The BJP is facing the heat of anti-incumbency wave in Gujarat, a state it has ruled for 22 long years and whose “model of development” is used extensively by Narendra Modi to build his “pro-development” image and sweep elections in one after another state. There is a clear sign of mass discontent against the saffron party’s rule in the state, following the disaster of demonetisation and lately the roll-out of the GST, which has led to massive turmoil in the middle and small-scale industries, especially the textile industry of Surat and other areas of Gujarat. Mapping this wave of anti-incumbency with the attempts by the Congress party to make a headway to power in the state, many media outfits and political pundits are forecasting a defeat of the BJP and a possible formation of a Congress government with the support of the 12 percent Patidars, 7 percent Dalits and the less than 9.67 percent Muslim population of the state. However, despite all troubles and internal strife in Gujarat, it will be unwise to write-off the prospect of the BJP, which is under a strong obligation to perform on the home turf of Narendra Modi-Amit Shah and increase its seat tally by hook or crook. Amit Shah has already placed a target before the strongly built and well-funded organisation of the entire Sangh Parivar and there is a reluctance in the BJP headquarters to accept anything below 150 seats in the 182 seat-strong Gujarat assembly.
For the BJP and the entire Sangh Parivar, Gujarat epitomises the best of communal polarisation. It’s the state that remained one of the classic laboratories of modern Hindutva fascism and it showed how rich political dividend can be earned by communally polarising the majority community and bringing the backward castes, tribals and Dalits under the Hindutva umbrella. Narendra Modi’s communal bait was accepted in Gujarat due to the extreme Islamophobic current that flew in the state for years and united the majority community, especially the upper-caste economically elite and influential Hindus, against the minority Muslims, who have been portrayed as a purported threat to the existence of Hindus, who happens to be 88.57 percent of the state’s population. It was the incessant hatred mongering by the RSS outfits against the Muslims of the state since the early 1990s that the Gujarati upper-caste Hindus started flocking under the banner of the BJP and other Sangh outfits in large numbers and helped the saffron camp to build up an iron-strong organisational presence in the state. It was this very iron-strong organisation built since the 1990s by the RSS that the Sangh Parivar could execute a state-wide pogrom against Muslims in March 2002. Though Narendra Modi’s government gave a thumping support to the RSS and Bajrang Dal henchmen in executing the most heinous genocide in post-colonial India, it was the organisational strength and network of influential supporters that helped the saffron camp in implementing the pogrom so successfully, averting all legal consequences and constitutional challenges.
Despite severe nationwide and even international condemnation of the pogrom masterminded by Narendra Modi and his sycophants, the conscience of the upper-caste Hindu Gujaratis was not affected. The regular upper-caste Gujarati Hindu elite didn’t feel ashamed of supporting the same saffron camp that was responsible for the goriest atrocities committed against the Muslims, rather the post-2002 ostracisation and subjugation of the minority Muslim community gave an adrenaline rush to the upper-caste and backward caste Hindu Gujaratis, who took pride in the fact that under the saffron banner of Hindutva, they have shown the “traitor” Muslims their “rightful place” in Gujarat’s society and reversed “historic wrongdoings” by the secular politicians. As the progressive and democratic voices throughout India and the world booed the Modi-model, which sustained on suppressing the minority community, evicting the rural poor from their land holdings, snatching forests and land from the tribal people to feed the ever-growing land-hungry corporate sharks, the Gujarati upper-caste Hindu, engaged in trade, stock speculation and usurers role showed the growing revenue of their class and community as a sign that the Modi-model is useful for them. As this section of the society owns nearly 70 percent of Gujarat’s trade and commerce, their political affiliation becomes the official endorsement of entire Gujarat to a particular political camp, so far which was the BJP.
It may be true that a large section of the Gujarati traders and small and mid-sized capitalists are now unhappy with Narendra Modi’s handling of the economy; it may be true that a large number of Hindu youth are exasperated with the BJP regime that they are seeing since childhood, but at the end of the day their allegiance to the dogma of Hindutva, which not only promises them a false notion of empowerment but also keeps their businesses free from labour movements or their landed estates free from peasant discontent, remains strong, though their love for the BJP may flicker at times. With such undercurrent of loyalty towards a dying political establishment, caused by the shared interest in bigotry and from a strong desire to prevent the rise of the poor people as a political bloc, it’s evident that most of the upper-caste, rich, elite and upwardly mobile urban and rural middle-class will extend their support to the BJP, even after Rahul Gandhi selling them dreams of change and transformation from a revived Congress podium.
At the end of the day, the tides and trends of Gujarat shows that the majority of the Hindu community, across caste and community lines, are united under the Hindutva banner with the cohesive of bigotry and are moved by a fear of a purported Islamic aggression, which the BJP and the Hindutva camp has used for years as a bait to keep the majority community under its grip. The dominant Hindu elite and middle-class may dislike the BJP for each of its notorious economic policies that wrecked havoc on Gujarat’s trade and commerce, but they will still support the BJP as the party will promise them a protection from a purported Muslim threat and it’s under the rule of the BJP that the Hindu upper-caste elites got the quasi-official status of being the ruling community and could subjugate the Muslims, the Dalits and a section of the backward castes under its jackboot. The Congress or the AAP is no match for this, even when they have kept mum on the issue of communal polarisation, hatred and subjugation of the Muslims. Hindutva sells and thus, all contenders are claiming their share of the pie of Savarkar.
