The Anatomy of BJP : Ahead of 2019

The Anatomy of BJP : Ahead of 2019

 

Disclaimer : I am not writing in support of any political party. These are just my views based on analysis of one party over last 3-4 years trying to give constructive criticism. Shortly I would be coming up with another blog about the opposition party as well.

 

The BJP has a unique cocktail of voter bases. They are all right wing, but differ in the degree to which they are so. There are three main types. The first is the Extreme Right (ER). This is the hardcore ‘Hindus are the best, screw the rest’ category. These include the Karni Sena types. These voters may secretly say ‘only Modi can keep Muslims in check’ or ‘women should be fully covered’. Some call them ‘The Fringe’. This fringe is a solid chunk of the BJP’s support base. Sure, only a few engage in the actual violence or make loony statements in public. However, the number of people mentally nodding their heads and saying ‘sahi baat hai’ to them runs into millions. The ER is a fantastic set of voters. They don’t think much. They feel. Once voters can be swayed by emotion, they are easier to manipulate. The BJP laps them up as they come in hordes, take Lord Ram’s name and press the lotus button.

The second set of BJP voters are the Liberal Right (LR), or the Aspirational India voter. These are the educated ones, who need jobs, GDP growth, economic activity and opportunities. They want a government that can give them that. They also want modern values like freedom — to date, drink, marry whoever they want. They want an India they can be proud of. More than anything, they want more money in their pocket. The LR are in fact the economically right-wing voters. They can be college students, doctors, lawyers, MBAs and of course, don’t forget the stereotypical ‘software programmer’ type. The coding guys who want to tell their US friends that India is doing well.

The third category is the Middle Right (MR), who lie somewhere in the centre. They harbour a certain sense of Hindu entitlement — Hindus being in majority — but they won’t get violent over it. They also want economic growth, although they aren’t sure about the freedom aspects that younger, educated Indians want. These are the small and medium businessmen and government servants. Many ‘Sanghis’ fall in this category. The MR are somewhat passive, hugely loyal and the biggest chunk of the BJP’s support base.

Here’s the thing. The BJP needs all three to win 2019. If one group slips, BJP loses. During L K Advani’s time, it had the ER and MR, but not the LR. Hence, the BJP lost. In 2014, however, it discovered the perfect glue to bring all three together — Modi.

All of them, from the Karni Sena to the RSS uncle to the software programmer, loved the idea of Hindu resurgence that the new regime promised. The ER, MR and LR live in peace most of the time. Sometimes, they want things the other group doesn’t want, and that’s okay. The software programmer type may love to see Modi in Davos. It doesn’t really matter to the Karni Sena. Similarly, the ER may want a temple in Ayodhya, the LR don’t really care.

However, sometimes there is a problem. Trouble brews when agendas clash between these groups, particularly the ER and LR. That’s when the BJP gets a massive headache. That’s what happened in the Padmaavat drama. The Karni Sena protested against the movie. The BJP, not wanting to annoy its ER base, looked the other way. The Karni Sena went on a rampage, even scaring a bus full of school kids. That’s where the LR began to panic (as would any sane person). After all, software programmers may want Hindu pride, but not mobs scaring their kids. As the LR watched the ER go out of control, and the BJP doing little, they began to get nervous.

For the party, this is worrisome. The last thing BJP wants is to be seen as the BJP under Advani. It needs the ER, but also the LR.
So what is the party to do? It’s always going to be a tightrope walk. However, in the case of Padmaavat, the Karni Sena was given too much slack. From a moral and legal standpoint, it should have been quelled much earlier. Politically, the party came dangerously close to a major blunder. Had the mob violence led to lives being lost or people getting hurt, things could have gone out of control. The BJP should have acted faster. It needs to know which ‘fringe’ act is just empty noise, and which one can become a national-level blowup. It did act finally. The censors cleared the film. The courts supported it too. However, looking back, it could have been handled better.

The BJP’s three bases are still somewhat intact. However, the LR are nervous. The party needs to check the fringe on a war footing. It not only makes India unsafe, but also shakes the BJP’s own foundation. It should remember its base is no longer just the Karni Sena. It is also the software programmers.

