Ever since Narendra Modi snatched power from the hands of a debilitated Congress party in 2014, the political discourse in the country has been full of talks of “Congress-mukt Bharat.” Barring the 2015 routs in Delhi and Bihar, the Bharatiya Janata Party has repeatedly bludgeoned the opposition in election after election. Each of those stepping stones witnessed the further coarsening of the social and political climate in the country. With every state that went into its kitty, the BJP seemed to make a Faustian bargain of sorts. As months rolled by, the politics in India saw its steady metamorphosis into a panorama of chaos and commotion.
And now it’s the crunch. The day of reckoning is drawing near. It’s only a matter of time before the next general election goes underway and one can notice that suddenly a sense of dissatisfaction against the ruling dispensation has crept in. It appears that some voices which only a year ago were screaming about 2019 already being a foregone conclusion now find themselves choking for want of credible explanation to the storm raging across the country. As a result, the regime has revved up the propaganda machine, bombarding the nation with mind-numbing lies and bogus canards. It is helpful in that it allows the government to cover its fanatical crudity behind the shroud of polemics. Besides, its empty bombast and trash-talk standing in for coherent policy gets to escape scrutiny. But most dangerously, this tsunami of disinformation has, to a large extent, served to transform a partially rational citizenry into a cold-blooded pack of hounds that has altogether given up on the inclusive co-existence and democratic propriety.
The Bhartiya Janata Party’s hope of retaining power rests on this segment of populace that has been systematically and painstakingly radicalized by the Sangh Parivar over the decades. For a rhetorically-driven but ethically bankrupt regime as this, such legion of angry, unthinking people who routinely turn upon their compatriots on horrific pretexts becomes a sledge-hammer to mutilate a democratic polity. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its communal cohorts have long been preparing the ground for such coup. In the past four years, the Sangh has misused the state machinery to the hilt for the purpose of cultivating this crazed legion of bigots. A mob of Frankenstein’s monsters has cropped up all around and the BJP has staked its fortunes on their ability to destroy India.
But the question remains: will it be successful? For all its depressing familiarity, it is, after all, the most potent weapon in the Parivar’s arsenal. Moreover, the viability of its other, less monstrous, options has diminished significantly. Four years into the Modi government, the euphoria of national ‘resurgence’ that had animated the people into buying into its game has begun to cool off. The caste and class character of BJP’s primary constituency deluded it into assuming that its shrill jingoism could truly offset the sufferings of those who languish at the receiving end of its politics. The demonetization as an electoral strategy was meant to scramble the traditional caste matrix of Uttar Pradesh politics with a heavy dose of masochistic nationalism coupled with an anti-Muslim rhetoric. As it yielded rich dividends for the party, the ugliness of this rhetoric in Gujarat elections – after heightened desperation in the wake of GST fiasco – and Karnataka, was unsurprisingly less subtle.
The problem for the BJP is two-pronged: to deliver material prosperity to all sections of the society and, at the same time, preserving and consolidating the Brahmanical order in view of its larger goal of transforming India into a robust Hindu theocracy. On the economic front, Modi astutely cornered the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2014. This was made feasible partly because he had the backing of the big businesses who were alarmed by the possibility of a public uprising against the problems of massive unemployment, poverty and inequality that would have threatened their expansionist ambitions; and partly because of a tanking economy that was the making of the same capitalist class under the market anarchy of neo-liberalism. Thus, for those who could keep their heads despite the heady intoxication of Modi’s free-market trappings – minimum government, maximum governance – the uninspiring state of the economy had been obvious from the outset. It was clear that having propped him to the throne, Modi’s corporate backers would demand their pound of flesh in return. And he hasn’t fully disappointed them: in four year of its tenure, the NDA government has escalated the efforts to cripple the public sector so as to hand it over to the corporations whilst also allowing its cronies to loot nation’s money and resources. In other words, the current dispensation has been ruthless in clearing land for its capitalist allies to make headway. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an example of how the small businesses in the economy struggle to survive, in the same way as Demonetization was a fait accompli in fattening the purses of the rich at the expense of the unprivileged. In the same vein, Aadhaar – apart from being a neo-colonial nightmare – is another such tool to purge the poor. All these draconian projects dovetail into a Kafkaesque set up which has already taken a truck-load of innocent lives.
