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Home > 2021 > Can Hindutva succeed in Bengal Politics? | Radhakanta Barik

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 18, New Delhi, April 17, 2021

Can Hindutva succeed in Bengal Politics? | Radhakanta Barik

Friday 16 April 2021

by Prof Radhakanta Barik *

Modi after winning the 2019 General Election is unable to win any major state in India. All the major states have gone out of their hands. After losing the election in MP and Karnataka they have been involved in horse-trading and buying of MLAs to form their government. There is a joke in Bengal and Assam that the opposition to the BJP has to win twenty extra seats more than the simple majority. It is going to be difficult to buy so many MLAs. In the 2019 General Election he won the absolute majority in the Lok Sabha despite getting the simple thirty-seven percentage of votes. This is first past the post which we have borrowed from the English system. Also, like the English Premier the moment the managers are losing to some key opponents they lose their jobs. Fear of losing the job has entered into the mind of Modi and his close friend Shah. In coming elections to five states, the BJP is being ruled out in three states of the South. Two Eastern States like Assam and Bengal are drawing their attention. They won Assam by raising the issue of NRC and CAA but it is interesting to note here that in the coming assembly election to Assam they have dropped both these from the election manifesto. But it is interesting to note here that they have added these two items in their manifesto for the Bengal election. The Bengal election is getting their central focus. All their top leaders of the party are campaigning in the assembly election. They use the Matua and Namsudras as if they are the vote banks of the BJP. They want to take up the sectarian issue by raising the community who are Dalits of Bengal. They have no concern for the Dalits as it is the only party which openly practices anti-Dalit politics. They are going to the extent using the non-state actors and state actors in creating fear through violence by which they may get a reasonable number of seats. If they lose Bengal then there is a possibility of Modi turning into a non-performing asset. This will lead to problems within the party and some leading leaders of the RSS, the parent organization of the BJP have written against Modi.

 It looks like that the CISF has been misused in Sitajulchi of Cooch Behar by the BJP for their party interest. Politics in Bengal is pushing them to the margins which created an element of desperation in their style. The BJP vice President of Chhattisgarh has been arrested in supplying the trucks to the Naxals to carry out the operation in Bastar. Killing of twenty CRP persons did not produce the ripples in Bengal politics. In their calculation, they may gain the power for such an incident. Out of desperation, they have used the CISF to kill four innocent voters. Hindutva gains always by killings and murder of innocents which happened in Pulwama before 2019. It is spectacular violence that has its own messages to the public. Series of violent events have benefited the party which believes in violence and killing of innocents. Lady Macbeth, ’rubs her hands’ for ’a quarter of an hour’, lamenting ’what, will these hands ne’er be clean’. She can still smell blood: ’All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand’. Modi and Shah their central agency will suffer like Lady Macbeth after killing four migrant labour and another Dalit labour. It is a well designed political project as the killing of Muslim labour has been executed with an agenda of polarization of votes in Bengal. This is the belt used to support Mamata Banerjee. Violence is not the answer to the problems of people. They have to take a calm and quiet stand on the present situation and cast their votes against the Hindutva forces.

Barman and Ghoshal in their article in Indian Express ’the bhadralok misdirection’ (10-4-21) has explained the rise of this urban class that made possible the rise of left and but the rule of left created a wider network of local elites which created problems for the implementation of a public policy. But their support helped the left to rule. The local elite shifted to TMC and today they are shifting to the BJP. The BJP is looking for an alternative narrative by bringing to their fold the false explanation of Dalit rising up against the Bhadralok class is untrue. Hindutva while winning the election bring the lower strata into their narrative as they did in UP but it is a rule of upper-caste Hindus who do not believe in the rule of law whereas the upper caste of Bengal believes in the rule of law. This class carries its cultural capital to the various universities of the world including the best universities of India JNU and DU which transformed the generations of students who are teaching in various colleges and universities of India and abroad. Their opposition to Hindutva made them angry for which they need a false narrative with their three Ms money muscle and media that they are articulating the interests of Dalits. Nothing is working in the case of Bengal which made them angry for which they used CISF for firing at the voters which resulted in the killing of five people. Perhaps this is going to change the fortunes of the opposition than the BJP.

