There are no breaking news at the moment

Co-Written by P,. K. Vijayan, and  Karen Gabriel

            The past few months have witnessed the grand spectacle of Narendra Modi emerging as the Prime Minister of India, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finally achieving single-party majority in Parliament. The latter is a development of some consequence, since it means that the BJP’s programs and policies are no longer bound by the considerations of its coalition partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – it can survive in government, even without their support. Both developments are related: the BJP’s unprecedented success is arguably at least partly a consequence of Modi’s being projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate (All India Postpoll 2014-Survey Findings); conversely, Modi’s agendas – the stated and unstated ones – as much as the BJP’s, are now executable without trammel. It is also of some consequence that Modi’s agendas have not always – and even now do not – coincide with those of the BJP, or even with those of the Sangh parivar in general. In the 2007 state assembly elections, for instance, Modi won a landslide victory despite the fact that a large section of the BJP, as well as of the Sangh parivar in general, had turned against him (Suhrud, 2008: 11). Even his projection as the party’s prime ministerial candidate had been intensely controversial, with his own former mentor and BJP pariarch L K Advani leading the opposition to his candidature.[1]

What this means is that over the last decade or so, and especially since his victory in Gujarat in 2007, Modi forged himself as the power centre of the BJP, and arguably, even of the Sangh parivar more generally; yet, it is also clear that he is not synonymous – perhaps not even synchronous – with either. Indeed, even as he remains explicitly, ostentatiously immersed in and committed to the politics and programs of the Hindu right, Modi has also explicitly, ostentatiously projected himself as unique. Especially since the last Gujarat elections, this uniqueness – which may be characterized as aggressive right-wing nationalism articulated through an almost megalomaniacal demagoguery – has evolved into ‘Moditva’, apparently a conceptual entity born out of ‘Hindutva’ but with a professedly distinct ‘Modi’ flavour.[2] The nuances and subtleties of this flavour have been glossed by a variety of commentators on ‘Moditva’ from across the political spectrum (e.g., Pralay and Farooqui; Dev; GPD), but has recently received official sanction in the volume, Moditva: the Idea Behind the Man, promoted on Modi’s personal website www.narendramodi.in.

This article will attempt to elaborate on the multiple significances of this phenomenon. It seeks to open out and explore the two broad tendencies that are semiotically conjoined in the construction (of) ‘Moditva’: one, its foundations in Hindutva discourses, its ‘modi-fications’ (Thapar, 2007) of those discourses, as well as the implications of such modifications; and two,  its aggrandizement of Modi – the gendered terms of that aggrandizement, the other discourses it invokes and seeks to yoke to Hindutva, as well as the implications of these for Hindutva, as discourse and agenda. It will argue that, in the process of constructing this figure, the Moditva agenda seeks to erase the contradictions between dictatorship and democracy; between incompatible but indispensable notions of ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’; and between right-wing economic policies and right-wing cultural nationalism, to create a strong and apparently coherent right-wing politics.

 

I

We will first briefly outline some of the main characteristics of ‘Hindutva’, in order to meaningfully elaborate on the distinction emerging between it and ‘Moditva’. There is a rich, layered and wide-ranging body of work on Hindu nationalism, exploring it from a range of political perspectives[3]. For our purposes, the broad contours of Hindutva that emerge from this body may be characterized as follows:

  • It emphasizes a singular Hindu identity as the identity of the people of India, overriding other affiliations such as caste, region, language, gender, even religion. Thus Christians or Muslims, for instance, are expected to first identify themselves as Hindu, and then as followers of their own faiths.
  • It thus distinguishes the term ‘Hindu’ from ‘Hinduism’ the religion, as constituting a cultural identity founded on cultural practices that are projected as pan-Indian, pervasive, persisting immutably throughout the history of India – thereby constituting a singular tradition as well as a source of authority grounded in the past – and homogeneous. Once constructed as such, any exceptions to such a formulation automatically become aberrations of that tradition, requiring either expulsion, correction or cooption. Hence the inimicality of Indian Christians or Muslims who may propound an alternative tradition, culture and/or faith as their own.
  • It emphasizes the territorial integrity of India, often with hyperbolic claims regarding the extent and scale of this ‘Indian’ territory, as ‘recorded’ in its discourses of the past of India. This territory of the imagined Hindu nation, past or present, is registered in its discourses as ‘Bharat’, and distinguished from present-day India, which is seen as an aberrant product of colonial rule and its aftermath. Thus, one of the main agendas of Hindutva is the re-establishment of the nation of ‘Bharat’, in its ‘original’ glory, in place of the colonial construction that is ‘India’.
  • This territory is conceived of as requiring the control of a single dominant state. The current federal structure of the Indian state is thus generally perceived as weak, because too susceptible to the diktats of regional actors (whether political parties or demographic constituencies) and their demands, and consequently inherently and structurally tending to foster heterogeneity, if not disunity. In its place therefore, is envisioned a homogeneous ‘Hindu rashtra’ or nation, governed by a singular – or at least, a more strongly centralized – state.[4]
  • As with all nationalisms, the ‘Hindu rashtra’ too is the nation of the future, always unrealized, always being aspired for, and requiring a strong state to ensure that realization – not only because of the heterogeneity that must be overcome, but because the nation must grow ever stronger, and only a strong state can ensure a future stronger nation. Thus, as in all nationalisms, the stronger the nation, the stronger still the state that is called for to govern it.
  • Until Moditva, this construction of the Hindu nation had a crucial economic corollary: it postulated the rejection of all foreign industrial, commercial and consumer products and the concomitant promotion of local ones – i.e., the policy of ‘swadeshi‘, born under Gandhi during the freedom struggle, and adopted by the Hindu nationalists.
  • The principle of exclusion that underlies all nationalisms, here manifests as anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and anti-communist sentiment. These discourses are constructed as having evolved outside the territorial expanses of ‘Bharat’; as therefore not only alien but intractably heterogeneous to ‘Hindu’ culture; as therefore historically predatory on ‘Hindus’ (Muslims in particular); and consequently to be vehemently and powerfully resisted.
  • The creation of such ‘enemies’ to the ‘Hindu’ nation, who are nevertheless internal – indeed integral – to it, has consequently permitted the virulent generation and propagation of an aggressively masculinist, and often sexually violent, sense of self as the national ideal mode of being – or rather, of becoming, as the formulation of an identity to aspire for.
  • This in turn has meant that Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, has persistently and consistently fed on communal violence, regardless of how or by whom that violence was initiated. Arguably, Hindu communalism is deeply informed by Hindu nationalism, even if the converse is not always true. Hindu nationalism, on its part, is thus syncopated by the violences of communal riots, even if it does not explicitly propagate that violence.

The list above is intended to be neither comprehensive nor complete. It does not cover some additional, even crucial, features of Hindu nationalism that may be considered as equally definitive of the phenomenon – for instance, its tendency towards centralization or what has been referred to as its ‘semiticization’[5]; or, somewhat contrarily, its tactic of generating multiple fronts and organizations that are ostensibly autonomous of each other and the mother organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but are in fact operating under close supervision and in coordination; or the centrality of the RSS itself and the programmatic propagation and cultivation of Hindu nationalism undertaken by it; or the implicit – and sometimes quite explicit – formulation of upper-caste values and practices as normative, along with the concomitant marginalization, even erasure, of lower-caste and Dalit customs and beliefs; or the much vaunted mobilisation to construct a Ram temple at Ayodhya; and so on. We have not dwelt on these aspects in any detail because here we simply aim to identify some of the key themes and preoccupations of Hindu nationalism, insofar as they inform – or in some way have a bearing on – the second term that we will engage with, i.e., ‘Moditva’. In what follows, we will try to outline what constitutes ‘Moditva’, and then identify the points of its departure from ‘Hindutva’, in order to understand the dynamic that is unfolding, and the social, political and economic implications of that dynamic.

 

II

One of the most significant aspects of this unfolding dynamic has been the keenness with which ‘Moditva’ has been discussed especially in business journals and newspapers. Indeed, even The Hindu Group, which has traditionally always spoken out forcefully against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Hindu nationalism, carried an article in its Business Line that effectively celebrates Modi and Moditva:

he has displayed a single-minded focus on good governance, on economic growth, on business promotion and investment attraction, on infrastructure creation and on ‘delivery’…. [H]e has been at pains to talk of cultural inclusiveness, of all Indians coming together for a mission to transform India, of humanity, of his debt to Buddhism, of the need to abjure violence, of the need to fight battles across South Asia against poverty, against terror, against sectarian trends. All these are part of a very carefully constructed and attractively packaged ‘Brand Modi’. (Amitabha Pande).

Compare this to the Deccan Chronicle:

Such clever packaging of development, economic nationalism and Hindutva together aroundMr Modi interconnects their respective values. The end implication then — development =patriotism = Hindutva = Modi — can be termed “Moditva”. Moditva also defines theopposition sharply: “You are unpatriotic if you criticise Modi’s development… if you chooseMuslim Congress… if you oppose Modi.” (Vohra)

And to the anonymous writer on Business and Economy, after Modi won the 2007 Gujarat elections, against all odds:

What Modi managed was to amalgamate his personal charisma with both Hindutva and development, and presented a cocktail that was drunk by the majority of the voters in Gujarat…. it was political acumen, PR management, and development – and not just governance alone – that won the day for Modi. (‘It was Moditva’)

Unlike ‘Hindutva’, ‘Moditva’ does not (yet) have a ready body of studies to draw on, to define its contours, and, as is evident, the few discussions to this end have so far been mostly in newspapers and the electronic media. Shiv Vishwanathan’s ‘Narendra Modi’s Symbolic War’ is one of the few exceptions to this. Without ever referring to it as ‘Moditva’, he too, focuses on the reconstruction of Modi: ‘Modi was a semiotic construct who went on to fight a symbolic war…. Modi had to be remade. A past had to be sanitised and a future scenario for the man had to be constructed.’ (10) For Vishwanathan too, one of the elements crucial to this reconstruction was its deployment of ‘development’ in such a way that ‘It would be unpatriotic to not want development.’ (11). And yet, as Vishwanathan writes,

Development began as an empirical game but development had little to do with empirics but became more of a game. Modi created development as simulacra, a game where people approximated development without achieving it…. Development was Modi’s greatest symbolic creation….  The middle class, corporations and the diaspora now form a powerful chorus. Modi has captured a discourse and orchestrates it to his advantage. Gujarat is the new development paradigm and Modi its greatest exemplar. (11)

In each of these discussions, what emerges clearly is the dovetailing of the meanings of nationalism and development with, and within, Modi himself as an iconic figure.

The relation between ‘Moditva’ and ‘Hindutva’ is now becoming clearer: the former establishes the primacy of Modi the individual – his life-story, personality, actions and decisions, statements, opinions, as much as his vision, policies, agendas, etc. – over the vision, ideologies and policies that constitute the discourses and practices of Hindutva – to the extent that they do not contradict the latter. In this sense, the construction and cultivation of Moditva must be understood not as a departure from Hindutva but as an extension of it – as the specific forms of its embodiment that are effected by its encounter with the discourse of ‘development’. Projecting Modi as ‘Mr Development’ is thus to reconstruct him not only as the embodiment of Hindutva, but as the embodiment of a certain discourse of development. In turn, the discourse of ‘development’ registers not only as a technological-industrial-economic condition to aspire to, but as the new essence of the Hindu nation itself, ‘the new collective morality’ (Vishwanathan, 11) that will frame its sense of self. In 2007, Modi had similarly sloganeered this ‘development’ as the asmita (variously, pride or identity) of Gujarat, with himself as its embodiment; evidently, the same semiotics are at work again, only the site has changed, from the local to the national: ‘the task lying ahead is to replicate the Gujarat model of development on a nationwide scale’ (Ganesan, n.p.).

We will elaborate on these issues shortly; for now, we need to briefly explore what is entailed in ‘the Gujarat model of development’. Harsh Mander, former member of the National Advisory Council, writes that,

Gujarat has indeed enjoyed high levels of economic growth in the years of Modi’s leadership. But growth rates were also high in the state for two decades prior, suggesting that Modi’s policies were not decisively responsible for this growth performance. It is also pertinent that growth rates were higher in states such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. (Mander)

More damningly, ‘there has been no improvement in Gujarat’s rank ever since the first human development index (HDI) was done in 1999-2000’ (Sood and Kalayiarasan, Frontline). There is now a growing body of writing on this model of ‘development’ (e.g., Nigam, Sood, Gupta, Mehta, Hensman, Critical Concerns, Fast Track…, etc) that convincingly reveals it to be mostly hype without substance. Shipra Nigam gives a succinct account of some of the main problems with this model: it

has at its heart an unabashed dependence on the private sector, and state support and policies prioritizing growth in infrastructure and investment aimed at strengthening the requirements and profitability of the private investor. The developmental model has meant neglect of human habitations and needs of ordinary citizens in improving access through rail, ports, road for Industry, SIRs, SEZ’s; promotion of selective and capital intensive manufacturing growth; jobless growth and falling share of wages in total income; corporatization of agriculture, neglect of small farmer and privatization of village commons; legislative changes in land-use norms reinforcing speculation in land; neglect of public policy and expenditure and a misplaced dependence on private initiative to even address inadequacies in social infrastructure. All of which is manifest in deeply exclusionary social and economic outcomes as reflected in extensive environmental degradation, widening regional disparities, neglect of the rural sector and increased marginalization of workers, women, STs, Muslims and minorities in social and economic outcomes within the state. (7)

