Gujarat Election Aftermath – Narendra Modi For Prime Minister?!

Modi PMIn the midst of the rage that engulfed many parts of India on the tragic gang rape of the 23 year old student in Delhi; equally significant is the re-election of Narendra Modi‘s BJP{{1}} for a 3rd consecutive term in the Gujarat State Assembly elections held in December which is not to be taken lightly. Narendra Modi, whose politics of communalism saw one of the worst communal violence in Gujarat (2002) in the Post-independence history, overwhelming defeated all his so called opponents riding once again on the wave of his pet slogan “Vibrant Gujarat” that has come to signify his ‘development’ agenda.

A Pathetic Opposition

BJP under Modi managed to win 115 seats, two short of his previous tally of 117 in 2007 assembly elections. The Congress that was never really an opponent to begin with won about 61 seats. The much publicized campaign of the newly formed Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) led by the former Chief Minister and ex-BJP man – Keshubhai Patel barely managed to win 2 seats.

NaMO versusThe so called principle opposition party led by the Congress has proven once again that it is incapable of taking on Modi on any issue as it does not substantially differ on any of the economic policies of Narendra Modi. Despite all the aura build around Modi and his Hi-Fi campaigning blitz, surely it was not impossible for the Congress to defeat Modi given all the resources at its disposal. With all the forces that were ranged against Modi (including within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar), the pathetic fight put up by the Congress – with Rahul Gandhi’s last minute stop during the Election campaign to its outsourcing of its campaign to Keshubhai Patel’s GPP – proves beyond an iota of a doubt that defeating Modi was never on their agenda. It would very much suit the Congress for Modi to continue in power and very deviously use him for its dirty politics in their futures ventures nationally.

As is also usual in Indian politics, money and muscle power played a major role in this elections as well. According to National Election Watch, 30% of the candidates were crorepathis (i.e., assets woth more than Rs. 10 million). The average asset per candidate among among major parties worked out to Rs. 6.40 Crores for Congress, Rs. 4.48 Crores for BJP and Rs. 1.07 Crores for GPP. 22% of the candidates had declared criminal cases against them, with 33% of them from Congress and 25% from BJP.

As for the left parties, one could probably say they left the working class of Gujarat at the mercy of the communalists. Despite some limited base in Gujarat’s strong industrial sector and contesting 8 seats in this elections, CPI(M){{2}} lost all the seats. Given their trade union base nationally and despite all their condemnation of Modi’s communal politics, one of the reasons why the mainstream Left have just evaporated from Gujarat in recent times is because the economic policies, for instance, of the erstwhile Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s Left Front government in West Bengal is not much different from that of Modi’s, with Manmohan Singh lauding both of them for their pursuit of neo-liberal reforms. And of course there are their ideological trappings that have always sought to limit everything within the ‘constitutional framework’ of India and class collaboration with the so called progressive bourgeoisie that never really existed in the first place!

modiHindutva Idealogue or a Neo-Liberal Mascot?

While Modi or his party – the communal, Hindu nationalist BJP and its extended family may not be baying for Muslim blood for the time being as they did after the Godhra train burning incident, Modi’s politics of divisiveness on the one hand and his aggressive neo-liberal agenda on the other are both significant threats to the rights of the Indian working people, especially in the absence of a genuine socialist current in the whole region.

Despite his communal tag and his leanings towards the right-wing Hindutva ideology, Modi is also the darling of the capitalist class today. Though very much groomed in the RSS{{3}} school of bigotry, Modi has today built a personality cult around himself much larger than all the Hindutva leaders put together. No wonder the RSS, the VHP{{4}} have become vary of him and most worryingly his persona has come to eclipse all the Central BJP leaders including LK Advani – the architect of the Babri Masjid Demolition.

Modi for PMPrime Ministerial Ambitions

Under Modi, BJP’s Gujarat unit is nothing more than a puppet at his beck and call. What worries the BJP more than anything else is his open bid for nothing less than the candidature to the Prime Minister post in the coming 2014 elections. With the BJP organizationally in shatters everywhere and its leader – LK Advani still dreaming for the throne, what worries BJP most is that entire party would end up being synonymous around the cult of Modi.

But despite Modi being coveted by the captains of the industry as seen in the latest biennial ‘Vibrant Gujarat summit 2013‘ and all his Prime Ministerial ambitions, Modi will not be the first option for the Indian ruling class and will only be used when all other options fail. While Modi will not give up anything without a fight, there are too many forces ranged against him in the current political set up to realize his ambitions. And most crucially, Modi’s persona does not go beyond Gujarat encompassing the entire country, where the regional parties and the Congress still hold sway, for him to make a dent in the national politics. Moreover, Modi’s autocratic style of functioning will not endear him to the other constituents of the NDA{{5}} to consider him seriously for the race.

Also significant are the cases ranged against him on his role in the 2002 communal carnage that saw over 2000 people killed {{6}} majority of them Muslims and tens of thousands losing their livelihoods. The cases against him, as is usual in India, still drags on in courts with vested interests within the establishment trying their best to scuttle the whole thing. It is not as if the ruling party – the Congress cannot bring Modi to books. But the precedent this will create and questions this will raise about Congress’s own role in similar violence like the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 could bring the whole edifice build around the rotten system crumbling down.

‘Development’ Myth under Modi

Despite the media portrayals, the so called ‘development’ under Modi is nothing more than a farce. No doubt Gujarat is one of India’s most industrialized state and has been growing rapidly in the past few years, but it is also one of the most unequal states. In fact, industrialization/ growth rate of Gujarat has nothing to do with Modi which started way back before Modi and even the GSDP{{7}} figures as touted up by Modi is not much different compared to other high growth states as the table below shows.