All political campaigns for Gujarat assembly election have one focal theme, Narendra Modi. A self-styled proud Gujarati man from a “humble background” making his way to the topmost political position of the country and becoming a brand himself; this is the story that the BJP is selling since so long. Modi is the modern messiah of Hindu Savarnas and he is the promised one to take India to a glorious bovine-rule, which remains an orgasmic fantasy of the Hindutva camp and its marketing tool as well. While the Congress is trying to prove that the Gujarati messiah, who made tall claims and hard-sold the “Gujarat model” of development is a con man, with no real motive to provide all-round development to the people but is interested in only serving the interest of few corporate houses and determined to wreck India’s economy through his disastrous economic policies, it is too entrapped in the Modi-mire, unable to move beyond Modi and show itself as a power bloc independent of Modi’s influence. By caricaturing Narendra Modi, by attacking him repeatedly, the Congress is also accepting that it’s not fighting the BJP, but Narendra Modi personally in his home turf. The AAP, the most negligible power bloc in the electoral battle, has similar allegations like the Congress, but it’s neither vocal nor it’s taken seriously in the national front anymore, ever since it faced the tragic loss in Punjab and Goa assembly polls in March this year. But the campaigns of the AAP also focus only on Narendra Modi and his disastrous economic policies, without attacking him for his communal divisive politics, which certainly adds more weight to Narendra Modi’s stature, as he uses it again as an attack by outsiders on the pride of Gujarat, i.e. himself.
As these three major power blocs are centred around one person, Narendra Modi, it becomes evident that the election has no other issue than being an election in which Narendra Modi is fighting to defend his own fortune and bastion, while the Congress is fighting to show that Narendra Modi isn’t invincible and he can be speared in his very home turf, the place where he blackmailed the emotion of the people by playing the communal card and the card of “Gujarati Ashmita” to remain in power. Though the strong wind of anti-incumbency is troubling Modi’s puppet Vijay Rupani and his team members to achieve the pre-set target of 150+ seats by Amit Shah, there remains a great chance that Shah and Modi will secure a majority by spending a fortune, even if their party falls short achieving an absolute majority in the assembly. The fear with which the Congress had to protect its house during the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat, warns each mind of an intense horse trading should the BJP falls short of absolute majority. As most big corporate houses, including the Ambani, Adani, Tata group, etc. standing strongly behind the ruling party with their money bags unstringed, it won’t be a big deal for the BJP to secure the allegiance of a lot of new Congress MLAs, if they can, miraculously and seriously, threaten the political fortune of the BJP in Gujarat assembly election set in December.
The Gujarat election cannot be considered as a litmus test for public mood before 2019, as the state has a special place in the Sangh’s map and the BJP is less worried about winning victory in the state than securing a majority in Himachal Pradesh in November and Karnataka next year, the two states where the lamp of Congress Party is glowing with some esteem since last five years. The BJP’s frustration in Gujarat is about winning a higher margin and relegating Congress to a very pathetic condition in the state, to show the country that it remains invincible in the home turf of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The entourage of central ministers, the campaigning by neo-Hindutva hate mongers like Yogi Adityanath, the pulling in of the most notorious riot-mongers and genocide accused in the election fray, the host of schemes announced during the onset of the election with the active help of the new Election Commissioner, etc. showed that the BJP is eager to secure the state with utmost majority and at the back of the mind, it’s sure that the Hindutva trump card will help it sweep the state with a resurrected saffron wave when the time comes in December. But the problem is that the opposition is not considering the threat of Hindutva ideology and its polarisation campaigns, incessant since time immemorial, as a threat to reckon with. The reluctance to deal with the issue of thriving Hindutva sentiments due to the fear of losing Hindu voters is driving both the Congress and the AAP towards the soft-Hindutva trap, which helps to legitimise the saffron camp’s politics at the end of the day.
It’s not that the BJP or the saffron camp is invincible and cannot be defeated in Gujarat. The state is the home to a broad mass of workers, peasants, tribals and rural poor who are subjected to the most inhuman exploitation and oppression. The Dalits, the tribals, the Muslims face immense socio-economic ostracisation and oppression at the hands of the upper-caste Hindu elites. The landless and poor peasants are forced to live in semi-pauperisation in a state whose “development index” is boasted on by the advocates of the neo-liberal economy and SEZs. The Adani and Ambani groups are sucking the resources of the state and its greatest doles to grow rich at the cost of the people’s agony. When all these issues are summed up then they weigh a lot, potent enough to knock-out the saffron camp’s juggernaut from the state forever. However, there had been no efforts made by any political party or organisation in effectively threading the discontent of the masses and then directing the struggle towards the greater goal of overthrowing the BJP’s rule by building up a large-scale democratic movement of the poor and the oppressed. Only such large-scale democratic and revolutionary struggle for socio-economic rights and equality, led by the working class and its peasant allies, can bring forth a real change in the politics of the state and pull down the empire that the BJP and its saffron allies have built bit-by-bit with the extensive funding from big crony and comprador capitalists and their foreign corporate masters. It’s not possible for the regular right-wing opposition to build up such a formidable people’s front against the fascist BJP government. As the parties like the Congress and the AAP have no different economic agenda than that of the BJP-followed neo-liberal economic agenda and thus, their victory, even with an absolute majority, will not bring forth any real change in the lives of the people. It’s only a truly united political bloc representing the interests of the working-class and the peasantry that can change the equation of neo-liberal economic regime and end the tyrannical rule of the feudal landlords-crony comprador capitalists-foreign corporations under which the overwhelming poor people of Gujarat are reeling. To emancipate themselves from the curse of Hindutva and its corporate sponsors, the democratic and progressive forces of Gujarat must plunge into building such a massive movement to erase off the curse of Hindutva fascism from the state and usher it into a new dawn of equality, fraternity and modernity.
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