Sekhar Bandyopadhaya in his article “On Bengal’s star caste” in Indian Express (1-4-21) looks at the Dalits and their history of discrimination in Bengal society. Dalits are not only oppressed castes but belonging to working people. BJP an upper class and upper caste party belonging to North India reached Bengal in 2019 with a gang of criminals. These criminals got advice from their sociologist friends and do identify with certain castes but in reality they collected votes or it is manipulation by EVM one does not know. Professor tells that they may support the BJP in thirty MLA seats. Dalits and the oppressed do not support Hindutva politics specifically in Bengal. Modi might have gone to Thakur’s birthplace in Bangladesh. The same thing is happening to an upward mobile backward caste that might support the BJP. It does not look like to happen. On the contrary, they are voting between the Left plus Congress vs TMC and there is no alternative to these forces in the coming election.

Election Commission must be having knowledge of the model code of conduct that those who use religion or caste in the election campaign need to be warned. Then Modi and Shah speak loudly in various public election rallies in Bengal. Mamata Banerjee has been warned by the Commission for using the Muslim word in her campaign without using the religion. She is addressing the Muslims as the brothers and sisters for voting her without referring to religion. Religion and community are two separate categories where as Modi in each day speaks against Islam and trying to speak in favour of the Hindu. But it is not working as they are reformists where Islam had a tremendous influence over it. This is being recognized by Vivekanand who spoke that the practice of untouchability is the root cause of people joining Islam.

 The way electoral politics is taking a shape it is a like wave in the ocean which comes with new ideas and new thinking and with young people. So many young people are participating in the Bengal election which creating hope for the future. If they win the present election they will be stars in the sky and will show the way out of the darkness. They will be the backbone of the fighting army against fascism. Wish them a great future and hope that the left and Congress do well in Bengal politics.

The BJP has a command over financial resources which they want to use in the case of Bengal and Assam election. Electoral bonds have come in 2017 to benefit the BJP which has acquired most of the money contributed by the Corporates. Donor’s name is not disclosed and receiver is not supposed to answer how much they have got it. The BJP is the biggest beneficiary having received Rs 1660 crores or 60% its money contributed by the corporates. Under the RTI they do not inform it to the public as it is not accountable. It is challenged in the Supreme Court but the court is silent for years. Any election is an unequal battle between the ruling party having money muscle and media with them and the other parties do not have money or media only public support. The Election Commission is not stepping into the battle to make it equal and judicious but it is siding with the BJP. It is interesting to note here that SY Quraishi, the former Election Commissioner has written an article in Indian Express (April 8,21) telling the sale of the Election Bond should have stopped by the Supreme Court but on the contrary, it did allow it to function. It turns out to be a rich men’s club to finance the political parties without informing the Election Commission or public. As he says this is an opaque bond that makes the government the agent of corporate houses who donate the maximum to the Election Bond. "Companies virtually run the government as we can see happening." The ruling party is getting maximum funds from the corporates through which they bribe voters and buy the MLAs to destabilize the government. This turns out to be a mockery of Indian democracy in contemporary politics of India.

After three phases of elections in five states, Modi is out of politics. In the fourth phase of the election in Bengal has turned into a bloody battle. The other four phases may turn into a battle. The media-constructed him as a charismatic figure does not exist now. Media and some known scholars supporting Modi because of non-dynastic politics in India. Modi is the biggest dynastic figure as he is the first Prime Minister working as an agent of two powerful corporates. Ambani and Adani have doubled their income in the last two years which is a gift of his economic policy. The majority of people lost their work and employment and income. They have been pushed below the poverty line.

 His politics of heart does not work now. His polarisation agenda has turned into fire. Farmers’ protest is the starting point for the movement for democracy which makes Modi out of politics. He will remain in government but without politics. Election Commission does not trust its officials in carrying the EVM and trusts the members of BJP who can carry these machines in their cars and replace them on their own. Election Commission has made the Election a farce which is a blot on Indian Democracy. According to a Swedish study, India is an electoral autocracy but with the stealing of the EVM by the members of the BJP it has turned into an autocracy. The members of BJP do not worship Ram or Kali they worship the EVM that is the only god which brought them to power in 2019 election. Vigilance is the price of democracy. Youths of Assam and Bengal and others states going for the election are alert and they have been able to catch these thieves.

