SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN PRODUCER: This is The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries in Baltimore.
It is a decisive victory in India for the BJP and Narendra Modi. But what should now Indians be looking out for in the coming days and years?
Joining us to analyze the situation is Nagesh Rao. Nagesh Rao is a lecturer of university studies at Colgate University. He’s a scholar of postcolonial studies and an activist in the antiwar movement. He’s also spent a year teaching in India. And he joins us today from Colgate University.
Thanks for joining us.
NAGESH RAO, LECTURER OF UNIVERSITY STUDIES, COLGATE UNIV.: Thank you.
PERIES: Nagesh, Modi’s Hindu fundamentalism history, and even in terms of enticing violence of the past, has been exposed. Many people talked about it during these elections. However, in this particular electoral platform, he was running on an anticorruption platform, and also, you know, a job creation platform. Is that not so?
RAO: Well, to start with, I think we have to see that this is a very difficult time for most Indians. Going into this election, the media and the corporate sector in India had already anointed Narendra Modi prime minister well before the voting had begun. And the candidate of corporate capital and of Hindu nationalist right wing movement is now poised to become prime minister.
As you probably know, Narendra Modi is, of course, most notorious for the fact that he at the very least didn’t do anything to stop the pogroms against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, and he’s seen as a very divisive and authoritarian figure for many of these reasons.
PERIES: Nagesh, while Modi is–you know, his historical record has been made very public and attacked for his Hindu fundamentalism and inciting riots in terms of his history, he however in this particular election comes out not talking about any of that but talking about real issues that concern the people, like jobs. Yes?
RAO: Mhm, yes, except that the way he’s talked about these real issues has been in terms of so-called development, looking at the Gujarat model, as it’s been called. As chief minister of Gujarat, he claims to have developed Gujarat in a way that no other state has in India, and he hopes to implement that same model across the country.
The thing to recognize is that Modi’s sort of reinvention, his reinvention as a developmentalist, as someone who’s going to focus primarily on jobs, the economy, and so on and so forth, has been fairly recent in origin. Because of his success in Gujarat, sections of corporate capital anointed him precisely because they want to see all the barriers towards capital accumulation in India lifted. So further neoliberalism, further privatization, further deregulation, this is what lurks behind the model of development that’s known as the Gujarat model.
That said, that said, I think it’s important to recognize that the communalist, fundamentalist element of Modi’s being wasn’t entirely forgotten during this campaign, and he and his allies have done as much as they could to both emphasize this Gujarat model of development on the one hand, but also kind of Hindu nationalism and fundamentalism on the other.
PERIES: Nagesh, this is true. Can you tell us a little bit more about how the other parties did? It appears that none of the other parties did very well, given the sweep that BJP had.
RAO: That’s right. I mean, you know, one of the sort of promising new entrants to the electoral scene was the Aam Aadmi Party, the ordinary man’s party, the Common Man’s Party, which people were expecting would at least, you know, have some sort of showing. But it hasn’t done that well. The parliamentary left, led by the CPI and CPI(M) have similarly done pretty badly.
At the same time, if you look at the vote shares, what you find is that the BJP essentially has received about 32, 35 percent of the vote. Because of the first-past-the-post electoral system, this kind of skews things a little bit, our perspective, because if you look at the vote share, it really tells us that about, you know, a solid majority of the Indian electorate did not vote for the BJP. So there’s that element to be taken into account as well.
PERIES: How is that so? Explain that a little bit more.
RAO: That’s because the BJP, you know, so far, its vote tally, in terms of the number of seats, it’s clearly won a majority. But in terms of what percentage of the electorate voted for it, it appears to be about 32-35 percent, which means that there’s a significant chunk of the electorate that voted for other parties. But because of the first-past-the-post system that we have, the BJP, with 35 percent of the vote, gets to form the next–the government. In other words, it’s not a system of proportional representation, but a first-past-the-post system. So by virtue of having the greatest number of seats now, they will form the government.
But in terms of their mandate, we have to see that large numbers of people voted for other parties. But [incompr.] certainly not [incompr.] and therefore weren’t able to actually block the [snip] trying to say by this is that while we recognize the immense outpouring of resentment against the status quo, against the UPA government, the Congress-led UPA government, its corruption, its nepotism, and so on, and while we see the frustration against the status quo moving towards the BJP and giving the BJP this massive victory, we shouldn’t forget that at the same time a number of changes have taken place in the last two, three, four years that have galvanized whole sections of the population and politicized them in ways that are fairly significant. The high voter turnout in this election is, I think, an index of that. Something like two-thirds of the electorate voted, which is higher than the last election, and I think it’s probably the highest it’s been in a long time.
So there is–in other words, there’s a contradictory sort of situation here. On the one hand, you have this right-wing fundamentalist movement with organized fascists sort of waiting in the wings. On the other hand, you have a degree of politicization among urban youth and among the middle classes and among large sections of the population that could potentially speak to other sorts of political expressions emerging in the coming months and years.
PERIES: Nagesh, finally, what will this mean in terms of a functioning democracy in Parliament? Will the left be able to, you know, put up a fair fight in the Lok Sabha?
RAO: Well, you know, frankly, in terms of the parliamentary left, we have to say that it has hardly functioned as an opposition even when it had some power. The parliamentary left, meaning the Left Front, led by the CPI and CPI(M), have themselves embraced many of the policies of neoliberalism, especially economic zones and so on and so forth, which is why they were trounced in the previous elections and haven’t done well in these elections either.
I think if any opposition is to come, the opposition will come from outside of the parliamentary bodies, will come from people’s movements, from antinuclear protesters, to people standing up against the deprivations of neoliberalism. There are a number of militant workers movements that are emerging, particularly in the auto plants in the Delhi/NCR region. There’s a new sort of militancy in the unions there. There’s also antinuclear protests in Gujarat, in Tamil Nadu, and so on, which have the potential of bringing back and reinventing a sense of participatory democracy through mass mobilization and protest.
But the problem is, of course, that the organized expression of these protests is very weak. So when it comes to, you know, how democracy will function, the first thing we have to say is that democracy under the UPA government has already been seriously weakened. If you think about the corruption scams, if you think about the degree of repression that’s been meted out to protest movements and resistance movements, even under the UPA-led government, it doesn’t bode well for what an authoritarian, intolerant leadership like Modi’s might achieve.
PERIES: Thank you for joining us, Nagesh.
RAO: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.