Modi's Islamophobic hate-mongering exemplifies his hatred towards the idea of wealth distribution and waning confidence in his own guarantees

Waning confidence? Modi’s Islamophobic rhetoric puts “guarantees” in backseat


What does Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Islamophobic hate-mongering imply? Is he losing confidence on his “Modi Ki Guarantee” narrative? Or is it an exhibition of his frustration?

While addressing an election rally in the north-western state of Rajasthan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spun his principal Opposition Congress party’s promise of wealth distribution with a tinge of Islamophobia on Sunday, April 21st, with a clear aim to polarise the voters. Modi’s Islamophobic hate-mongering has stirred a nationwide upheaval. Modi has been widely condemned for his Islamophobic ranting.

During his address, Modi targeted the Congress’s electoral promise of conducting a wealth survey according to caste groups. He accused the Congress of plotting to survey the individual wealth of the people and then snatching their wealth and distributing it to the Muslims “who have too many children” by manipulating a remark of former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Modi’s Banswara speech, where he stokes Islamophobia from 34:48 onwards. Credit: BJP

But the question is, does the Congress party, which is a centre-right party and subscribes to a softer version of Hindutva vis-à-vis Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promise anything like what the prime minister accused it of?

The Congress’s manifesto only promised affirmative actions for the scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBC). It didn’t promise any wealth re-distribution per se, which Modi is accusing it of.

In the “Equity” section of its poll manifesto, the party promised, “Congress will conduct a nation-wide Socio-Economic and Caste Census to enumerate the castes and sub-castes and their socio-economic conditions. Based on the data, we will strengthen the agenda for affirmative action.”

Nowhere did the Congress take an “Urban Naxal” or Marxist approach to wealth distribution, but it’s more aligned with a liberal, centrist and pro-western wealth distribution programme, which even Modi’s closest ally Joe Biden promotes. The Congress manifesto matches the tonality of the US Democrats, who are anything but Marxists!

In its manifesto, the Congress said, “We are opposed to monopolies and oligopolies and crony capitalism.” Also, it underscored, “We will ensure that no company or person arrogates to itself or himself the financial or material resources or the business opportunities or the concessions that ought to be available to every entrepreneur.”

Although this rhetoric targets India’s top capitalists like Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, whose wealth has increased manifold under Modi’s rule, they have no connection with the family gold or silver that the common people have. But Modi stressed that the Congress if elected, will snatch even the “mangalsutra” (a pendant necklace that married Hindu women wear and is considered auspicious) of the Hindu women and give them to the minorities.

Taking a potshot at Modi, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said, “If Modi ji had understood the importance of ‘mangalsutra’, he would not have said such things…When demonetisation happened, he took away the savings of women…During the farmers’ protest, 600 farmers lost their lives, did Modi ji think about the ‘mangalsutra’ of those widows? When a woman was paraded naked in Manipur, Modi ji was silent, he did not say anything. Did he think about her ‘mangalsutra’? Today for the votes, he is saying such things to the women, scaring them so that they vote out of fear. He should be ashamed.”

Moreover, a look into Oxfam’s report on inequality in India reveals the grotesque reality of the country’s widening wealth inequality.

The report released in January 2023 shows that out of a population of 1.4bn, 228.9m Indians are living in abject poverty, while the number of billionaires increased from 102 in 2020 to 166 in 2022. This happened amid the Covid-19 pandemic when the bottom 50% of Indians saw their wealth erode.

Consider this, the top 1% of the population owns 40.6% of India’s total wealth, whereas the bottom 50% have less than 3% of the total wealth.

Modi has always presented India’s rich as “wealth creators” and claims that they create opportunities and jobs for others. However, in the last ten years, the unemployment rate has gone up, and in comparison to investments, there has been no significant rise in employment. Not only did Modi’s government fail to generate blue-collar jobs for the working class, but it also even couldn’t do that for the white-collar workforce, its core voter base.

A recent Right to Information data received by an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni network has revealed a gloomy picture of the placement situation in IIT Delhi. According to the data, 22% of IIT Delhi students didn’t get placements in the last five years.

