Bihar will show the way out of the tired politics of hate, says Amit Sengupta.
Reporters on the ground believe that the BJP-led NDA alliance has done “much better” in the fourth phase of the elections in Bihar. The first three phases have reportedly gone against it. The last phase, too, might see a shift in support from the BJP.
I’ve never had any faith in psephology or the miscellaneous prophet/profit pollsters, but I do trust the trained instincts of hardened election reporters who choose to bite the dust and sense the sensibilities on the ground. As of now, speculatively, it seems apparent that despite the shift in the fourth phase, the BJP might not make it in the assembly elections in Bihar. Optimists in the NDA alliance are now hoping for a “tie”-like situation, which, in itself, is a big turnaround for a party that chooses to flex its muscles as ritualistically as a crow crows on a foggy morning of despair.
The beef trump card did not sell in Bihar. It proved to be a damp squib. Nor did the prime minister’s communal card of demonising “one community” by invoking pseudo-fears that the Dalits and OBCs will suffer because the Lalu-Nitish combine will sell off five percent of the reserved quota to them. This was a big risk, and a violation of basic constitutional ethics, but it goes by the entrenched social psychology of the prime minister and his loyalists honed in the bloody killing fields of Gujarat 2002 and the electoral politics after that—demonising the Muslims and pushing them into a corner to woo the “other community” into a makeshift homogeneity, purely for electoral reasons. Indeed, as Gujarat has shown, this can be a dangerous game, pitting communities against another community, both Indian citizens. But, they don’t care. Surely, not this prime minister.
The beef trump card did not sell in Bihar. It proved to be a damp squib. Nor did the prime minister’s communal card of demonising “one community” by invoking pseudo-fears that the Dalits and OBCs will suffer because the Lalu-Nitish combine will sell off five percent of the reserved quota to them.
“Master strategist” Amit Shah’s “Freudian slip” that crackers will be burst in Pakistan in case the BJP loses in Bihar is a transparent giveaway, apart from being in abject bad taste; it frankly proves that not only have all the crackers turned cold in their cold-blooded, xenophobic hearts, the fizz and the fuzz has gone out of their high-on-TRP “Modi Cola”. The foot-in-mouth disease they all suffer from day-in, day-out, besides, is a pointer that they are losing the plot and compelled to expose themselves. No wonder, most often, in terms of crude, indecent verbosity, they seem to be lost like “Alice in Blunderland”, as Arun Shourie had so famously remarked about his esteemed party colleagues in the past, even while then pitching all his hopes on one prophet and miracle man called Narendra Modi, who, as funny television shows highlighted before the Lok Sabha elections, was seen fighting with two crocodiles with his bare hands as a valiant Gujarati kid.
Now, it is apparent that the crocodile tears seem to be turning saline, almost acidic. Shourie has called the Modi regime nothing else but just another Congress plus a cow. It’s a pointer that the economy is in dumps, has failed all high neoliberal expectations, and the corporations and big lobbies in the West and America are terribly unhappy. Calling him an ideological “victim”, especially since the Gujarat genocide of 2002, as Arun Jaitley has so pompously announced, would lead to a kind of psychosis, when the “ruler” can turn vengeful. “Designating Modi as a victim of intolerance is the most dangerous thing to do because it will give him grounds to be vengeful,” said Shourie. He should know. He might have been shunted out of the power equation and turned into an “outsider” and a “victim” by his own ideological soulmates, but, surely, he is too sharp an “intellectual” to miss the inner dynamics of the typical RSS mind, however shallow and hate-filled it might be.
In other words, designating Modi as a victim is a kind of warning, implied Shourie. A warning that could mean apocalypse now for India. Indeed, as the scientists have written in their plea against intolerance, and as most writers, filmmakers, historians, academics and others are warning, this could be a nuclear bomb-like scenario for Indian democracy, whereby one short circuit, like the Dadri lynching, can become an inflammatory time bomb, ravaging the social and cultural landscape of India, damaging it beyond repair. Surely, all those who voted for Modi chasing the totalitarian advanced capitalist “China model” and the superpower dream sequence are now finding themselves sinking sinking drinking water. They too have no choice. There is no choice.
In that sense, the belligerent Sangh Parivar motormouths are only being true to their essential inner selves, stuck as they are in their rat-traps. Their fundamental shallow and limited worldview, their compulsive anti-knowledge obsessions, their hysteria about history and historians, their pathological psychosis linked to the re-interpretation of history, their compulsive anti-modernity syndrome, their xenophobia and one-dimensional rat-holes are ritualistic. Their morbid, patriarchal and orthodox value systems, their obsessive hate politics and lack of vision, and their universal incapability to participate in a decent, restrained, thinking, intellectual and rational discourse, are all repeated pointers that they just can’t handle the logic of power in a pluralist and diverse democracy like India. That democracy is not mob power or lung power.
