Disaster for Democracy: How The Modi Wave has flooded India with Fascism (Part I)

Pieter Friedrich

Op/Ed, 28 May 2019. “In the west, we have labels,” commented journalist François Gautier on WION TV, during a panel about the results of India’s 2019 general election. “Right, left. Far-right, far-left.

We keep applying them to India, where they’re not applicable. We cannot apply to India labels we use in the West. To say that the BJP is far-right is completely wrong.”

The election was over. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won a resounding victory, seizing power once again, with a seat-count in India’s Lok Sabha that surpassed even its decisive showing in the 2014 elections.

Meanwhile, Gautier, described by India’s National Herald as a French-born “BJP cheerleader”, was speaking truth. The BJP is not far-right. But it is authoritarian and fascist.

Moments after Gautier spoke, WION’s political editor Kartikeya Sharma shed some light on how the BJP may have defeated the opposition: it has infrastructural strength. It is backed by hordes of apparatchiks.

“People who are not married, who don’t have families, who have dedicated their lives completely to the party,” said Sharma. “They land up in a state two years before [the election].

They are living in rented apartments. Along with them, they have an army of youngsters. This is the way. How are you going to compete with that kind of a thing?”

Indeed, fuelled by such fanaticism, the organizational power of the Modi wave (a term coined to describe the tsunami of support for BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi) has floated a second BJP victory.

India is now on the brink of another five years of subjugation to an authoritarian regime. By 2024, the country will have endured a full decade of BJP rule.

I joined Sharma, Gautier and others on WION to offer my take on the election. “This is a disaster for democracy,” I began. “We have to remember that democracy doesn’t just mean taking two seconds to push a button once every five years and pick somebody to rule the country.

Democracy’s actually about the society. It’s more than the act of voting. It’s about democratic rights, and those democratic rights are in short supply in India today. We can see that India is fast becoming what it has already progressed far along the path towards becoming, which is an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy, which is fascism.”

That’s when WION cut my mike and severed the interview. “This is not even acceptable that India is becoming an authoritarian state,” responded Sharma. “India is one postcolonial nation which has very successfully demonstrated its ability to transition from one regime to another regime through peaceful elections. I think this comment is unacceptable.”

The irony that fascism involves restricting free speech only to “acceptable” answers was lost on him. However, Sharma’s choice of the word regime, which is generally defined as an authoritarian government, was deeply appropriate.

Last year, an Indian high school teacher was arrested for writing on Facebook, “Voting for Modi is like garlanding a dog.” Perhaps such rhetoric is neither the most respectful nor the most constructive way to promote dialogue about the country’s political problems.

Yet the arrest exemplifies the nature of life under the Modi regime, where expressing discontent, contempt and especially dissent can land an Indian citizen behind bars.

“India’s claim to democracy, rather as the world’s largest functional democracy, solely rests on its record of regularly held elections,” notes jailed Dalit activist Anand Teltumbde.

“Although they are more of a ritual observed with massive money and muscle power than the expression of the will of the people, they have sustained the illusion of democracy.”

Teltumbde argues that “the de jure democracy has always been de facto plutocracy, the rule of the money bags.” He concludes that it was only “a matter of time” before that plutocracy would become exactly what I told WION it was, “an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy, which is what fascism is.”

The emergence of India as a fascist nation ruled by the BJP with Modi as its figurehead is no surprise considering the origins of the BJP.

Nor is it a surprise considering the identity of those unmarried, fanatically devoted party workers and their army of youngsters who provide the BJP’s infrastructural base. Nor is it a surprise considering the history of Modi himself.

More to follow
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue