Hates Kerala Narendra Modi
Free burkas from the Muslim enemy
On May 16, the Indian Electoral Commission will announce the result of the general election. According to surveys, the Hindu nationalists are ahead. But surprises cannot be ruled out.
By Joseph Keve, Cochin
"Stop the corrupt Congress Party, stop the Hindu nationalists!" Shouts the loudspeaker. «For honesty, justice and transparency! Choose one of us! Vote Mr. Innocent! " The jeep decorated with flowers and red flags makes its rounds through Ankamali, a small town in the southern Indian state of Kerala, and everywhere there are people standing on the roadside who have come to see their favorite actor: Innocent Vareed. The 69-year-old is new to politics, he has never contested an election, but he assumes that his fame will be reflected in votes - also in votes for the Left Democratic Front (LDF).
For this alliance, led by the once Maoist, now social democratic Communist Party of India / Marxists (CPIM), is Vareed. For the first time in the history of the CPIM, Keralas Linke relies on independent candidates. This, she hopes, could steal votes from the Congress Party and its allies, who have ruled the state since 2011, especially those from the Christian minority. This has so far supported the Congress Party.
The end of the third force
The left is not doing well. In no national election before had so little been heard from her. Gone are the days when left-wing politicians like Jyoti Basu (the former chief minister of West Bengal), Harkishan Singh Surjeet (the long-time CPIM general secretary) or Indrajit Gupta (India's interior minister for some time) played a role nationally: they had fought in the independence movement , were imprisoned and were considered honest politicians. Gone are the days when all secular forces sought advice from left-wing parties like the CPIM. Ever since the descendants of the great ancients began to flirt with neoliberal ideas and the CPIM suffered crushing defeats for this policy in its strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala (it now governs only in the small north-east Indian state of Tripura), a third, left-wing force at the national level has been able to support it be no more talk.
Many factors have contributed to its decline: the many business-friendly decisions to the detriment of the poor, the corruption among the cadres, the almost complete renunciation of the previously so successful training of grassroots activists, the reduction of political content to economic and sometimes social issues. And the left could not think of an answer to the questions that concern many Indians in the face of globalization - those of a regional, ethnic, religious or caste identity.
An active left with a coherent content could certainly score points today. Because between the main opponents of this election - the Congress Party and the Hindu nationalist Indian People's Party BJP - there are almost no differences in many areas. The Congress Party, which has ruled India for the most part since independence in 1947, has lost all momentum and all vision. It is now seen as a corrupt, incompetent and practically leaderless organization that has promised many measures for the benefit of the more than 700 million poor in the past ten years, but has hardly implemented any. The "Shining India", the shining India of which the resigning Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had always spoken, was losing its luster. Economic growth (2009: 9 percent, 2013: 4.8 percent) collapsed, the prices of staple foods explode (see WOZ No. 38/2013), and unemployment is rising rapidly. According to opinion polls, the Congress party is now getting the receipt for its policies, which in the last two parliamentary terms were primarily oriented towards the interests of international capital: Whenever large corporations knocked on the door, Singh was ready to listen to them.
The BJP, on the other hand, which is primarily committed to medium-sized retailers, views foreign investments a little more skeptically (especially those from retail groups such as Walmart or Tesco), but in principle advocates an equally business-friendly policy. BJP candidate Narendra Modi, who is celebrated and supported by major Indian companies as an economic reformer, promises further modernization and liberalization of the country. As chief minister of the state of Gujarat, he had cut corporate taxes, provided companies with grants, given them cheap land and cut electricity prices for large consumers - all at the expense of government spending on education, the health sector and public investment.
Has Modi been economically successful in Gujarat, as many media write? Mulayam Singh Yadav, long-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and a member of the left-wing Samajwadi Party, considers this to be pure propaganda. "In Gujarat over 30 percent of women and 50 percent of children are malnourished, the rivers are among the most polluted in the country, and day laborers earn even less than elsewhere," says Yadav. "And that's supposed to be a good development?" Still, Modi could become India's next prime minister; according to surveys, the BJP is way ahead.