Modi’s going to Bangladesh in such a time needs to be relooked by us. At the time of the liberation movement in Bangladesh the RSS and BJP remained silent without giving any opinion over it. At the end of the movement, it is Vajpayee who praised Indira Gandhi in an exaggerated manner. Vajpayee called Mrs. Indira Gandhi as Durga. Their party including Modi was nowhere in the movement. On the contrary, the RSS and BJP attacked Indira Gandhi at the outset and only, in the end, they praised her. Modi’s statement in the soil of Bangladesh is meant for the election propaganda in Bengal. That he participated in the movement against the army rule in East Pakistan and he was jailed for this action. It has been proved a white lie but he believes in the lying is not a crime in politics and war.

On BJP Foundation Day Modi come out with the truth: "continuous and relentless campaign to win the hearts of the people in the country." This is a deadly observation as politics is linked with minds not hearts. Political outlook is the product of intellectual exercise where consciousness works. Heart deals with a primitive sentiment. Their party is trying to relate to the sentiment, not to intellect. The collective consciousness of the people of India rejects the BJP as its relating to sentiment and creating fascist ideology in the name of religion. This is us vs them which is the basis of his language of heart. In the Bengal election, he talks of the Hindus vs the others which are talking to hearts not the minds of Bengal which has a rich intellectual and literary tradition. All right-wing leaders use the concept of heart in politics and they appeal to the sentiment in the name of religion or community.

Modi’s politics has got exposed at every level. On the economy, he is a grand zero. On the foreign policy level, he shows his ignorance. On the defence front he has politicised the army. On the corruption level, he is caught red-handed in the Raffael case that so much money has gone to the middle man which he negotiated personally as the PM. On the morality level he is another zero as he is speaking only lies and lies. When he goes to speak in the election meeting his voice is louder today that he is Hindu and he is appealing only Hindus. Is it idiocy or stupidity? One needs to realize it sooner or later. Either Indian people are unaware of his politics and he is teaching them ABC of politics. He is going to face a Waterloo in the five state assembly elections.

 Why does Modi take interest in capturing Bengal? They want to prove a point that Hindutva more powerful than liberal radical thinking embedded in cultural traditions. Hindutva as a divisive idea is more powerful than liberal thinking. To prove a point they want to use four Ms such as money, muscle, media, and EVM. They’re are a ruthless and brutal force in India’s politics today. Prof Partho Chatterjee a well-known political scientist has talked on political situation in Bengal. That the state after Independence does not have any history of communal politics but today it is getting threatened by the BJP to take over the state. He says that before declaring the Hindu rastra the BJP wants to get hold of Bengal. With that agenda they are working by creating a violent situation in the state of Bengal to capture power with the help of central police and EVM.

Modi Shah’s politics stands on the manipulation of public institutions such as the Election Commission and Supreme Court and CAG which functioned independently, is facing an impasse. After misusing the Election Commission in collecting votes through EVM has got exposed in Assam. It is not an easy task now as the members of Election Commission have been ashamed of their actions. Judiciary after the departure of the present Chief Justice has to come back to show some form decorum. The CAG despite the nominee of the Modi and Shah but the organisation of auditors cannot be manipulated to the extent they desire. Once this politics gets exposed then the question of communal polarisation is not going to work further as Indian society is much more complex than their theorization in sociological context. Farmers protest is exposing their evil design showing that farmers cannot be divided into castes and communities so easily. Their communal polarization project is showing its cracks.Their public policies are meant for the Ambani and Adani which exposing their political project. With the decline of economy and rise of unemployment between 15 to 30 years old may create an army against Modi. Politics after the assembly elections is going to have its momentum against Modi Shah.

