Skip to main content

Resentment in BJP circles? It's Messrs Modi-Shah all the way, oligarchy has taken hold in the political sphere

By Anand K Sahay*
The time has perhaps come to inscribe finis under the story of the current dispensation as far as the depletion of moral capital is concerned, even if the winding up protocols must wait until Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s opponents can show greater tactical awareness and the spirit of self-abnegation.
The Modi regime has lost steam because it has deviated widely from its promises. It was elected with much expectation to deepen democracy. That is what the promise of “achhe din” encapsulated in essence – the betterment of the lives of the poorest people. But in a fairly short space of time, the shape of governance began to undergo changes that bewildered its backers.
Now more and more people are beginning to worry about the overt display of authoritarian tendencies. This prime minister’s mocking exercise of power has begun to cause resentment in BJP circles as well, and arrogance is being spoken of.
Still, Modi – lest this be overlooked – remains mindful of how he is perceived. He has not held a single press conference in four-and-a-half years, a perverse record for a democracy. Even the outrage-causing president of the US allows himself to be questioned by a hostile media every other day. However, the PM has a one-way communication running through his “Mann Ki Baat” talks over government radio and television.
He thinks – mistakenly in light of murmurs of discontent that can now be heard all round – that this lets him connect with his core followers direct, and that he retains his earlier popularity, affording him the room to be masterful and dismissive of senior colleagues in party and government, not just the opposition.
Of course, Modi has become increasingly conscious of late of the sheer necessity of having to show he still has a big lead over the opposition in numbers terms in parliament. Since his own party has fallen below the majority mark in the Lok Sabha after a string of recent by-election defeats in different states, the PM would be loathe to lose any more allies (after the TDP walked out of NDA and the Shiv Sena refused to vote with the government in the no-trust vote last month). There is an anxiety that if more allies renege, BJP MPs themselves may become emboldened to turn disloyal.
No government can countenance an atmosphere of such anxiety among its MPs months before the next parliament election. The sense has sharpened in the BJP camp after the recent no-confidence motion debate that the ship is going down, though the NDA won. BJP’s Dalit MPs appear especially vulnerable as the anti-Hindutva churning among Dalits outside of the BJP has emerged as a factor of note throughout the country.
The prime minister cannot afford to appear unmindful of these developments, and therefore must continue with his earlier flamboyance in attacking opponents in order to retain the affection of his allies and core constituencies. But within the BJP itself, no one now misses the obvious – that after winning a massive mandate, Modi has come to operate an oligarchy – a government by the few. All too often this boils down to a government for a few.
This means institutions do not matter and are likely to be disregarded when the need arises – in order to benefit the powerful ones or punish opponents. We saw this with the Election Commission around the time of the Gujarat assembly poll last year, and with the Supreme Court, obliging four senior judges to hold a press conference to air institutional and moral concerns.
We also see this in the clumsy political misuse by the government of the army on the issue of the so-called surgical strike which had no deterrent value. Also, newspapers are replete with stories of the CBI, Enforcement Directorate or the Income Tax machinery threatening political opponents.
In practical terms, in India, a government for a few is a plutocracy, a government of the wealthy, and a government that overlooks the interests of the poor, whatever the propaganda. The data now points in this direction.
A handful of friends of those in authority benefit from policy, but this is sought to be covered up with demagoguery, populism, ultra-nationalist slogans – on the whole, we appear to have stumbled on a regime characterised by a pursuit of selectively corporatist ideals with a few crumbs for those at the lower end. The poor are invoked out of cleverness, not with serious intent.
In Argentina, there was Eva Peron who spoke of “the shirtless” – the descamisados – as she pursued corporatist ends; in India there is Modi. He capitalises on the unattested story of his tea-selling origins and flies to New Delhi to take oath of office in 2014 in a private plane of an industrialist with widespread interests. “Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” as a slogan was evidently only a clever distraction, though initially it wasn’t seen in that light. Not sending Rs 15 lakh to the bank account of every Indian has turned out to be not the only “chunavi jumla” that BJP president Amit Shah alerted us to. The story of deepening joblessness and expanding poverty is too well-known to be re-told.
On the other hand, some perhaps can’t believe their luck. In September 2016, the sudden change of the Indian partner for the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale fighter aircraft deal with France, to which Rahul Gandhi recently drew pointed attention in the Lok Sabha, tells its own story of ignominy. It may be instructive to have the issue debated threadbare in Parliament followed by the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee to examine the contract.
While corporate friendships now appear to go a long way, the fate of businesses as a whole does not look all that bright in the Modi raj. All other sections – the various rural classes and the urban underclass – have naturally been left to fend for themselves.
Oligarchy has taken hold in the political sphere as well. Now it is Messrs Modi and Shah all the way – a neat letterhead of political interests, which has an uncluttered past from the rough and ready Gujarat days. There was a third partner once, but he has quite literally retired hurt. It is doubtful the principals take too keen an interest in his whereabouts now, for he wasn’t exactly like them.
The original duo realise elections are near, and the mood in the party is glum. The deities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) must therefore be appeased with vigour so that the ‘Hindu’ battalions may be galvanised when it matters. But here too there seems a problem – an unusual one. The warriors may have gone soft. They have been spoilt with power, with which comes attention and resources follow. How well does an overfed army fight?
That’s the question. But the deities must continue to be propitiated. That’s one reason why the mob violence that we see – the lynch mobs that mostly kill Muslims, the poor, or women in distress – cannot be stopped for now, no matter what the Supreme Court may say. Reverence will have to be shown to cow vigilantes and those who kill and intimidate intellectual and political dissenters. They are very much a part of the political oligarchy, which is permitted to stop at nothing.
If the mob attacks began near Delhi, the heart of the sultanate, with a poor Muslim villager named Akhlaq, among the most violent recent mob attacks has been the waylaying of Swami Agnivesh, an 80-year old saffron-robed Hindu monk and social activist who has not been afraid to speak up.
The oligarchy form of political management has had a particular kind of effect in the BJP, the foremost of which is that people keep their woes to themselves and those outside the charmed circle nurse their grievance in silence. Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, LK Advani sat through the recent no-trust debate impassively.
Rahul Gandhi making pointed references in the Lok Sabha to not just the Rafale contract, but also the sudden good fortune of Shah’s son, which was practically blanked out in the media, may have liberated these saffron leading lights from their fears.
The only senior to hold forth was Rajnath Singh, who appears to enjoy basking in reflected glory. Speaking of Rajput warriors whose lives hold a lesson, he seems to prefer the Jaichand model of acquiescence to that of Prithviraj Chauhan, who took up the challenge when he faced one.
---
*Senior Delhi-based journalist. This article first appeared in The Wire