This idea of ‘development’ differs from prior conceptions primarily, and crucially, in the fact that it is financed, driven and controlled, not by the state, but by private entities whose investments and operations will be facilitated and secured by the state. As such, the primary concern is not human development, but profit-making for the investors. Investment, production, distribution and sale, policies and terms, as well as labour and service conditions, are thus framed and set by these entities, and guaranteed by the state.

‘Development’ is conventionally understood as commercial, infrastructural, industrial and social policies undertaken not for immediate profit but towards building human and social capacities, guaranteeing human and civil rights and safeguarding human and environmental futures[6]. The ‘Gujarat model of development’ is essentially a bouquet of capital-intensive, profit oriented, commercial and industrial ventures that seek, on the one hand, to hide their primary profit intent behind the smoke-screen of that conventional understanding; and on the other, to put in place terms and conditions – of service and labour as much as of policy and procedures – that, despite flying in the face of that very understanding of ‘development’, will ironically be ratified by it. Understandably, a deception of this scale and blatancy – to make something mean the very opposite of what it is – required professional spin-doctoring. The task of spinning this as ‘development’ was structured around six successive biennial investment meets called ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, the last few of which were organized by the American PR giant Apco Worldwide. ‘Until Apco appeared on the scene in 2009 to sell the event, Vibrant Gujarat was a modest show. At the first three events, investment promises were worth no more than $14 billion, $20 billion and $152 billion. Enter Apco and in 2009 and 2011, the promises grew to $253 billion and $450 billion’ (Prabhakar). Despite the fact that hardly any of these promised investments have been actualized[7], the promises themselves have served the crucial purpose of, on the one hand, justifying the suspension or re-writing of whatever safeguards exist to ensure equitable distribution and protect against oppression and exploitation (Gupta 14); and on the other, rendering the ‘development’ that they promised – and thus the future ‘vibrant Gujarat’ that that ‘development’ was towards – much more credible, even almost tangible. Apco went on to play a major role in creating the hype around these policies as constituting the ‘Gujarat model of development’, as well as in designing and marketing ‘Brand Modi’ or ‘Moditva’ before the general elections of 2014.

In other words, the entire ‘development’ discourse that has been put in play by Modi is (a) a cover for the de-regulation and liberalization of the economy on a scale that, if undertaken in regular ways, would have provoked wide-spread protest and resistance; (b) an elaborate stage prop for the production of the illusion of the ‘vibrant Gujarat’ to be; (c) a justification for the suspension of all rules, norms and guidelines governing economic activity, to provide favourable terms for big business and corporate investment; (d) a massive exercise in demonstrating Modi’s ostensible ability to reconcile the traditional and the modern, the religious and the technological, the old and the new, to make ‘a peculiar blend of Hindutva and free market economy’ (Ganesan) that renders him acceptable to a much wider demography than Hindutva’s traditional constituencies; and to that extent, (e) a foundation for the reconstruction of Modi – from the ruthlessly communal local leader, to a ‘vikas purush’ (‘man for progress/development’) fit for the national stage and a ‘Mr Development’ on the international stage. The last is of particular significance, because there is an underlying continuity that is maintained in the Moditva discourse between the communal figure responsible for the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom and the ‘Mr Development’ Prime Minister of 2014. Modi himself referred to that continuity when, while addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh, he challenged Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav: ‘do you know the meaning of converting UP into Gujarat? It means 24-hour electricity, no power cut for 365 days in every village and street. You can’t do it. You don’t have the guts to turn UP into Gujarat. It takes a 56-inch chest [to do so, referring to his own chest size]’ (Bano and Srivastava). Mulayam Singh, referring to the communal violence in Gujarat, had allegedly stated that Modi could not turn Uttar Pradesh into another Gujarat. Modi’s response takes the communal reference and morphs it into a comment on what it takes to bring in ‘development’.

