Hindu Right wins Indian election with more seats and votes

The long drawn out Indian Parliament elections finally got over last week. The right-wing Hindutva party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP, was voted back to power with more votes and seats than last time.

Though it was certain that BJP will be leading the seat tally, many thought they may not get the majority on their own. But when the results came in, it became clear that BJP is stronger than ever before, bettering the Modi ‘wave’ of 2014. Out of the 542 seats that went to polls, BJP lead National Democratic Alliance won 353 with BJP alone winning 303. This was an improvement by 6.5% of vote share and 17 seats for the NDA.

 

The result has stunned the liberal intelligentsia not only in India but also among India watchers all over the world.

How can a government with a questionable track record and nothing to boast off as performance win the elections with more votes and seats ?

Several commentators have come with different explanations. The explanations offered I feel can be consolidated into three streams.

One set of commentators felt that the stunning BJP victory is due to the  good work of the Modi government. They opined that even though the macro economic indicators did not augur well for the government, the voters were satisfied enough to give Modi a second chance. Moreover they felt that Modi and BJP was seen to be less corrupt, more efficient in governance and more effective in tackling issues like terrorism and national security. According to them BJP successfully made the election a presidential one and the aura of Modi prevailed over other things.

On the other hand another set of commentators lamented that the election results showed the effect of rigging of the Hindu mind. As per their view average Hindu voter has become intolerant of the concept of secularism and has voted for a majoritarian India where minorities are second class citizens who should live only at the mercy of the Hindu majority. They claimed that the high decibel propaganda of umpteen number of cash rich Hindutva organisations using mainstream media and social media using falsehoods and half-truths rigged minds of a large section of voters to such an extend that non-performance of the Modi government did not stop them from voting for BJP.

A third view was that the victory of BJP was mainly because of propaganda. There was a huge mismatch in money spend by BJP and the rest. The huge amount BJP got from anonymous donors using the recently introduced Electoral bonds made BJP propaganda very powerful. Also BJP had a stranglehold on mass media, both in government and private sector which they used effectively to create an aura of invincibility to Modi. Use of big Data to tailor-made their appeal to different sections of voters and use of fake news through social media powered BJP victory.

My take is there may be truth is some points in all the three streams of opinion.

Pre and post poll surveys showed that Modi lead BJP was considered to be less corrupt and fairly large number of electorate was reasonably happy with the  Government’s performance. Even though Modi government was seen to be giving away huge incentives to big Industrialists at the expense of the State, the opposition were not able to convey that message to large section of electorate.

The bombing inside Pakistan at Balakot in retaliation to terror attack on Indian security personal in Kashmir boosted the popularity of Modi. Even though there was no strong evidence to show that India attained anything by that attack the hyper nationalist fervour that it generated helped BJP a lot.

The Hindutva propaganda  for a Hindu State to replace secular India has been going on ever since the origin of the semi fascist Hindu voluntary organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925. BJP, which is the political wing of RSS, used its time in the government in the Centre and States to further this agenda.

Hinduism do not have a church or a Pope and is a very diverse and decentralised way of belief. With umpteen number of castes and fairly rigid caste hierarchy it was difficult for a person or an organisation to control it. This was a major stumbling block for the BJP  to create a unified Hindu vote bank.  To overcome it the RSS has been systematically infiltrating Hindu organisations all over India. Even though the leadership of the RSS is firmly in the hands of upper caste Maharashtra Brahmins, they were successful in infiltrating different caste organisations and temple trusts so as to control them. Almost all  Hindu pilgrimages are now controlled by RSS. Each pilgrim is indoctrinated with myths and falsehoods which demonize minorities while fuelling the insecurities of Hindus and deride secularism. Such a relentless cash rich campaign must have had some effect in voting pattern of this election.

This election also showed that not only Muslim candidates were shunned , but in seats where there is a sizeable presence of Muslim voters, there was a huge Hindu consolidation against political parties which were actively seeking votes from Muslims. Thus the Congress, Samajvadi Party , BSP, RJD and TMC lost many of their traditional Hindu voters to BJP. Even the TRS in Telangana  paid the price for allying with Owaisi’s party. Such trends indicate that  othering of Muslims in Indian society is now at a dangerous level. The easy victory of Hindutva terror accused who is facing the charge of killing innocent Muslims also show that large section of Indian society has been sold to the idea that minorities are second class citizens living at the mercy and whims and fancies of majority community.

So is secularism dead in India ? Will majoritarianism  always rule in the future ?

Indian society was always a deeply religious society. It was also a society divided by strict hierarchy of caste. As caste based jobs disappear with industrialisation and urbanisation, and as villagers shift to city slums in search of jobs, caste based voting is on the decline. At the same time superstitious religious beliefs deepened. The RSS and it’s affiliates has now a monopoly control on most of the Hindu temples. Thus they were successful in creating a Hindu identity among the people. Even among backward castes and Dalits they could succeed because instead of the Liberals who constantly remind them of past and present caste oppression, the Sangh Parivar was able to appropriate them as “proud” foot soldiers of Hindutva movement.

This time the Hindutva alliance of NDA got around 45% of votes and 65% seats. Hindus constitute around 80% of Indian population. That means a sizeable section of Hindus has voted against NDA. Moreover many who has voted for BJP might have voted because they fell for the propaganda. If Modi government continues to perform in a lacklustre way, if the day-to-day issues of the people at large are not addressed satisfactorily, many of these voters will shun the BJP in future elections. If they have a credible Opposition to vote for they will unseat BJP in more states and even in the Centre. So to conclude that secularism is dead and buried in India will be premature.

