The Unifier-II: Populist development through JAM (IANS Exclusive)
The alternate universe may not accept the unparalleled rise and rise of Narendra Modi, but he is here to stay for another five years. Not since Mrs Indira Gandhi subsumed the Congress party after dismantling the all-powerful Syndicate in the late 1960s and then followed that up with the vivisection of Pakistan, has a popular leader of this magnitude emerged. The new India has chosen its path, it walks the path of Hindu chauvinism.
Cassandras will argue that this does not justify the quantum of the mandate secured by BJP. Adding to the concept of Hindutva Plus Populist Development is safety and security now. Surgical strike, bombing targets in Pakistan and the right to counter punch with efficacy and efficiency have enlarged the scope and size of the Modi myth.
But, in reality this Hindutva Plus Welfare model of Populist Development is paying in spades. PM Modi's personal initiative of JAM -- short for Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile trinity to link Jan Dhan accounts, mobile numbers and Aadhar cards of Indians to directly transfer subsidies to intended beneficiaries and eliminate intermediaries and leakages is the bedrock of his boiler plate to reach out to the masses and the poorest at the bottom of India's vast pyramid. It has unleashed a social equity revolution which increasingly liberated the woman in the village. The list of schemes -- Jan Dhan, Jan Arogya, Jan Ujjwala, Jan Mudra, Jan Uday, Jan Saubhagya, Awas and Ayushmaan are the bedrock of his delivery mechanism.
Is India then pursuing fossilised mores, taking the path to perdition, walking the talk of regression, retrogradation and ossified ideation? No, certainly not, this is merely an assertion of quiet Hindu nationalism, but equally of the heft of majoritarianism, breaking away from the decades old policy of pandering to minorityism. Of course, there is always the lunatic fringe, the lumpen proletariat and the hot heads who use such an all-encompassing vitiated environment for vigilantism, supported, as they believe, by the postulate of might is right.
Immediately after these elections, PM Modi sent another message to his Hindu conglomerative forces by doing 'tapasya' in a Rudra meditation cave in Kedarnath. Let us try and understand this phenomenon of the rise of Modi's BJP which has shattered the caste calculus even as it has consolidated the Hindu vote - forward and backward - behind him. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, BJP+Apna Dal got 17.5 per cent of the vote in UP, SP 23.3 per cent, BSP 27.4 per cent, Congress+RLD 21.5 per cent while others landed 10.3 per cent.
An aggregation of the Hindu vote behind Narendra Modi opposing the appeasement politics of the other secular-minded parties resulted in an anti-minorityism hysteria. In March 2014, a CSDS survey pointed out this emerging phenomenon with BJP+Apna Dal consolidating at 36 per cent vote share while SP, BSP, Congress+RLD and others brought up the rear with 22, 18, 16 and 5 per cent respectively.
Acute polarisation due to the Muzzafarnagar riots meant that BJP was showing 38 per cent rural vote and a 30 per cent urban vote in the state. It is the segmentisation of the vote that the survey portended to which everyone ignored -- 58 per cent upper caste wanted to vote for the BJP, 48 per cent other OBC, 29 per cent other SC and even 11 per cent Muslim which translated into upper castes and lower OBCs flocking to BJP.
Of course, what happened was far greater than that too, as a Modi 'andhi' swept Uttar Pradesh which overnight changed from Uttar Pradesh to United behind Modi Pradesh. It was undoubtedly a new paradigm, Modi's BJP had amassed 42.3 per cent of the vote taking no prisoners, SP trailed with 22.2 per cent, while BSP got no seat but 19.6 per cent of the vote and Congress 7.5 per cent.
To an extent the CSDS survey of March 2014 showed the shifting sands, but didn't predict the enormity of the temblor. The seismic shock shook Indian polity, for not even during the virulent Ram Janmabhoomi movement did the BJP win as handsomely like this. Why did this happen?
It has to be viewed in the context of UPA/SP/BSP appeasement and pandering to minorities. Modi emerged as a 'Hindu Hridya Samrat' and while it is not politically correct to say this, he repeated this feat in the 2017 UP asembly polls when the backlash was even stronger. The Modi tidal wave sank everything in its path as the BJP got 312 seats with 39.7 per cent vote share, followed distantly by BSP 19 seats and 22.2 per cent vote share and SP 47 seats and 22 per cent vote share, while the Congress plumbed the depths with 6.2 per cent and 7 seats.
Again, the Hindu vote consolidated behind Modi. The short journey thereafter has seen majoritarianism go awry under Yogi Adityanath, an encounter spree has fixed the law and order problem, sadly sporadic incidents of Muslim and Dalit bashing have allowed some of the fractured forces to regroup together.
Elections in UP twice, Assam and even the Jammu division of J&K have proved that conclusively as Hindu 'asmita' or chauvinism, even machismo has gained traction across India and PM Modi's subliminal messaging has propagated this and turned him into a 'Hindu Hriday Samrat'. Years of pandering to minorityism and appeasing of Muslims has led to this complex metamorphosis which goes beyond optics.
Otherwise, how does one explain Rahul Gandhi blatantly pushing a Hindu agenda which is not restricted to merely a temple run or a visit to Kailash Mansarovar, but convincing people that he is a 'janaudhari Shiv Bhakt' wearing his Dattatrey gotra on his sleeve? Somewhere deep down is the realisation that in a Hindu majority India or Hindustan, it pays to display Hindu machismo.
Religious beliefs embedded in Hindu 'astha' (faith) are suddenly all-pervasive, the Congress and Rahul know that to stay in the game, this projection of soft Hindutva is a given. But that narrative too got lost in the election-clutter as 'chowkidar chor hai' became the norm. This not only misfired, but backfired for it had enormous negative connotations.
This is a new India, one in which Hindu might is right, secularism be damned. It has touched the hearts and minds of a wide and varied cross-section of people opposed to the idea of incessant appeasement of minorities.
In India, Sonia Gandhi changed the narrative in 2004, born out of European sensibilities and a recognition that the have-nots require safety nets. In the past, politicos had never cared for the have-nots. She challenged that and won again in 2009. PM Modi, too, realised this quickly and took an abrupt left turn, his politics predicated on making life for those inhabiting the congested space at the bottom of the pyramid better by giving them access to simple amenities, ergo his administrative reform unleashing pro-poor schemes which are affordable and accessible.
A function of the 'suit boot ki sarkar' jibe stuck. The bouquet of people-friendly schemes is his way of inclusion of the downtrodden and underprivileged. But, he has taken a party fronted by him and backed by some serious money bags to the apex of the slippery totem pole, winning election after election with his demagoguery skills and indefatigable work ethic. His connect with the aspirational youth voters was phenomenal and they rallied behind him as much as the Hindu vote aggregated and consolidated behind him.
The BJP did not win the 2014 general election, nor did it win in many of the state elections since, the larger-than-life image and persona of Narendra Modi triumphed. The party has been subsumed by his personality.
(To be concluded) IANS