Comments

TRENDING

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

Labelling a Jesuit a Marxist? It's like saying if you use a plane, you become American

Jesuits: Cedric Prakash, Stan Swamy By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* A thirteen- fourteen-year-old has many dreams! That's an impressionable age; at the cusp of finishing school. It is also a time when one tastes a different kind of freedom: to go for camps with boys of your own age (not with ones family). Such camps and outings were always enjoyed to the hilt. The ones, however, which still remain etched in my memory are the mission camps to the Jesuit missions in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.

Debt bondage, forced labour, sexual abuse in Gujarat's Bt cottonseed farms: Dutch study

By Rajiv Shah  A just-released study, sponsored by a Netherlands-based non-profit, Arisa , “Seeds of Oppression Wage sharecropping in Bt cottonseed production in Gujarat, India”, has said that a new form of bondage, or forced labour, exists in North India’s Bt cottonseed farms, in which bhagiyas, or wage sharecroppers, are employed against advances and are then often required to work for years together “without regular payment of wages.”

Govt of India has 'no moral right' to declare national day for Muslim women, Naqvi told

Counterview Desk  In what has been described as a nationwide outpouring of condemnation, following the announcement by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of Minority Affairs, declaring August 1 as ‘Muslim Women’s Rights Day’ to mark the anniversary of the Triple Talaq law, over 650 citizens have said it is nothing but "cynical optics" of using Muslim women’s rights in the face of an "unprecedented" onslaught against the rights of the Muslims in recent years.