Indeed, despite being in the dominant mainstream as a ruling party, they think, speak, behave like the “fringe”—always defensive, always ready for a brawl, always shouting and screaming at the top of their voice, always able to eject a barrage of utter, mindless nonsense. They seem to be behaving like schizophrenic victims of their own paranoia: why us? What have we done? Their comical and persecuted sense of victimhood, and the horrific ghosts they fight with in their minds, indeed, combined with their relentless belligerence and mindless diatribes is a deadly concoction which the nation has to suffer in the days to come. This is the price India has to pay for selling out to a fake dream manufactured by a sell-out media and the ad gurus of Modi’s event-management team.
In Bihar, the fact that they shifted the clock towards Pakistan and mythical terrorists, as much as the myth of the holy cow, after the Dadri lynching and brutal murder of Mohammad Akhlaq on the issue of a mythical piece of meat in the refrigerator, with not an iota of shame or sorrow for the mob lynching, was a pointer that the Modi spectacle has become a cliché. That their godfather in Nagpur turned the caste quagmire into a box-office churning with his anti-reservation remarks, repeated twice and in public platforms, only added to their drubbing on the ground. It seems, they miscalculated their might. And, surely, if they have done that, they will fall in Bihar.
Their fundamental shallow and limited worldview, their compulsive anti-knowledge obsessions, their hysteria about history and historians, their pathological psychosis linked to the re-interpretation of history, their compulsive anti-modernity syndrome, their xenophobia and one-dimensional rat-holes are ritualistic.
The burning alive of little Dalit children in Haryana, its rather inefficient and clueless RSS chief minister yet again asking Muslims to leave the country in case they eat beef, etc, has only added to misery of the BJP in Bihar. The dog remark by minister VK Singh, who, too, is a compulsive motormouth, spread across the hinterland in Bihar like wildfire, even as the social engineering of the caste alliance seemed to be collapsing.
As in the Hindi heartland, apart from the dominant castes or communities, there is a complex web of inter-caste equations in multiple forms, across the land and occupational political economy in Bihar. There is no unilateral caste equation, even among the extremely backward castes of Dalits. The BJP plank of uniting the upper castes with the poorest of the poor in the caste hierarchy seems to have failed, with a large chunk of the EBCs and Dalits shifting towards the Mahagathbandan, which has retained its traditional caste-community vote base. The splintered caste vote-bank among the Dalits too have decisively shifted away from BJP, according to ground reports. Mohan Bhagwat’s statement seeking a revaluation of the reservation system was used to the hilt by the Lalu-Nitish combine. It became a rat-trap of sorts for the BJP, and Modi’s last ditch attempt to communalise the reservation issue might not have succeeded.
In a society where caste equations remain entrenched in favour of the dominant castes as economic and social oppressors, where the lower castes and poor feel historically brutalised and degraded by the upper castes, affirmative action, in terms of slow upward mobility and social dignity, helps in marginally shifting the power balance. Educational upliftment and government jobs, for Dalits or Muslims, or the promise of it, in however marginal a measure, is seen as perhaps the only panacea in a poverty-stricken and exploitative landscape where all the dice are loaded in favour of the upper castes and the rich.
Mohan Bhagwat’s statement seeking a revaluation of the reservation system was used to the hilt by the Lalu-Nitish combine. It became a rat-trap of sorts for the BJP, and Modi’s last ditch attempt to communalise the reservation issue might not have succeeded.
In that sense, with no large-scale social and cultural transformation, or a radical restricting of economic relations in favour of the have-nots and unwashed masses, to use a cliché, political reservation becomes a political tool to defend the little social space which the oppressed castes have gained since the Mandal Commission was introduced in 1989, and other affirmative actions, like reservation. An attack on reservation, as by the RSS chief, has only strengthened and consolidated these communities against the BJP.
And if that happens, as the results will show on 8 November, this will mark a decisive paradigm shift in the falling graph of the “manufactured consent” and media propaganda of the “acche din” of event manager Narendra Modi. All political and social indicators point to that.
However, if the BJP wins in Bihar, the good days will be there for all to see. The xenophobic and polarising “Gujarat model” might be replicated all over India. Indian democracy and pluralism will be stretched to its limit. The nuclear bomb might become a social construct with a short circuit ready to blow anytime. Mindless violence, mob democracy, mafia-like belligerence and morbid, irrational, atavistic thought systems will rule the roost. And, as writer Krishna Sobti said, Babri and Dadri might become a metaphor a new form of bahaduri (bravery). Or, as Shahrukh Khan has said, inside of Digital India, we all might actually enter the Dark Ages.