 

Constitutional morality triumphs over Societal morality

Today, September 6, 2018 was a historical day for India.

Today the Supreme Court of  India upheld the point of view that Constitutional morality should rule over societal morality. That means the morality that is envisaged by the Indian Constitution of 1950, a democratic liberal morality that ensures freedom of expression and equality before law should triumph over societal morality which considers some Indian citizens, those belonging to LGBTQ community, unequal.

Pic Courtesy Times of India

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Land for harvesting votes

Ever since Modi became Prime Minister of India, Yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s business has expanded by manifold. Not only his spiritual Yoga business but also his “chemical free” consumer goods  business.

Baba who had claimed his “genuine” Ayurvedic medical products and yoga can cure AIDS and Homosexuality has now become the leading player in whole range of products for home use. It seems the tremendous support Modi got from Baba Ramdev for catching votes is being reciprocated by giving huge chunks of land at big discounts as per this Reuters report.

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Determined to lose heart and minds of Kashmiris

The ruling Hindutva party in India, the BJP, is it seems determined to antagonise the local population in Kashmir valley. They act as if they only consider the land of Kashmir as part of India , not the people living there.  This is reflected in the award given to an army officer who became infamous by using a civilian tied to a jeep as a human shield against stone pelting by Kashmiris.

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Ambedkar on Hinduism

Today we remember the architect of Indian Constitution, Dr B R Ambedkar on his birth anniversary.

Here is an excerpt from his 1936 book “Annihilation of Caste”, actually a speech that was never delivered.

[9:] Caste may be bad. Caste may lead to conduct so gross as to be called man’s inhumanity to man. All the same, it must be recognized that the Hindus observe Caste not because they are inhuman or wrong-headed. They observe Caste because they are deeply religious. People are not wrong in observing Caste. In my view, what is wrong is their religion, which has inculcated this notion of Caste. If this is correct, then obviously the enemy you must grapple with is not the people who observe Caste, but the Shastras which teach them this religion of Caste. Criticising and ridiculing people for not inter- dining or inter-marrying, or occasionally holding inter-caste dinners and celebrating inter-caste marriages, is a futile method of achieving the desired end. The real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Shastras.

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Freethinkers Meet – Dare to think

Excitement is rising among Freethinkers of Kerala, India as the two day event that brings together the humanist Freethinkers of the state for an intellectual feast is fast approaching.

Organised under the aegis  of “Freethinkers” Facebook group and Kerala Freethinkers Forum the Freethinkers meet 2017  is scheduled for April 22 and 23 at Vyloppilli Samskrithi Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram.

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Oppressor at home the bigger villain ?

India’s Hindutva ruling party and its leader Modi wants to make India a Hindu country run by rules and regulations of Hindu traditions. They garner votes by spreading hate of other religions and its followers.  But interestingly  here we see follower of a non Hindu religion, Islam, petitioning the Prime minister for help.

 

When mother-of-two-girls, Shagufta Shah, became pregnant a third time, her husband asked her to get an abortion.
Shamshad Sayeed didn’t want another daughter; neither did his parents.
“They feared that if I deliver a girl again, she will be a burden,” Shagufta said. “When I refused repeatedly, they started torturing me. On March 24, they forcibly tried to take me to the hospital and, when I resisted, they started beating me mercilessly.” Failing to get the child aborted, Shamshad and his family threw Shagufta out of the house.
“He (Shamshad) verbally gave me triple talaq and I was left on the road to die,” she said.
Taking a cue from fellow Saharanpur resident Atiya Sabri, Shagufta too decided to raise her voice against the instant divorce practice and wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for help.
The triple talaq is a Sharia law practice which allows men to end a marriage simply by saying “talaq” to their wives three times in succession.
While many Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia have outlawed the custom for years, India -home to the world’s third-largest Muslim population- continues to allow it.

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Shagufta approached the local police station the same day she was thrown out. “However, they took my complaint and only assured me that they would look into the matter. They did not register an FIR and chased us away,” she said.
“Since then, my brother and my father are getting threatening calls and they (Shamshad and her inlaws) are threatening to kill us.”
Failing to get any help from the police, Shagufta sent a letter to the PM with copies to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the National Commission for Women as well as the district magistrate and top cop.
“Mr Prime minister, it is my humble request to please help this poor and helpless woman. I also request you to ensure that this evil tradition ends so that woman like me and other victims get justice and live a dignified life,” she wrote.

 

She believes she will get help from the Prime Minister. Modi will be happy to help her and to underline the pet rhetoric of his party that those living in a Hindu country cannot follow personal laws of a foreign religion. This will also help BJP to pose itself as a champion of women’s rights. Non BJP opposition who is taking a stand of minorities themselves should decide their personal laws can easily be exposed here as pandering to patriarchs of Muslim community for votes.

For muslim women living in very conservative families, BJP’s Hindutva may seem much less oppressive than that they face day in and day out in their homes. For them BJP government will be a better ally than non BJP governments which depends on votes controlled by Muslim patriarchs.

Take home message is this:

If a severely patriarchal tribe do not reform itself, women of the tribe may ask and get help from a more powerful patriarch of a rival tribe.

If you want secularism and is troubled by gender oppressive religious laws, you should be in the fore front of the Muslim women’s struggle against oppressive patriarchal customs. If you are not there, the void will be filled by Hindutva and we may only get a Hindutva version of patriarchy instead of the Islamic one.