Ronojoy Sen a scholar has written a paper that shows the similarities between Nehru and Indira Gandhi and their style of management of media with Modi. But there is hardly any similarity as they used media to propagate their vision and agenda of reform whereas Modi uses the media and social media for propagating the ideology of the RSS in a blatant manner and misuse the media to speak lies as if truth which happened during Nazi time. The craze for privatization is being done as demonetizations was planned by Modi and executed recklessly. He does not have any understanding of the Indian economy and he is not getting the support of some leading economists of India or abroad. This nervousness creates problems of mismanagement in Indian economy. After dismantling the Planning Commission constituting of some eminent economists and planners used to provide key inputs at the level of thinking of the political leadership. Today at the level of thinking there is no such institution working with the government. His whimsical attitude is going to create problems for the economy which may create disjunction in various sectors of the economy. It is going to create problems for the capital goods sector which is critical in running the economy. It provides the basis for expanding the sectors for consumer goods. Selling public sector companies to the private hands is going to increase the economic inequality between rich and poor. It is the ideological basis of IMF and World Bank where Modi proves to be a servile character.

It is for ideological reasons for going for privatisation. It does not have an economic sense. It is going to destroy the backbone of the Indian economy which emerged in post-Independent India. It is the public sector and agricultural development that provides substance to the sovereignty of a nation-state. It is like a villager who sells his or her land for personal consumption whereas land provides basic goods for his consumption. I have seen in our village one person who sold his land for his personal consumption and saw in his life time extreme poverty and economic difficulties. Yes there were families who sold land for development of human capital by educating their children which serves long term interest of family and society. The same thing is going to happen to Indian economy by selling its public sector assets for wage payment of its employees rather than any developmental project which will make it poorer and a state will lose its bargaining power vis a vis to private capital.

The first three phases of voting is over in Bengal peacefully except the fourth phase there was firing by the central forces against the common voters which resulted in killing four Muslims. It looks like in Bengal that collective citizenship has worked out its franchise in such a manner which is clear that they cannot vote for Modi anymore. This is the loud and clear voice of the collective citizenship of Bengal. It looks that Assam has taken its stand against CAA and NRC passed by Modi. The majority of people have voted against Modi and Shah and their divisive policy.

Modi wanted to work as a gentleman politician by growing his beard to show that his beard has a similarity with Poet Tagore. Modi went to Shantiketan and sat on his writing table which turned into a spectacle for the public of Bengal. But public could not reconcile with his beard and his style of talking on Tagore. Then he wanted to reimagine himself as Netaji a leader hailed from Bengal gave a leadership to Congress during the national movement and created INA for accelerating the freedom of a nation. This did not work. He left all gimmicks for winning the assembly election in Bengal. But these are not working. He and his party started looking the dynamics of Bengal politics where they find the enemy is Mamata Banerjee who has been the chief minister of Bengal for two terms. They started abusing her as the corrupt and took her supporters to the BJP. But they lack historical knowledge of political culture of Bengal. From BC Roy to Jyoti Basu were never criticized by Mamata as corrupt although she became the enemy of left politics. Even the left and Congress do not accuse Mamata as a corrupt leader. The BJP took the issue of corruption for winning election in past but here it is not working.

Mamata faced an attack on her legs which was her strength but in a broken leg she is still able to give a fight against the BJP led by Modi and Shah. She is very much articulate in speaking the anger of people in a lucid manner. She spoke against Nadda the President of the BJP as ‘Nadda, chada, mada and dadha’ which created humour in public. She is able to raise her developmental projects for the public. This is her strength as she worked during the Covid 19 in providing food and money for poorer families of Bengal. Bengal remembers her as the leader of Bengal not belonging to any community or caste. As many look at her as a tigress ready to attack the BJP.

The way BJP has behaved in last two months in conducting themselves in Bengal politics has resulted in a swing in favour of the left and Congress alliance. Their young leaders are getting the support of crowd. They are able to reinvent the left and liberal traditions in Bengal. This electoral battle is not going to be triangular but direct fight between Mamata’s TMC vs left and congress alliance.

Both Mamata and the Left and Congress never disturbed the cultural world of Bengal and but they fought over the issue of land. The Left acquired land in Singur for industrialization project which got opposition from the extreme left group. It resulted in killing of farmers which brought back Mamata who was sleeping alone in the center of city on hunger strike. The day firing took place the crowd came to her and made her leader and the aftermath story unfolded. Left wants to revive its fortunes in Bengal with the young and energetic leaders who have created a magical influence over the public. But the battle is going on. (Majumder, Sarasij, 2019 “People’s Car: Industrial India and the Riddles of Populism,” Orient Backswan.)

(Author: Prof Radhakanta Barik, retired from Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi)

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