Thursday, January 10, 2013

India turns to Narendra Modi for gung-ho capitalism and national pride?

Back in March 2009, I wrote here about the coming benign authoritarianism in India.  It appears that I may have been on the right track, after all, which means that I am worried even more than before.

I was in India when Modi won re-election, and started doing the rounds selling himself as the non-Congress prime minister.  There seemed to quite a bit of support for him from the middle and upper class--family, friends, and media reports all seemed to point in that direction.

I thought maybe I was reading into all that a tad too much, given my distaste for Modi; but, that is echoed by Pankaj Mishra, too, who writes:
China’s integration into the global economy has created a bellicosely nationalistic, rich minority. In India, similarly, big industrialists such as the Tatas and Ambanis, together with the emerging middle class, grow fonder of such business-friendly politicians as Narendra Modi, the Hindu-nationalist chief minister of Gujarat, whose complicity in the murder of over 2,000 Muslims in 2002 didn’t prevent his landslide reelection—or dampen his ambition to become prime minister. In expropriating public resources for private industrial and infrastructural projects and suppressing his critics, Modi is the primary Indian exponent of capitalism with Chinese characteristics. 
Just terrible that from the same land of the "Mahatma" should arise a maniacal Hindu nationalist leader with a real chance to become the country's prime minister!

Modi is not the only divisive nationalist either; it is less than two months since the Hitler-admiring Bal Thackeray died.  Mishra, too, reminds us about the nexus:
There are equally significant—and worrisome—signs of a creeping populist authoritarianism in the middle-class cult of Adolf Hitler, the popularity of  Mein Kampf, or the recent mourning by some of India’s best-known figures in politics, sports, and entertainment of Bal Thackeray, Mumbai’s infamous demagogue (and Hitler enthusiast).
Modi's political future and, therefore, the country's future, depends on the youth.  If their energy that has been channeled into the protests, after the atrocious gang-rape and death of a young woman, dissipates then that might even be better than the likes of Modi morphing that into a frustration against the status quo alone.  I worry that Modi and his nationalist supporters will exploit the situation to their advantage.

It is not that the current government is any better.  It is awful that Indian citizens do not seem to have any decent choice, and instead have to look for the lesser of the evils!

To top it all, the more Pakistan comes across as an unruly and wild society, the more the Hindu nationalists can sell themselves as the tough guys who can defend India.  The latest developments along the India-Pakistan border will play to Modi's advantage.  Even worse is the terrible deaths of more than a 100:
Bomb blasts in two Pakistani cities killed at least 115 people on Thursday and wounded more than 270, offering harrowing evidence of how the country’s myriad internal conflicts could destabilize it as elections approach.
In another essay, Mishra points the fingers at the old divide-and-rule policies of the European colonizers:
Divide-and-rule European imperialists, favoring one ethnic group and persecuting or neglecting another, or drawing arbitrary lines in the sand or the grass, originally transformed social and religious differences into political antagonisms within Asian societies. Their local opponents -- mostly educated natives -- hardened religious and ethnic identities by turning them into a basis of anti-imperialist solidarity.
Mishra concludes:
The battle against bigotry is far from over; Europe’s long and violent past today looms over its inevitably multicultural future.
For Asian nations beset by their own present and potential ethnic cleansers, it is even more important to remember the relative youth of sectarian nationalism on the continent -- and the long centuries when it did not exist.
This year, Pakistan heads to the polls, and India will hold general elections in 2014.  Here is to wishing for peace over the stretch!


Ramesh said...

No No; its not that stark. There is also the side of Modi which is the very good governance in the state which stands in stark contrast to everywhere else in India. That is what makes the choice so difficult.

Shayri said...

Gujarat is a pro industrialist's state offering lot of freebies like land, electricity,exemption in Income-tax etc.