Indian Election 2019
The Rise of the Rightist
Dr Muhammad Kaleem
The contemporary is witnessing the meteoric rise of populism, nationalism and religious intolerance. This phenomenon has engulfed the whole world in general, and in the West in particular with the rise of Donald Trump and British exit from the European Union, i.e. Brexit. In India, Modi government, which first came to power after the 2014 elections that it won by chanting the slogan ‘development for all’ but performed poorly all through the tenure it on economic front –marked by distress among farmers, high unemployment rates and GST issue – managed to win the 2019 election as well, and that too with a clear margin.
It may bewilder a student of political science that a ruling party, despite having the incumbency burden, wins second consecutive election at a time when its performance has been lackluster, to say the least. But, the answer lies in Modi brand (populism), Pulwama attack (nationalism) and Hindutva (religious ideology). Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used the power of these three elements and won with a clear majority. India, the country which boasts to be the world’s largest democracy, had aptly managed its secular outlook and diversity during the last more than seven decades and had also performed well on the economic front. So, people should have clipped the wings of extremist ideology by voting against Modi’s BJP in recent elections. But, like all other populist demagogues, Modi convinced his countrymen that only he can solve the problems faced by them. He made them believe that the traditional elite are corrupt and incompetent. For this purpose, he vehemently criticized Nehru family and held it responsible for all the ills of the country. He even gave party ticket to Pragya Singh Thakur, a terrorist-accused who had openly praised Nathuram Godse the murderer of MK Gandhi. He used Hindutva ideology and consolidated his Hindu support, leaving fourteen percent Muslim population of India confused and perplexed. He chided the Congress for failing to provide the true place of the Hindus in India and supporting the Muslims owing to which minority ruled the majority in India. He vowed to revive the lost glory to the Hindus of the country. The media portrayed him as a humble human who I also a practicing Hindu. During the last five years, media was controlled by Modi government to such an extent that opposition parties would hardly get air time to present their point of view to the people of India. In a bid to boost nationalism in the people, Indian media presents Pakistan and the Indian Muslims as the enemy of the country.
Religion and nationalism are two very sensitive subjects and politicians usually remain very conscious on them so that their voters do not get alienated. Unlike Modi’s BJP, the opposition parties tried to raise the real issues of the people and to reinforce the ideology of respect and love. But extremism won and the opposition failed to counter the bigger narrative of Modi, i.e. 56-inch chest.
The principles of liberalism, freedom of speech and secularism, which are the backbone of democracy, are losing their charm and value in India. This state of affairs has paved the way for neo-fascism in which democracy is eating itself from within. There is a pressing need to reinvent the principles of democracy in the world; otherwise, we will have more authoritarianism in the garb of democracy in coming decades.