The idea that Modi could rule the country terrifies many. "Since the rise of the aggressively politicizing Modi, the moderate voices in the BJP have fallen silent," says U. R. Ananthamurthy, one of the country's most renowned writers, "Modi is a threat to Indian civilization." Ananthamurthy, 81 years old, is considering emigration if Modi should become head of government. Modi represents three fundamentalisms, explains Harsh Mandar, director of the Center for Equality Studies in New Delhi. "He combines market radicalism with ethnic sectarianism and military fundamentalism: He is pro big business, hates religious minorities and advocates an aggressive policy against Pakistan."
However, the BJP and Modi are also in a dilemma. In order to get even close to a majority of seats (543 mandates are awarded in the majority procedure), the BJP needs the support of the minorities in many constituencies; Above all, the votes of around 180 million Muslims could make the difference in many districts. At the same time, the party does not want to risk the votes of those Hindus who have been fanatized by it, the Hindu radical organization RSS and the World Indurate VHP in the past decades.
So the BJP is pursuing a dual strategy. Modi's adjutants serve the chauvinist clientele with their Hindutva slogans from the only true Hindu nation. Modi's confidante Amit Shah - who is currently being investigated for inciting police terrorism - called on Hindus to vote for the BJP "in order to get revenge on the Muslims." And according to media reports, the BJP politician Giriraj Singh even promised that all Modi opponents would be deported to Pakistan after the election.
Crucial: the regional parties
The top candidate himself, on the other hand, is taking a more moderate approach - and is betting that the public has now forgotten the pogroms of 2002. At that time, a mob, incited by Modi's government in Gujarat, massacred around 1,500 Muslims after a train carrying Hindu militants to Ayodhya was set on fire. But the BJP's electoral program still includes calls for the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya (where BJP and RSS members whipped up an old mosque in 1992), for the abolition of the special status of Kashmir and for the introduction of uniform civil law , which is supposed to deprive the minorities of their previously applicable social and cultural rights.
Modi hardly speaks of that, however. He prefers to ask Muslims - if present - to be in the front row at his election rallies, and it has also happened that his people distributed 5,000 prayer caps and burqas.
Does this double game work? Around a third of all votes - more than before - should go to regional, caste-oriented parties. Almost half of all constituencies are in the populous states of Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Bihar, and this is where regional parties set the tone: the regionally ruling social democratic Samajwadi Party, which represents the lower castes, and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh . The Tamil Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu. The Trinamool Congress, which replaced the CPIM as the ruling party in West Bengal, the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra and the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar.
All of these regionally anchored parties are led by experienced politicians - and this time keeping a low profile. While they previously announced which alliance they would like to join (the United Progressive Alliance under the leadership of the Congress Party or BJP's National Democratic Alliance), they are now waiting. In order to offer a coalition after the election of the party that suits them most.
Does that mean that everything stays the same, because a success of the BJP, which is heavily supported financially by the Indian diaspora - for example in Britain and the USA - is by no means as blatant as the Hindu nationalist program suggests? Experience has shown that government negotiations dilute the goals of the big parties because they cannot do without the support of the small ones. Nevertheless, the Muslims are alarmed. "We have not forgotten the constant rejection of our community by the BJP," says the political student Latif Mohammed (29) from the University of Cochin in Kerala. "The RSS sees us Muslims, Christians and communists only as enemies who need to be driven out."
And so this time too, only a few Muslims will vote for the BJP. Others have also turned away, including some regional parties that were previously allied with the BJP - because they are uncomfortable with Narendra Modi and his aggressive policies.
Translated from the English by Pit Wuhrer.
End of the election marathon
814 million eligible voters (100 million more than 2009), 930,000 polling stations in 543 constituencies, around half a billion US dollars in administrative costs - never before has the cost of a single election been as great as that of the 15th Lok Sabha, the new legislative period of the Indian Parliament.
The nine-stage election marathon began on April 7th in the troubled northeast (see WOZ No. 8/2014) and will end next Monday in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The result will be published on Friday next week.
According to surveys, the BJP, which won 116 seats in the last election in 2009, is well ahead of the Congress Party (2009: 206 seats). It is unclear whether the anti-corruption party Aam Aadmi (see WOZ No. 12/2014) can build on its success in the regional election in Delhi.
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