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Moving from Indira to Nehru, Mr Modi.

Once in a lifetime does a person gets to be The Abraham Lincoln of America,the Nelson Mandela of South Africa, The Mao of China  or  The Nehru of India.Its an opportunity for Mr.Modi to be a part of the elite league of World leaders, to become immortal ever with the country’s name.Its upto him to make the shift from Popular to Legitimate!

The BJP’s monumental electoral triumph in Uttar Pradesh, especially after a massive victory in the state’s parliamentary elections in 2014, invites reflection on two important political concepts: Dominance and hegemony. The BJP’s political dominance is now a commonplace observation, but Is it the beginning  BJP’s hegemony as well? Real political matters are involved. And the success of future political strategies might well depend on which concept best captures the realities of Narendra Modi’s India.
Let us start with the differences between Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, viewed as the two most powerful leaders of India after Independence. What was the nature of their power and the polity they ruled? Which one does Modi resemble most? Where might a polity ruled by Modi be headed?
The basic question here is not about Modi’s economics, which is fundamentally different from Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s, both of whom were on the left. While Modi is no free market proponent, he is best described as right of centre on economics. The question about hegemony and domination concentrates on politics, not economics.
The basic difference between hegemony and dominance is that the Dominance represents power stemming from persuasion, while Hegemony represents, power from coercion. In democracies, we don’t get pure hegemony or pure dominance. Hegemony is often associated with totalitarian polities, like communism on the left and fascism on the right. The Soviet Union and Maoist China did exercise coercion, but most minds had been ideologically captured. Even the non-state citizen space, the so-called civil society, was inhabited by ideologically conforming and state-supporting organisations.
Democracies construct hegemony differently. They allow freedom to civil society; opposition parties also openly contest the government. They don’t curtail freedom of speech. Even with such freedoms and adversarial opportunities, the power of the Congress party under Nehru spread to all parts of India, with the exception of Kashmir and parts of the Northeast. Only in 1957, 10 years into Nehru’s tenure as PM, did one state, Kerala, acquire a non-Congress government. Opposition parties fought hard, but could not win against him. Also, there was vigorous debate within the Congress. Nehru was sometimes defeated in intra-party debates. Finally, civil society was not repressed.
Nehru was one of the “unchallenged rulers of the world, perhaps the only one who ruled by love and not fear”. Ruled by love, not fear!These words explain why Nehru came to be viewed as a democratically legitimated hegemon of India.
In political practice, despite genetic lineage, Indira Gandhi was anti-Nehru. The masses, on the whole, adored her. But intra-party dissent was crushed; civil society organisations were harassed; government interfered in universities, getting left-leaning academics in positions of power; disagreeing judges were afraid; state-level leaders came to be appointed by her, not by regional wings of the party. Regardless, based on her personal popularity, the Congress party kept winning power in most states (except for 1977), though not in as many as under Nehru. She was dominant, not hegemonic.
In his politics, Modi is more like Indira Gandhi than Nehru. Under his leadership, the BJP is ruling in many more states than ever before. But opposition within the BJP rarely raises its head. Marginalised by Modi’s popularity, the seniors are fading away. An independent voice like Arun Shourie’s could not be accommodated in power, whereas Patel, Nehru’s adversary, was inside the cabinet. Hindu nationalist academics are being imposed on universities. Civil society organisations, opposed to Modi, fear retribution. It is extraordinarily hard to win 40 per cent or more of UP’s vote twice in a row, as Modi did. To this, add winning Maharashtra, a Congress bastion; Haryana and Assam, where the BJP was insignificant; increasing BJP vote share in Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; and keeping Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh intact. Punjab, Bihar and Delhi are Modi’s only notable electoral failures.
With this electoral record, Modi has become contemporary India’s most dominant political figure. When Karnataka goes to polls next year, he might even win a southern state. His victorious arc will thus touch all parts of India. No politician since Indira Gandhi has had such cross-regional electoral appeal.
However, like Indira Gandhi, his functioning between elections also departs from democratic principles. He does not stop intolerant organisations from running amok and unleashing violence. Freedom of speech is not a principle he loves. Ideological conformity and/or loyalty shape his political functioning.
Can Modi move from dominance to hegemony? From electoral legitimacy to rule by persuasion? Namely, consolidation of power is often necessary before it can be dispersed. Would he pick power dispersal as a preferred strategy? And what will be his approach to groups that remain suspicious and fearful, especially Muslims (and Christians)?
It is unlikely Modi would pick power dispersal over further power consolidation. The former is not his style