Period Before Economic Reforms [82-83 to 91-92] After Economic Reforms [92-93 to 2001-02] After Economic Reforms with Modi [02-03 to 11-12] Growth Rate last 5 years [2006-11]
Gujarat 3.67 7.41 10.28 9.34
Maharashtra 5.80 6.39 9.90 10.34
Andhra Pradesh 5.36 5.41 8.23 9.18
Tamil Nadu 4.88 5.76 8.92 9.42
Karnataka 5.67 6.21 8.39 8.72

Source: Can Gujarat’s growth story be attributed to Modi? – By Sonali Ranade and Shaelja Sharma

Modi vision of ‘development’ has only benefited the upper middle classes and the super rich, while it continues to fall behind in all social indicators. For instance, on Human Development Index (HDI), Gujarat is ranked 10 among major states. 44.6% of children below the age of five suffer from malnutrition whereas nearly 70% of the children in the state suffer from anaemia. Gujarat’s sex (female-male) ratio is 918, compared to 940 for India (2011) which is pathetic for a supposedly developed state. Only 2.4% women are employed in the formal sector{{8}}.

Employment has remained stagnant since 2004-05. Employment in Public Sector has declined owing to Government freezing of recruitment to cut expenses. The overall annual growth of organised employment was only 0.5% (1995-2008) as against more than 8% growth rate. While Gujarat is ranked first in terms of capital intensity, it is 18 in Labour-Capital Ratio. Thus the high growth rate in Gujarat has come at the expense of creating decent jobs and high levels of exploitation plus lack of access to basic services like health, education and also at a significant cost to the environment in this mad race for GDP figures{{9}}.

figure consciousAs the well known documentary film-maker and radical activist K P Sasi satirically put it on one of his facebook posts “Modi’s development model in Gujarat is like the trousers of RSS. It doesn’t reach the bottom.” No wonder then when none other than the Wall Street Journal questioned him on the high level of malnutrition among girls in the state, Modi casually attributed it due to ‘beauty conscious’ young girls! This was akin to Ronald Reagan{{10}} attributing 17 million people in America going to bed hungry in 1964 because “They were all on a diet.”

Can Modi Ever Be Defeated?

So this begs the question: why all the hype over Narendra Modi or his so called achievements? When other state governments have achieved similar figures of growth or when there are other chief ministers who have also won or could win 3 elections in a row (possibly even BJP state governments in MP and Chattisgarh in the coming elections this year), why single out Modi for this dubious honour?

The answer to this lies in the fact that the business lobby and investors have never had it so good as under Modi. From quick clearances to projects by floating all laws of the land (including environmental and labour), generous state subsidies and tax breaks, and a government that gives two hoots about whether people are actually benefiting as long as the upper classes are happy. It is not without reason that Tata’s much publicised and controversial Nano project immediately shifted from West Bengal to Gujarat because they knew Modi can simply break any resistance. More recently Maruti Suzuki, which has been facing workers struggle in Haryana, is also considering to invest in Gujarat where they know very well that Narendrabhai{{11}} will protect them come what may.

This is why there is a strong clamour from one section of the bourgeoisie for Narendra Modi to be considered for the top post. On the other hand, the more serious sections of the Indian ruling class would think twice before ever elevating Modi to the top post and even that would come with riders attached. While Modi’s style of governance (read parliamentary bonapartism) may have worked in Gujarat in the short term, scaling it up to the level of the whole nation would seriously risk its stability given Modi’s proclivities to right wing, Hindu nationalism.

And this also brings the question of whether Modi can ever be defeated? While most of the efforts have gone at trying to nail Modi around his role in the 2002 communal violence, important though it is in bringing all the culprits behind bars, but that in itself is not enough. The one force that can challenge Narendra Modi is the working class of Gujarat, though not well organized, but is one of the largest in the region. According to the 2011 Economic Survey report published by the Govt. of India, Gujarat witnessed the highest number of strikes compared to any other state in India.

The entire growth story of Gujarat has come from the sweat and blood of these workers. While Modi has been waving high about ‘Vibrant Gujarat‘, the wages of the workers have only stagnated and are among the lowest paid in India. The daily wage rate of casual male workers in Urban Gujarat is lower than that of the national average. It was ranked 14th among 20 major states in terms of wage rate for casual female workers in Urban areas. Even in case of organized workers it ranked 18 and 13 respectively for male and female in terms of wage rate among major states (2007-09).

While it is easy to fall pray to the media stories centred around Narendra Modi’s 3rd consequent victory. However, history is full of such instances where mammoth electoral victories have turned into nothing, as the class issues come sharply to the fore in society. We are in the midst of one such such crisis, with the shine of the economic reforms varying off, the working class slowly beginning to move, the youth and the middle classes alienated from the government and a central government that is limping from one crisis to another. The February 2 day General Strike (21st and 22nd Feb) will be an important working class mobilization against the government on neo-liberal reforms such as FDI in retail. Working class unity is the need of the hour and campaign based on the bedrock of working class unity can take on the forces of capitalism and communalism to defeat the Congress and BJP-VHP-RSS gang. The New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) will be campaigning on these issues and link this to the formation of a new mass working class party based on the programme of democratic socialism.

[[1]]  Bharatiya Janata Party [[1]]
[[2]] Communist Party of India (Marxist)[[2]]
[[3]] Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [[3]]
[[4]] Vishva Hindu Parishad [[4]]
[[5]] National Democratic Alliance [[5]]
[[6]] unofficial estimates [[6]]
[[7]] Gross State Domestic Product [[7]]
[[8]] National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) [[8]]
[[9]] Labour and Employment under Globalisation:The Case of Gujarat [[9]]
[[10]] Former US President [[10]]
[[11]] Bhai means Brother [[11]]