One very important aspect of this invocation of hyper-masculinity is that it draws attention away from a glaring departure from traditional Hindutva positions that Modi undertakes: Hindu nationalism traditionally espoused swadeshi – a version of nationalist economic protectionism that argued for state promotion of local commerce and industry, and protection from more powerful foreign finance. But Modi’s model of ‘development’ clearly favours big multinational investment and enterprise, with scant regard for local medium and small enterprises (Nayar). Nevertheless, Modi has successfully maintained this as a nationalistic economic policy, by associating this ‘development’ model with his hyper-masculinity, and consequently with a viscerally gendered conception of power. This conception of power draws its masculinized effectivity in another very crucial way: Modi has now launched the slogan ‘Make in India’ (playing on ‘Made in India’, which would have been the ideal swadeshi slogan) – an invitation to multinational enterprises to set up production and manufacturing in India. Modi is fully aware that the existing global order of power relations is substantially determined, among a host of other factors, by (a) regulation of the flow of finance capital internationally in such a way as to ensure that the regions and countries of the ‘periphery’ (variously categorized as ‘south’, ‘east’, post-colonial, developing, etc) are in perpetual financial indebtedness to (and consequently political and military dependence on) the regions and countries of the ‘centre’ (‘north’, ‘west’, ‘developed’, ‘Euro-American’, etc); and (b) the international distribution of production processes by multinational corporations in such a way as to ensure that labour-intensive processes are situated in the ‘periphery’, where labour can be exploited cheaply, while distribution and sales happen predominantly at the ‘centre’, which not only has the purchasing power that the ‘periphery’ lacks, but has it because the profits deriving from this exploitative process find their way back to the ‘centre’ (both terms defined as above). Modi’s ‘development’ model is aimed, not at breaking out of this dynamic by say, trying to protect local finance and labour from the predations of multinational corporates (which Swadeshi, whether in its Gandhian or in its Hindutva avatar, and however woolly-headedly, did seek to do), but clearly at ratifying it and facilitating it. The hyper-masculinity that garbs Modi’s model is then reinforced by the hyper-masculinity underlying that very global order that it ratifies and reinforces. Not only does this nullify the swadeshi argument completely, it in fact makes a nationalistic virtue out of representing Indian labour as cheap; crucially, as an incentive for multinationals to invest, it implicitly guarantees that that labour will remain cheap. In doing so, Modi is also implicitly ratifying existing caste and class hierarchies and the masculinized systems of oppression that they sustain on (Vijayan 2012) – a matter of some importance to the upper- and middle-caste and -class electorate.

Modi’s public claims to having a 56-inch chest were first made during the 2007 Gujarat elections, as part of his projection as a strong, assertive leader. The metonymic expression – which has subsequently become a trademark of ‘brand Modi’ – simultaneously communicated pride (the swelling of the chest); the strength, courage (‘guts’) and the potential to act strongly (through reference to sheer volume or capacity); blatant machismo (insofar as an inordinately large chest-size[8] indicates a deliberate cultivation of muscularity, and thus a will to hyper-masculinity); as well as the latent violence implicit in such machismo. The 2007 elections marked the moment when Modi began to aspire for central leadership, as well as – and consequently – the beginning of his attempt to move away from his 2002 reputation, towards projecting a figure that would be more acceptable on a national scale. This was done not so much by denying or apologizing for the 2002 violence as by simply ignoring it, emphasizing ‘development’ and suggesting that any emphasis on his communal past was ‘playing politics’, when all he sincerely wanted was ‘development’ (Shamni Pande). What remained unsaid but implicit was that the path to that ‘development’ was guaranteed by the capacity and ability to unleash violence of the kind perpetrated in 2002. This is the implication of Modi’s response to Mulayam Singh Yadav criticism of his communal politics: that it takes ‘guts’ to be blatantly, violently communal, and that that display of guts – i.e., of the will to brutalize and repress – is a necessary element of ‘vikas’. For Modi and Moditva then, violent communalism is an essential aspect of, and is therefore integral to, the path to ‘development’.

