Beyond ‘Gujarat’

The results of the Gujarat polls have not come as a surprise. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the backing of the enormous money power of the corporate houses, was hell bent on winning the polls in Narendra Modi's state that has a long history of communal riots, but the number of seats it has own has decreased significantly, compared with the polls of 2012 and its vote share has declined considerably compared with the last Lok Sabha polls. This is understandable because the agrarian distress, adverse impact of demonetisation and GST, Patels' agitation etc were bound to affect the polls.

Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) number-crunchers in Nagpur’s Hedgewar Bhawan are more concerned about the 2019 elections to parliament. They are convinced, particularly after the Gujarat polls that the BJP will not be able to reach the "2014 peak" again. In the 2014 parliamentary elections BJP got 63 percent valid votes in Gujarat. This time in the just concluded assembly elections, it has managed to win just 49 percent. In 2014 Modi's party had leads in 165 assembly segments against only 99 in 2017.

Yet, despite the general decline in the Modi wave, the BJP has won overwhelmigly in the urban areas, suggesting that communalism, i.e. narrow Hindutva, is still very strong in urban Gujarat, and the organisational network of the RSS is fairly widespread there. That is why the obscene card of Hindu-Muslim polarisation, craftily played by Modi, has paid dividends. The sops provided in the matter of GST immediately before the polls seem to have worked to some extent but it was not the decisive factor in tilting the balance in favour of Modi. It is intriguing that during his entire poll campaign, Modi never talked about development or the distress of the weaker sections of the people or the role of the corporate businessmen in plundering national wealth, and brought the names of Babar, Aurangzeb, Pakistan etc in trying to assail the arguments of the principal opponents, the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. This bears testimony to the fact that he became jittery and decided to play openly on the ingrained anti-Muslim sentiments of the urban electorate, whose mind-set had been carefully communalised over time by continuous propaganda of various half-truths and blatant lies. Besides, one section of them wants to rise further upwards by acting as lackeys of the Narendra Modi and the class that is his main prop.

Rahul Gandhi's electoral fight also had structural weaknesses. Instead of upholding the 'unity in diversity' of India as against Modi's Hindutva, he also went on visiting temples, projecting a soft Hindutva himself. In a state where the forces of Hindutva have already poisoned the minds of a considerable section of people, it was necessary to free their minds of this poison with strong arguments in favour of the diversity of India. But the Congress and Rahul Gandhi have ostensibly avoided this task. Besides, Rahul Gandhi's campaign did not strongly focus on the issues of oppression of dalits, plunder of the public exchequer by the big business with the overt and covert support of the Modi government, the record of the RSS as opponents of the anti-British freedom struggle and Modi's brazen subservience to the racialist Donald Trump, although these are important national issues. Nor had he tried to popularise an alternative line of development, alternative to massive corporatisation, privatisation and multinationals. The reason is seemingly that his party was the originator of the economic policy that Modi is now implementing with more aggression.

The record of the Patidar community as far as dalits are concerned is also infamous—continuing of age-old oppression—and the BJP has been able to exploit it and win a not inconsiderable section of Patidar votes in its favour, despite Hardik Patel's alliance with Rahul Gandhi.

Yet, all said and done, the forces of communal fascism have received a jolt and the myth of the invincibility of Modi has received a blow, despite the incoherence and feebleness of the Opposition. The incoherence of the Opposition is displayed by the participation of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which, instead of trying to defeat the forces of fascism, has in reality helped the latter by eating into dalit votes.

The Gujarat polls should awaken all democratic minded people to the need of fighting communal, corporate-backed and pro-imperialist-led 'growth-model' more laboriously. Otherwise, India will see a repetition of the events of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy with the attendant enormous human and material costs.

Vol. 50, No.27, Jan 7 - 13, 2017