Still, the BJP supporters continue to lambast those who question Modi’s policy of appeasing the super-rich. They claim that supporting the rich and super-rich is crucial as they are those who contribute to India’s public exchequer through taxes. However, the Oxfam report claims the contrary. It’s not the rich who pay most of the tax, but those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The report says, “The bottom 50 per cent of the population at an All-India level pays six times more on indirect taxation as a percentage of income compared to top 10 per cent. Of the total taxes collected from these food and non-food items, 64.3 per cent of the total tax is coming from the bottom 50 per cent. A little less than two-third of the total GST is coming from the bottom 50 per cent, one-third from middle 40 per cent and only three to four per cent from the top 10 per cent (sic).”

Modi also used the bogey of the Muslim population growth, which has even been rejected by his government. Modi’s Islamophobic hate-mongering on Sunday, reminded his critics of what he did after the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom in which hundreds of Muslims were killed by a feral Hindutva-incensed mob, allegedly under his provincial government’s watch and patronage.

A few months after the pogrom, Modi said that those (Muslims) living in the relief camps were breeding numerous children. “Should I start children-producing centres there, i.e., relief camps? We want to achieve progress by pursuing the policy of family planning with determination. We are five and our 25,” he uttered these words allegedly to stoke hatred against the victims of one of the goriest atrocities committed on the minority Muslims in independent India. His speech in Rajasthan’s Banswara reminded his critics of Modi’s past avatar, which he had managed to cloak for long.

For nearly ten years, Modi ensured that he refrained from explicit Islamophobic rabble-rousing and delegated that task to the second-tier or third-tier leaders of his BJP. However, recent developments show that the Indian prime minister believes that his much-hyped “Modi Ki Guarantee” (Modi’s guarantee) campaign, which focuses on purported developmental achievements of his decade-long rule, can’t fully guarantee a smooth sail in the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Thus, Modi resorted to Islamophobic ranting in public. But did Modi’s Islamophobic hate-mongering surprise anyone?

Coming from a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the fountainhead of Hindutva fascism—cadre, Modi’s Islamophobic hate-mongering is quite normal. From the grassroots workers to those at the zenith, the BJP’s ranks and files have been relying on stoking Islamophobia to polarise the majority Hindu community’s votes. Under Modi’s rule, Islamophobia and inciting violence against the Muslim community have been on the rise, according to reports like this. From mob lynching to communal pogroms are very regular and have been even highlighted by the West’s mainstream media.

So far, Modi merely made implicit comments about Muslims. From lambasting the Mughal empire—while accusing the Opposition of bearing that kingdom’s mindset—to claiming that “miscreants can be identified by their clothes”, there have been a plethora of such comments. But Modi’s Islamophobic hate-mongering at Banswara revealed that he isn’t any different than the RSS’s other rabble-rousers.

Earlier Modi had highlighted that his government discriminates against none. After his re-election in 2019, Modi even coined the tagline “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas” (With Everyone, For Everyone’s Development and For Everyone’s Trust), highlighting the importance of weaning away the minority Muslims and Christians from the fold of the Opposition. Beaming with confidence, Modi earmarked an ambitious target of 400-plus seats for his ruling alliance with 370-plus for the BJP itself in the Lok Sabha elections.

But as the Opposition continues to bash his rule for rising unemployment, rising inflation, a broken economy and rampant corruption, especially the one related to the BJP amassing immense gains from the opaque electoral bond system, Modi’s confidence appears to be dented. So, he is left with no choice but to resort to what he has learned to do well, peddle Islamophobia. A Yale study in 2014 showed how the BJP benefits from Hindu-Muslim riots, something Modi won’t mind capitalising on.

Modi’s Islamophobic hate-mongering has proved to some extent that he suffers from a lack of confidence to counter the utmost disarrayed Opposition’s narratives and thus, he has no qualms in putting his development “guarantees” to the oblivion and making communal polarisation his weapon to consolidate his support base. Can this tactic pay a rich dividend to the BJP in the ongoing elections? This can be known on June 4th when the results of the elections will be announced.

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An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker

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