This is particularly evident in the consequences to the ‘Gujarat model of development’ that are gradually coming to light:

Gujarat topped the list as the ‘worst state’ for labour unrest in the Economic Survey 2011, witnessing the maximum incidences of strikes, lockouts and other forms of unrest on various financial and disciplinary grounds…. Under such circumstances, an investment boom and Industry’s soaring confidence in Modi government’s ability to control any undue disturbance by establishing the ‘rule of law’ is indicative of the crucial link between the ‘Gujarat Development Model’ and, what some might see, as the totalitarian roots of Modi’s governance regime.(Nigam, 8)

Corporate investment was bolstered ‘by the severely compromised ability of the Labour Department to implement labour laws and the special favours offered to the corporate groups’ (Sood and Kalayiarasan, Frontline). The latter has been critiqued as ‘crony capitalism’ by Modi’s supporters, leading Gautam Adani, head of the Adani group (one of the biggest corporate beneficiaries of Modi’s ‘development’ model)[9] to say,

“Crony capitalism should not be there…. But how you define crony capitalism is another issue…. If you are, basically, working closely with the government, that doesn’t mean it’s cronycapitalism.”The state government, Adani said, had been a facilitator. (Quoted in ‘The Narendra Modi model of development’)[10]

Adani is not the only indicator of the ‘Gujarat model of development’ being essentially founded on ‘crony capitalism’: state ‘facilitation’ by way of land and financial sops granted to L&T, Essar, the Ambanis, Tatas, and other such multinational as well as national corporate giants (see Mehta; Sweetheart Deals, Hardnews) all reaffirm this understanding. With Modi taking over as Prime Minister, this form of capitalism promises to become the national norm. The current Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan’s warning against crony capitalism is instructive, in this regard: it suggests that the threat is real enough now on a national scale, for even the RBI Governor to speak out against it. It is also instructive that Rajan had also pointed out that ‘India had the highest number of billionaires per trillion dollars of GDP after Russia…. Rajan had said “three factors — land, natural resources, and government contracts or licenses — are the predominant sources of the wealth of our billionaires. And all of these factors come from the government.” (‘Crony capitalism a big threat…’)

The peculiar system being referred to as ‘crony capitalism’ here is arguably not capitalism at all but an even more repressive and rapacious blend of elements of feudalism – signalled by the performance of patronage towards particular individuals as much as by statements such as Anil Ambani’s reference to Modi as ‘king of kings’ (‘Vibrant Gujarat Summit…’) – and of corporatocracy – evidenced by the concerted takeover of agricultural land, water, electricity, etc., by the corporates that are the beneficiaries of Modi’s patronage. Be that as it may, this model of ‘development’ is characterized by the state’s facilitation, protection and even subsidizing of big corporate business, and its further fortification against any challenges by projecting it as being in the national interest, and thereby garbing it in nationalism. That nationalism is itself founded on a discourse of violent communalism as much as on the glorification of a deeply feudal, patriarchal and hierarchical construct, the ‘Hindu rashtra’. Modi’s model of ‘development’ thus in no way constitutes a shift away from the communal politics of 2002: rather, that communal politics has now found big corporate support, has garbed itself as ‘developmental’ nationalism through that corporate connection, openly celebrates its machismo, and in turn guarantees the depredations of those corporate entities that back it.

III

After the 2014 elections, one of the most bandied-about sentiments was that the NDA and the BJP in particular had finally got a comprehensive electoral mandate, following decades of elections throwing up fractured mandates. The sense that the election verdict gave was that the sentiment in favour of Modi – and therefore of Moditva – was, if not unanimous, overwhelming on a national scale. In actual fact though,

Far from spelling the end of a fractured polity, the 2014 results show just how fragmented the vote is. It is precisely because the vote is so fragmented that the BJP was able to win 282 seats with just 31% of the votes…. With the combined vote share of the BJP and Congress – the two major national parties – adding up to just over 50%, almost half of all those who voted in these elections voted for some other party. (‘BJP’s 31%…’).

If we accept the argument that there is greater pan-Indian cohesiveness amongst the upper-castes and upper classes of the country than amongst the lower castes and lower classes, and that this tends to consolidate a predominantly upper-caste form of nationalism (Vijayan 2013), then, arguably, Modi’s victory is an indication of the pan-Indian consolidation of upper-caste and upper class votes in his favour, and not of an overwhelming popularity. In the first-past-the-post Indian electoral system, region-wise minorities of upper-caste and upper class votes swing and accrue to a national majority, because, conversely, region-wise majorities of lower-caste and lower class votes could not translate into a pan-Indian majority: this would explain the somewhat paradoxical election result in the face of the actual election figures.