Not surprisingly, thus, the government has failed in its promise to alleviate poverty and generate employment. Many people rallied behind Modi because he promised to create two crore jobs per year. All the hopes that he had so cynically raised have now been belied completely. It is premature to predict whether his ‘liberal’ supporters would decamp and call him out for his trickery or their slick bigotry would get the better of their ethical conscience. But it brings us to the second problem of the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva politics. In order to develop an over-arching religious identity for its coveted “Hindu Rashtra”, it requires a small, careful dilution of caste consciousness, that is to say, only to the extent where Dalits would readily acknowledge the Manuwadi social order – one policed by the RSS itself. It is a tightrope as caste identity is the defining narrative in the Indian society. The Sangh has sought to bypass this obstacle in two ways: one, by conjuring up the Muslim enemy; and two, by deploying the class structure as a means to weaken the subaltern leadership that had emerged in the Mandal era. It has, essentially, endeavored to befriend the potential class enemies in a supposedly common cause of building a Hindu nation. Thus, BJP’s failure on economic front threatens to alienate the vocal and aspirational subaltern masses – a prospect that could derail their crusade for the Hindu Rashtra.
The bombastic swagger of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah notwithstanding, the Hindu chauvinists are rattled by the magnified probability of their impending rout. The stakes are high and the outcome of the upcoming general election is crucial for Modi and his ilk. India’s social and political climate has turned irrevocably poisonous under his watch. The sweeping mandate of 2014 has brought out the worst in the Hindutva constituency. Drunk on power, they will not let go of this hegemony. They will try and squeeze more bile from Modi’s political persona. His indispensability to this purpose is the primary cause of his hallucinatory obsession amongst his supporters. This is precisely why they would back him to the moon with scant regard for logic and rationality. This is precisely why the Sangh would go any extent to preserve this rogue regime. It has already delivered the North India and beyond into the hands of consummate criminals and riot-mongers in a bid to crush opponents and to brew trouble and polarize the electorate. The government would not step back from gutting the federal structure of our polity just to win the crucial elections of 2019; it may even resort to election-rigging or worse. Moreover, it is definitely going to rake up the Ayodhya dispute; its foot-soldiers will seek to hunt down the ‘anti-nationals’, and surely, it is determined to foment communal killings against Muslims with the war cry of Vande Matram. If need arises, it may even blunder into a war with Pakistan to fan nationalist frenzy.
The groundwork for the destruction has been laid. It is clear in the thrashing, shooting, flogging, hacking and lynching of Dalits and Muslims. It is visible in the attacks on students, journalists, writers and dissenters of all hues. It is visible in the impunity with which mobs play havoc in all parts of the country. It manifests itself in the deliberately manufactured crises such as the ones in JNU, Bhima-Koregaon, UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Tripura, and most recently, in AMU.
Despite swearing to uphold the Constitution, the rabble-rousers in the ruling dispensation ensure its death by a thousand cuts through their daily invectives on its ethos. This assault on the soul of the nation is normalized by the cognitive dissonance deliberately generated by a maniacal media. It is further cheered on by a deranged, hopelessly bigoted middle-class. What remains of a civil, nuanced discourse is decimated by the abuse and vitriol spread by the organized troll army running amok on the social media. And, of course, the Prime Minister who lords over this carnage is busy savouring the cheap thrills of desecration.
Make no mistake: the beast of fascism has come into its own and it is poised to lace into us with the full force of its satanic barbarity. The foregrounding of fascism is evident in the audacious perversion of education in our schools and universities. It is evident in the subversion of justice in our courts. It is evident in the mournful burial of republican fraternity as countless mobs – from WhatsApp groups to cinema theatres – strike terror in the hearts of fellow countrymen. But most frustratingly, it is evident in the shameless diversionary gymnastics of its apologists in the face of all the palpable evidence around.
To cheat the nation into turning upon itself – to defraud the people of their rationality and compassion – is the sinister goal the forces of darkness have set for themselves. Just as Chandan Gupta was killed in Kasganj, this all-round destructive project will claim more innocent lives from their own ilk as well. Fair is foul and foul is fair: Shakespeare’s omen in Macbeth rings frightfully portentous in the insidious machinations of the Hindu Right. If the 2014 declared the end of secularism, the 2019 would most certainly finish off the remaining democracy. The nation stands on the cusp of disaster. This year is primed to be the most treacherous in the history of India.
The writer is a student from Dehradun, Uttarakhand. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org