Disaster for Democracy: How the Modi Wave has flooded India with Fascism (Part IV)

A Dictatorship Retaining the Form of Democracy

Pieter Friedrich

On May 23, 2019, after a month-long election process, in which the OFBJP again played an instrumental role, the BJP emerged victorious with 38.5% of the total vote.

“It’s not a victory of BJP,” comments Dr Ashok Swain, professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University. “It’s a victory of Modi and Modi’s politics. After Modi came to power in the last five years, this has been turned into a personality cult. BJP is now a one-man party.” Swain describes Modi as “near to a god for a large number of his followers.”

The pracharak’s divine status, he asserts, was cemented by the Gujarat pogrom. “Modi became Modi because of the 2002 killing of 2,000 Muslims,” he states. “RSS realized Modi’s value to take over the leadership, to be their prime ministerial candidate, after 2002.”

Seventeen years after the pogrom, Swain believes this election was about electing a leader “for the majoritarian community to control the minority.”

Modi’s rise from obscurity was no accident. He is the result of a fifty-year project on the part of the RSS, a man who was groomed to be prime minister. He rode to victory on the backs of gangs of apparatchiks who are unmarried and completely dedicated to the party, pracharaks from the RSS, among whose ranks he got his own start in public life.

Modi’s re-election was a referendum on fascism, lynching, and the unrestrained violence against minorities, dissidents and the marginalized which has been repeatedly perpetrated with impunity by the troops of the RSS and BJP.

The 2019 Indian general election demonstrated that democracy is about more than the simple act of voting or the peaceful transfer of power from one regime to another. It illustrated the truth of the words penned by Ambedkar in 1949: “It is quite possible for this newborn democracy to retain its form but give place to dictatorship in fact.”

The essence of democracy is a free and open public forum that encourages, cultivates and protects discussion, debate and dissent. The electoral process is the least important part of a democracy. Without social democracy, political democracy is virtually irrelevant—in fact, even dangerous, because it legitimizes tyranny.

Ambedkar defined social democracy as “a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.” He warned, “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.” Quoting John Stuart Mill, he admonished India that maintaining democracy necessitates that the people refuse to “lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man.”

His words, written the year before Modi was born, were perhaps never more prescient than today. “In politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship,” he declared. Modi epitomizes Ambedkar’s prophecy.