‘Moditva’, and the Modi model of ‘development’ then, are far from being unanimously approved by the nation. However, given the structural factors that have led to their emergence as the definitive agenda for national policy, what results is the rather unexpected and peculiar possibility of what is now effectively a dictatorship operating through the mechanisms of a supposedly democratically functioning administrative and political apparatus. Modi’s power today is reminiscent of Indira Gandhi’s in her heydays, immediately before the Emergency. In light of the aggressiveness and impunity with which Hindutva agendas like re-conversion to Hinduism, revoking of Article 370 on Kashmir, attacks on Muslim and Christian, and so on are now being regularly executed, it seems a matter of time before another Emergency-like political instrument will be exercised – but this time with the full power of multinational business as well as of the network of Hindutva organizations to back it. The BJP’s election slogan – ‘Acchhe din aane wale hain’ (good days are coming) – is now, evidently and reverberantly, materializing for it.

P. K. Vijayan, Asst. Prof., Dept. of English,  Hindu College, Delhi University

Karen Gabriel,  Assoc. Prof., Dept. of English,   St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University

References

‘All India Postpoll 2014-Survey Findings’. CNNIBN-CSDS Survey, 2014. Web 27 Nov. 2014.

Bano, Arjumand and Rajiv Srivastava. ‘Will take a 56­inch chest to turn UP into Gujarat, Modi to Mulayam’. The Times of India. 24 Jan 2014: India. 29 Nov 2014.

Bellù, Lorenzo G. “Development and development paradigms: A (reasoned) review of prevailing visions.” Issue Papers EASYPol Module 102. May 2011. Web. 28 Nov 2014.

‘BJP’s 31% lowest vote share of any party to win majority’. The Times of India 19 May 2014. Web. 30 Nov 2014.

Butalia, Urvashi and Tanika Sarkar, eds. Women and the Hindu Right: A Collection of Essays. New Delhi: Kali, 1995. Print.

Corbridge, Stuart and James Harriss. Reinventing India: Liberalization. Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000. Print.

“Crony Capitalism”.  BusinessDictionary.com. Web. 30 Nov 2014

‘Crony capitalism a big threat to countries like India, RBI chief Raghuram Rajan says’. The Times of India 12 Aug 2014. Web. 30 Nov 2014.

Darji, Himanshu. ‘One fifth of Vibrant Gujarat MoUs fail to take off: Government data’. Economic Times Bureau 09 Jan 2013. Web. 28 Nov 2014.

Dev, Nirendra. Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth. Manas Publications, New Delhi: 2012

GPD. ‘Moditva and the Shrinking of the Liberal Space.’Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 43 No. 1 (Jan. 5 – 11, 2008), pp. 9-10

Farooqui, Adnan and Kanungo Pralay. ‘Tracking Moditva: An Analysis of the 2007 Gujarat Elections Campaign.’Contemporary Perspectives Vol. 2, no. 2 (July-December, 2008): 222–245.

Ganesan, Prathibha. ‘Development, Pride and the ‘Modi’fication of India Through Public Relations’. Bodhi Commons 28 March 2014. Web. 28 Nov 2014.

Gupta, Anamika. ‘Price of Development in Gujarat under Narendra Modi: An Exploration of his Model of Growth and Governance’. Third Module Paper. European Peace University, 05 July 2013. Web. 29 Nov 2014.

Hansen, Thomas Blom. The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1999. Print.

Ilaiah, Kancha. Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy. Calcutta: Samya, 1996. Print.

‘It was Moditva, not just development’. Business & Economy 24 Jan 2008: Special Feature. Web. 28 Nov 2014.

Jaffrelot, Christophe. The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s. New Delhi: Penguin, 1996. Print.

Kothari, Rajni. ‘Pluralism and Secularism: Lessons of Ayodhya’. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 27, Nos. 51/52 (Dec. 19 – 26, 1992), pp. 2695-2698.

Mander, Harsh. ‘Worshipping false gods in India’. Livemint 06 April 2014. Web. 29 Nov 2014

Mehta, M. ‘Corporate Cronyism in ‘Vibrant Gujarat’’. Hardnews 10 July 2012. Web. 27 Nov 2014.

Nandy, Ashis. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983

‘Narendra Modi anointed BJP PM candidate, Advani disappointed’. The Times of India, 13 Sept 2013: ‘India’. Web. 27 Nov 2014

Nayar, Lola. ‘Synergy, Thy Name’. OutlookIndia.com. 31 Dec 2012: Business. Web. 27 Nov 2014.

Nigam, Shipra. ‘Modi’s India: Gujarat and the Illusion of Development’. Rev. of Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat, Atul Sood, ed. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières 23 May 2013. Web. 27 Nov 2014.

