The results will be in soon. The exit polls have been predicting a BJP landslide, much to the joy of the stock markets and definitely Adani.
Among progressives, there is great gloom. There are many who have spent the last many days and months struggling day and night for the defeat of the Modi machine. Many were beaten up, evicted, threatened, and suffered violence for fighting against fascism and lumpen-ism. These are women and men who are role models for each of us.
However, even many such fighters are disappointed. It seems like this election was one long process of fighting a PR monster, whose arms reached every aspect of the public space. And at least some find comfort in dismissing this as a PR and money generated election. What we must not ignore that there also seems to be a profound right wing turn to politics in a lot of India recently. In fact, in some ways, the results of this election are irrelevant when it comes to certain trends that have become more prominent in recent times in Indian politics and society. Some of them are:
1) The communalisation of Indian society:
Riots such as the one in Muzzafarnagar continue to cause division and polarise votes. With the strength of the RSS on the rise, one can perhaps expect many more such instances. But what is equally worrying how the idea that India is a Hindu nation has become a more powerful and accepted notion over the years.
‘Many more people have openly reached the conclusion that all this talk about secularism is weakness. During this election campaign, Narendra Modi through his references about Bangladeshi migrants and beef exports has only contributed to such a feeling. But it’s not just him. Across classes and regions, one gets to hear more of this argument – ‘India has mainly Hindus. So it’s Hindus that should set the agenda and who wishes should be respected’.
Irrespective of whoever wins this election, this sentiment is not going to disappear until the true plans of those spread this argument are exposed. And what are these plans? To build a nation and a society based on ‘Hindu’ values where those who disagree become second-class citizens. A society where the multiple and diverse kinds of culture in India are all tagged into one category – Hindu. A culture where a practice such as caste is justified in one form or the other even as much of the knowledge the modern world brings to us is rejected in the name of tradition. Or to put it simply, a society where Hindus are more equal than everyone else.
2) The corporatisation of Indian politics
The amount of money spent in this election has only meant one thing – corporates are out to buy the country wholesale. Even as the country is slowly entering a long phase of infrastructure development, big businesses are hoping for concessions and more importantly, withdrawal of restrictions on use of natural resources. The harm this will do to our enviroment is immeasurable.
3) Corporatisation of the idea of development
This election campaign has harmed the country in another way – The Gujarat model– the idea that growth is basically infrastructure, big cities, wide roads, bullet trains and IITs. In a country where so many people live under the poverty line, the idea that big projects alone will bring growth is absurd. This is specially significant because whichever government comes to power is likely to face pressure to cut money to scheme like the MGNREGS and basic necessities like education and health care even as there will be more pressure to bring in private players.
4) Rising inequality
The idea that GDP growth and infrastructure growth is more important than the welfare of the majority of Indians has become increasingly popular. Many justify it by saying as that over time, even poor people will get some benefit. But what happens in such a situation is only more inequitable distribution of wealth. A large part of the country’s population – farmers, migrant labourers, women workers, child labourers – on the backs of whom much of our wealth is built are barely managing to earn a living. Thus, the story of a developed India is played out only for a few.
5) A compromised media
The mainstream media – the big newspapers and channels – lost a lot of their credibility with the Radia tapes. The English media especially now caters to the interests of an increasingly small section of the population while many of the regional channels push the political interests of regional parties. On the TV, news has become about debates and arguments which are very noisy but convey little that is meaningful. Meanwhile, among the public, the cynicism and lack of trust in the media is on the rise. It does not help that Mukesh Ambani has bought into one of Indian’s biggest television networks.
Thus, whatever the results of the election are, these dangerous trends will remain very much present in society. While a BJP victory will give them more strength, even a defeat for the BJP is not going to see these tendencies die. If anything, they will come back stronger under a more fanatic face. This is a time for all progressive forces – those who believe in a harmonious, equitable society, those who think that there is no growth in trampling over the rights of people – to join hands with those who will suffer the most from the trends mentioned above.
And these trends must be fought mercilessly, especially since there many of them are found among those who are getting most affected by them. There is a need is for coalitions and new forms of campaign. There is also a need for a new media – one of the people, which talks about their struggles for life and livelihood rather than record the hum of political activity. It is only a combination of these factors that will help face the challenge of right wing mobilisation that is taking over our country today.