinamul's strong-arm tactics and its leader's authoritarian style. The 'Modi wave' is bound to die down after some time. Still, BJP may well occupy a significant portion of opposition space in Bengal in next two years, mostly at the cost of the Left.

In fact, the LF continues to bleed since 2008 panchayat polls in the state and has suffered a complete reversal in a decade. It had bagged 35 seats in 2004 with 51 percent votes while Mamata alone managed to enter the parliament from her side. The successive deep plunge in the Left vote share in Bengal, from 41 percent in 2011 assembly polls and 37 percent in panchayat polls in 2013 could not be stopped, thanks to the discredited and dispirited leadership of CPM and its allies. Despite little improvement in Kerala and good show in Tripura, the LF strength has plummeted to 10 in 2014 from an all-time high 61 only a decade back. Imperious Modi at the Centre and revengeful Mamata at the state are a double whammy for the Lefts. No doubt, willy-nilly, they will be poor cousins to Congress and TMC in opposing Modi's regime in the parliament as their elusive third front friends, Mulayam, Nitish and Deve Gouda's have been dumped.

India Inc
Modi too believes in his mission, embodied in his Gujarat model-a mix of exclusionary Hindutva nationalism that has paid rich electoral dividends to him and his party in between 1992-2002 at the cost of minority and the constitutional edifice and a corporate growth fundamentalism of predatory kind. The mix  will be ensured and pursued by a strong and hard State, ready to crush all sorts of dissenters and minorities. If anything crony capitalists and their foreign collaborators want to get rid of the uncertainties and fault-lines of the cacophonous parliamentary democracy that has derailed their cherished economic reform in the letter and spirit of their global neo-liberal agendas. Discarding a lion-turned lazy cat Manmohon Singh and a Congress first family they have found their redeemer in the former Chaiwala or tea-seller turned RSS preacher.

Modi's emotions and convictions are genuine. That's why they are more dangerous. There were an overwhelming number of international Left which refused to take Hitler seriously even after his electoral victory in 1933. There is no dearth of such bravehearts in India even after Modi's ascendancy at the Centre. They are likely to learn the lessons when it would be too late.

Modi-corporate mutual affinity appears natural because most of the Indian corporate tycoons are socially and politically conservative Hindus upper or middle castes-Marwaris and Gujaratis from Modi's Gujarat and neighbouring BJP-ruled Rajasthan. Tatas who belong to a closed-door minority community of Parsis in Maharastra have joined them in business interests. No Indian prime minister had hailed from that 'entrepreneur region', except the short-lived regime of Morarji Desai, before Modi's anointment.

Already, India Inc. has rolled out its wish-list—rollback on NREGA and other 'wasteful' social security schemes, return to the unfettered land acquisition by the government for the private sector, drastic changes in labor laws, unhindered mining of minerals in forest and tribal areas, fastest environmental clearances and end of the democratic niceties that require affected community's approval for mega industrial and infrastructure projects, removal of floodgates for FDI in retail, banking and insurance, lower rate of interest for corporate lending from state-run banks etc. as well as import of gold. The list is not exhaustive. Thus, Modi's maxim–minimum government and maximum governance—is being translated into the demands for winding up ministries of industry and commerce as well as information and broadcasting.

It is being argued that some self-regulatory guidelines from finance ministry would suffice for the law-abiding free marketers. And, there is no need for a leviathanic watchdog and government-controlled media empire in the age of booming private sector media and Internet. Telecom ministry has been effectively under the control of spectrum czars as 2G has scam proved it. Very soon, one may hear the demands to wind up the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and leave it to Ambanis and Adanis as well as dismantling of the ministries of mines, coals, power et al and leave them to Tatas, Essars and Vedantas.

Also, there are demands to end the trappings of a welfarist government by merging of the ministries of poverty alleviation, child and women development, environment and forests, labor and employment, rural development, tribal affairs, food and public distribution, consumer affairs and social justice to ministries of corporate affairs, heavy industries, steel and mines etc. Abolish ministry for planning and resurrect the portfolio for disinvestments. Altogether charter for free rule of capitalists over labor, market, capital as well as natural resources and environment.

Americans who had denied Modi visa for his 2002 blemish till the other day are now crowing about his mandate for free market reforms and closer links with the US, calling it an opportunity to go down in the history as an Indian Reagan or Thatcher. Obama's friend and Indian-origin opinion-maker Fareed Zakaria apologized for Washington's 'idiocy' but requested Modi to shun religious sectarianism.

The Hindutva fountainhead, the RSS is yet to assert its priorities. But the prime minister-elect's elaborate Ganga-puja and eulogy for the Parivar's founding ideologues Syamaprasad Mukherjee and Dindayal Upadhaya must have reassured Nagpur. The absence of a single Muslim among the 282 new BJP MPs is not accidental. The ideological saffroniza-tion of the 'temple' of Indian democracy, its constitutionally enshrined idea of'the secular, socialist democratic republic' notwithstanding, has never been so complete. Given the record of last NDA rule and Sangh's deeds in Gujarat, surely, history textbooks will be rewritten again and Indian arts and culture would be purified with an essentialist and ahistorical version of Hinduism. Sangh icons would be rehabilitated in the ranks of postcolonial Indian pantheon irrespective of their role in the freedom struggle and anti-colonial intellectual ferment.

Vol. 46, No. 49, Jun 15 - 21, 2014