To remain Indira forever or become Nehru for a lifetime will be a challenge for Mr.Modi.For now, we should celebrate the man, the vision and the hope he brings for India.

Is it a failed Democracy?

The ascension to power of populist strongmen like Donald Trump in the U.S., Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Narendra Modi in India demonstrates the limits of electoral democracy as a system of truly representing the political will of the people. In all three cases, the numbers suggest that most voters wanted these individuals and the political parties that they respectively lead — the Republican Party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — to form the government, but the reality in each country veers away from these purely numerical electoral outcomes.

The logic of democracy proposes that the choice of the majority will stand in for the choice of the whole electorate; but in fact, those who did not choose these leaders or their parties find not only that their will is not being communicated, but that it is being thwarted, undermined, or worse, directly opposed. This is how a supposedly democratic process ends up undermining ‘the people’ for very large numbers of voters.

Judging from Mr. Trump’s statements during his bruising election campaign, his administration will work against racial, religious and sexual minorities, coming down hardest on immigrant communities in America. He has nevertheless won the electoral college votes necessary to be named President-elect. But it is the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, who has won the popular vote by well over 2 million votes, and counting. Protests against Mr. Trump have swept across American cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Austin, Boston and Miami, with hundreds or sometimes thousands of people asserting that he is “not my President”. The immediate aftermath of his election shows the U.S. to be a country utterly divided, calling into question the foundational “union” implied in its very name.

Mr. Erdogan and his AKP got elected with a decisive mandate of just below 50 per cent of the votes in the Turkish general elections of November 2015. But after the failed coup against him on July 15, 2016, he has come down hard on members of the Gülen Movement (followers of the shadowy cleric Fethullah Gülen) that engineered the coup attempt, and his political opponents loyal to the Kurdish nationalist party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). His government has arrested, jailed and fired tens of thousands of suspected Gülenists and Kurdish sympathisers, picking out individuals from civil society, the army, the judiciary, universities, the press and political outfits. Mr. Erdogan’s purges are pushing what is technically a multi-party democracy towards what looks increasingly like a one-party state.

Democracies everywhere appear to be in danger. Many electoral democracies are becoming outright illiberal; some are deteriorating into forms of competitive authoritarianism.Violence against Muslims, Dalits and tribals, curbs on dissent and criticism, attacks on secularism and tolerance, and a sharp decline in the freedom of the media and academia have become vandalised in the name of a new “nationalism”. Since this summer, Kashmiris have endured the worst crackdowns against civilians and the longest curfews of the past 30 years under the BJP-Peoples Democratic Party coalition government.

The system of representational democracy — whether based on an electoral college or first-past-the-post — is also opaque about why citizens vote for this or that party.

The challenge is not only for citizens to reconcile their own opinions and aspirations with those of their compatriots who have different political preferences. The onus is on the government of the day to acknowledge that just because it won the election does not mean it represents the actual plurality of voters, their views and their interests. The sitting government has to rise above the ideology of its particular party in order to take the totality of the electorate and citizenry along with it.

Progressive, liberal, secular, egalitarian citizens of all three big electoral democracies — India, Turkey and the U.S. — have to find ways to protect the diverse and inclusive character of their nations, to strengthen their constitutional foundations, and keep in check the illiberal, populist strongmen who have ascended to power with mandates that are numerically partial and morally compromised.

To quote President Lincoln, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Is it really FOR THE PEOPLE?!