The results of India’s elections are due on 16 May, with many expecting the victory of Narendra Modi and his right-wing opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Modi is the front-runner, and faces Rahul Gandhi, Vice-President of the ruling Indian National Congress party. Modi hopes to break the grip of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and its Congress party which has dominated Indian political life since the country gained its independence in 1947.
Modi proclaims himself a “Hindu nationalist” and according to University of Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal “was a leading activist for [the] secretive and militaristic.... Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — whose founder expressed admiration for Hitler, ideologies of racial purity and the virtues of fascism.
“It is an organisation that, on a good day, looks like the British National party but can operate more like Nazi militias.”
As Chief Minister in Gujarat in 2002, he is accused of preventing authorities intervening to stop anti-Muslim pograms by Hindu extremists. Modi also stands accused of fanning the flames of sectarianism.
A report into the pogroms by the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) says Modi has been “promoting the attitudes of racial supremacy, racial hatred and the legacy of Nazism through his governments support of school textbooks in which Nazism is glorified.”
Modi’s strategy is to present himself as an outsider, as a plain-speaking insurgent against the corruption of the dynastic Congress party. He has taken aim at India’s faltering economy and runaway inflation, and promises further development.
William Dalrymple in the New Statesman writes that: “On the campaign trail, whether from pragmatism or otherwise, Modi has largely kept his Hindu nationalism hidden and presented himself throughout as an able, technocratic administrator who can turn the country’s economy around and stimulate much-needed development.”
Indian Marxist writer Jairus Banaji writes of this pose that Modi’s “current mask is that of the great architect of a developmental state, rather like the way Mussolini projected himself in Italy, where... fascism broke the power of the feudal, mafia-dominated South and extended the sway of the industrial North in a modernising Italy.
So, all this bosh you hear about Gujarat’s ‘ development’ is the same kind of authoritarian discourse about modernisation. All it boils down to in the end is a rampant, unfettered development of capitalism, one led by private capital and both encouraged and given a completely free hand by the State.”
The Congress party’s hold on power is tenuous, relying on several smaller coalition partners who offer no guarantee that they will continue to support the government after the election.
Having been in power for ten years, it suffers the disadvantages of incumbency.
Its base among Muslims and those at the bottom of the social hierarchy may not provide the necessary votes to secure a third term.