At the end of the first quarter of 2017 we are faced with a very challenging situation. The Trump Administration has taken over the reins of power in America unleashing unbridled despotism, racism and xenophobia. While Muslims from several countries are being debarred from visiting America, immigrants in general are being subjected to escalating racist attacks. Large sections of American people are however up in arms against this misogynist and racist despot. As a loyal junior partner of the American camp, the Modi government is however all praise for the Islamophobic Trump regime even as growing racist anti-immigrant hatred in Trump’s America claims Indian lives and subjects Indians to growing insecurity and humiliation.
Indeed, Trump and Modi are being seen today by the whole world as belonging to the same league of despotic rulers who are cashing in on the growing sense of insecurity among the people and the deepening economic crisis and instability caused by corporate globalization to unleash an all-out fascist offensive on the institutions and principles of democracy. The recent round of Assembly elections provided yet another glaring example of the true nature of the Modi regime. During his extensive election campaign in UP, Modi quite tellingly moved away from his 2014 script of ‘development’ to indulge in a blatant communal discourse pitting cremation grounds against graveyards and even comparing the supply of electricity during Muslim and Hindu festivals.
And now the BJP has gone ahead to unleash Yogi Adityanath, one of the most virulent advocates of anti-Muslim violence and persecution and a veritable kingpin of saffron terror, as the Chief Minister of UP. Also, in spite of being voted out in Goa, and finishing second in Manipur, the BJP has usurped power in both the states through horse-trading. The choice of Yogi Adityanath as the CM of UP clearly shows that the BJP now feels confident to aggressively push for its core agenda of converting India into a Hindu Rashtra. True to Modi’s deceptive ‘Achchhe Din’ demagoguery, the present juncture has however been designated as the foundation of ‘New India’.
We have long been used to being told by rightwing Indian liberals that people like Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj constituted only a fanatic fringe of the BJP mainstream and that the latter was all about ‘nationalism’ and ‘development’. With Adityanath as UP CM we now know that this dichotomy of a core and a fringe, of development versus communalism, is sheer political fantasy. It will however still be a folly to miss the crucial fact that even while indulging in some not-so-veiled communal rhetoric, Modi fought the UP elections in his own name invoking ‘SabkaSaath, SabkaVikas’ (inclusion and development of all) as the central theme, carefully avoiding projecting someone like Adityanath as the prospective CM face of the party.
Inflicting Adityanath as the CM of UP is indeed a sinister manipulation of the UP mandate. Instead of interpreting the UP mandate as a vote for the kind of rabid communalism that Adityanath has made his trademark, we must take into account the diverse factors that have combined to produce such a landslide victory for the BJP. There was an understandable clamour for a change of government in UP and the belated seat-sharing arrangement between a discredited and beleaguered SP and a marginalised Congress was in no position to arrest or reverse this compelling mood of the common voter. It must also be acknowledged that the BJP managed to cobble a much wider social coalition than the SP or BSP. But it is a social coalition that conspicuously excludes the Muslim community and attempts to restore the supremacy of upper caste power groups.
Propagandists of the BJP are trying to use the UP mandate as a popular vindication of demonetization. It is true that demonetization has not adversely affected the BJP’s poll prospects in UP, but viewed together with the results from Punjab and Goa, the Assembly elections cannot be said to have vindicated demonetization. The fact is there is still a lot of illusion about the efficacy of demonetization as a measure against black money and corruption, and Modi has also managed to create a buzz with his new-found pro-poor posturing. But as demonetization-induced depression takes a toll of the income and livelihood of the millions working in agriculture and the wider informal economy and the Modi government dismantles whatever welfare framework India had developed over the years, replacing subsidies with cash transfers and subjecting the people to the intrusive surveillance of the biometric Aadhaar card and the vagaries of the market, the poor will definitely have to fight back and settle theirscores with the Modi regime in the coming days.
The stunning scale of the BJP’s victory in UP and the subsequent nomination of Adityanath as the CM of UP have definitely caused deep anxiety among democratic forces across India. Doubts of a possible EVM fraud are being raised from certain quarters. While demanding the mandatory provision of voter verified paper trails to minimize possibilities of EVM fraud, we must however focus on weakening the social mobilization of the saffron brigade. There will obviously be a lot of talk about the need to form the broadest possible electoral coalition to unite the remaining 60%, but we must realise that it is futile to think of overcoming a fascist threat merely on the strength of electoral arithmetic. The experience of the three elections since 2014 in which the BJP has been emphatically defeated – Delhi, Bihar and Punjab – has one common message, all the three states have been marked by sustained powerful struggles of the people.
Indeed, this is the biggest lesson that we must draw from our own experience of combating the Modi Raj since 2014. Undeterred by the massive victory of the BJP under Narendra Modi in the 2014 elections, India has been fighting back on every front. In the wake of the UP elections, the resistance must only be intensified. As we observe the 48th anniversary of the foundation of the CPI(ML) we must summon all our strength to this end.