Pande, Amitabha. ‘The Moditva model of inclusiveness’. Business Line 26 Nov 2014: Opinion. Web. 29 Nov 2014.

Pande, Shamni. ‘Case study: The strategy and tactics behind the creation of Brand Modi’. Business Today 19 May 2014. Web. 30 Nov 2014.

Prabhakar, Binoy. ‘How an American lobbying company Apco Worldwide markets Narendra Modi to the world’. Economic Times Bureau 09 Dec 2012. Web. 28 Nov 2014.

Sarkar, Tanika. Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion and Cultural Nationalism. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001. Print.

Suhrud, Tridip. ‘Modi and Gujarati ‘Asmita”. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan. 5 – 11, 2008), pp. 11-13

Swaroop, Vijay. ‘Modi uncut: tailor who stitches for BJP leader’. Hindustan Times 08 April 2014. Web. 29 Nov 2014

Thapar, Karan. ”Modification’ of Politics’. Hindustan Times. 29 Dec 2007. Web. 29 Nov. 2014

‘The Narendra Modi model of development’. Livemint 09 May 2014. Web. 30 Nov 2014.

Valo, Tessa. ‘A Glimpse on the Hindu Nationalist Ideology & Religiopolitics’. 2007. Web. 28 Nov 2014.

Vanaik, Achin. The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity and Secularization. London: Verso, 1997. Print.

Vishvanathan, Shiv. ‘Narendra Modi’s Symbolic War’. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 49, No. 22 (May 31 – June 06, 2014), pp. 10-13

‘Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2013: Anil Ambani compares Narendra Modi to Gandhi, Sardar Patel’. The Times of India 11 Jan 2013. Web. 29 Nov 2014.

Vijayan, Prem Kumar. “Making the Pitrubhumi: Masculine Hegemony and the Formation of the Hindu Nation”. Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2012. Web.

Vijayan, Prem Kumar. ‘Caste Identity Versus Class Solidarity: Some Speculative Notes’. Sanhati.com 26 January 2013. Web.

Vohra, Ishta. ‘Rise of Moditva’. Deccan Chronicle 10 May 2014. n. pag. Web. 29 Nov. 2014

Zavos, John. The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism in India. Delhi: OUP, 2000. Print.

[1]      See for instance The Times of India report, ‘Narendra Modi anointed BJP PM candidate, Advani disappointed’, 13 September 2013

[2]      Interestingly, the term was apparently coined by cartoonist Sudhir Tailang, in a cartoon on Modi. See https://twitter.com/sudhirtailang/status/438194204024397824

[3]      For a fairly succinct account of the main themes of Hindu nationalism, see Tessa Valo. Some of the classic studies in this enormous field include the work of Butalia and Sarkar; Stuart and Harriss; Hansen; Jaffrelot; Vanaik; Sarkar; Illaiah; Zavos; among many others.

[4]      Indeed, there appears to be some move in the Sangh parivar to dispose of the Constitution itself, and replace it with a new one that not only creates a more centralized governmental structure, but a more explicitly authoritarian one. See the draft constitution available at www.samarthbharat.com/files/newconst.doc

[5]      First used by Nandy but elaborated in the sense used here by Kothari.

[6]      Such a standard account may be found, for instance in Bellù.

[7]      There is some indication that the investment rush is petering off; although figures are not available at this time, inquiries under the Right To Information (RTI) Act have revealed that only ‘23.52 per cent of MoUs signed during ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summits are under implementation’ (Mehta). See also Darji. This reconfirms the fact that the model has been hyped to be much more than it actually is, in terms of providing ‘development’.

[8]      It may be of passing interest to note that Modi’s actual chest size is reputed be 44 inches (Swaroop) – and the hyperbole is telling.

[9]      Some of the other major corporate beneficiaries in Gujarat, of Modi’s ‘development’ model, include Tata, L&T, Orpat Limited, Nirma, the Essar Group, Ford India, Reliance Industries, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, etc. In Sanand SEZ alone, 425 companies are going to set up production units. (‘The Narendra Modi model of development’)

[10]     Compare this to the definition of crony capitalism on Businessdictionary.com: ‘An economy that is nominally free-market, but allows for preferential regulation and other favorable government intervention based on personal relationships. In such a system, the false appearance of “pure” capitalism is publicly maintained to preserve the exclusive influence of well-connected individuals.’ (“Crony Capitalism”)

This article was first published in 2015

Comments are closed.