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Hindu supremacist Modi: "Toilets first, temples later"

Image via The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
India's Prime Minster-elect Narendra Modi.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – With mass unemployment, rising food prices and a stalled-out economy, the increasingly-desperate Indian people, in last week’s general election, helped the Hindu-centric Bharatiya Janata Party sweep to a landslide victory, along with its National Democratic Alliance.

It was a bitter defeat for the Congress Party and the Congress-linked Gandhi family. With BJP winning 333 of 543 seats up for grabs and Congress only winning 59 seats, it was, as Business Week reported, “the worst performance for  the party that has governed India for most of its history.”

And with the new leader, Narendra Modi, preparing to be India’s next prime minister, concern is growing that his role as a Hindu hardliner, representing a Hindu-focused party, does not bode well for the other religious and ethnic groups in the country and that Modi's promises of a better economy may come with a price.

As The New York Times wrote: “(A)fter a landslide electoral triumph Friday by the Bharatiya Janata Party of Hindu nationalists, some Muslims here said they were worried that their place in India could become even more tenuous.”

Modi has a shady background as business-friendly, Hindu nationalist leading the western Indian state of Gujarat, where he “has also been linked with a police assassination squad that largely targeted Muslims.”

Modi’s fanatical religiosity and Hindu supremacist actions are also of growing concern to India’s liberal intelligentsia who “see Mr. Modi as a  threat to India’s secularism, which is enshrined in its Constitution. It is a characteristic that distinguishes India from Pakistan and binds a nation of extraordinary diversity.”

And yet respected publications like London's Economist, touted Modi as a leader who will get India out of its slump and create the "shining India" that Modi promised his countrymen. Modi's odd slogan to get the masses excited and to downplay his Hindu chauvinism was "toilets first, temples later." Clearly this resonated.

But will positive change actually happen, particularly when Modi is seen as a dangerous, unpredictable reactionary who has angered many non-Hindus.

As reported recently in The Age, an Australian newspaper, Chetan Bhatt, director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics, talked about Modi and his demagoguery and what an alarming development this is.

''Narendra Modi has been an activist for the Hindu far-right paramilitary RSS and its affiliates for the entirety of his political life. He remains committed to the supremacist ideology of Hindutva, which says that India should be an exclusive Hindu nation state in which minorities are treated as second-class citizens or worse," Bhatt told The Age.

The World Socialist Web Site, in a column headlined “Hindu chauvinist BJP sweeps to power in India,” expressed concern about what Modi’s victory really means for India’s future, particularly for minorities and the many poor people in the populous Asian nation.

“Modi is notorious for his role in instigating the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom. But he has impressed India’s corporate elite and the likes of Goldman Sachs, which recently issued a gushing report on Modi’s potential to serve as an ‘agent of change,’ by lavishing investors with land and tax concessions, illegalizing strikes, and otherwise doing their bidding," the website notes.

Continuing, "The Indian bourgeoisie’s enthusiasm for the arch-communalist thug Modi underscores that it is turning to reaction and authoritarian methods of rule to realize its ambitions to transform India into a hub of cheap-labor production for world capitalism.”

Meanwhile, India’s Communists had a disastrous showing in the elections, primarily due to India’s failure to create a large industrial sector, “the natural wellspring for Communist organizing efforts,” reports Gardiner Harris, a New York Times correspondent reporting from Agartala, India.

Well, that and the fact that the two Indian Communist parties – CPI and CPM – along with their Left Front, “have played a pivotal role in implementing the bourgeoisie’s neo-liberal agenda.” As one critic said, the Left in India have only themselves to blame for India's recent rightward, reactionary tilt.

As WSWS’s Keith Jones writes: “From the get-go, the Modi-led government will be a regime of extreme crisis. It is tasked with imposing, under conditions of global capitalist crisis, a class-war agenda that is inimical to the vast majority: the slashing of social spending; the reduction and eventual elimination of price subsidies for energy, fertilizer and food; the gutting of restrictions on mass layoffs and plant closures; privatization; the shifting of still mor efo the tax burdern onto working people. The list goes on and on.”

Jones addes that while India’s neighbors – Pakistan, Bangladesh and China – have all said they are willing to work with the Modi government, although Modi’s actions, which include his attacks on the government for “appeasing” Pakistan and being “soft” on China, have made him a feared strongman in the region. This cannot bode well for the future, particularly with such bellicose behavior.

Don't forget, after the 2002 riots in Gujarat, Modi was banned from traveling to the U.S. under the International Religious Freedom Act. This is proving awkward for the Obama administration, now that the U.S. president has formally invited Modi to the White House for a visit. Still, all signals point to Obama wanting to reset relations with India after things soured between Obama and the government of outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh.

There are plenty of alarming things about Modi. The Huffington Post offered this list recently.

And if you recall back in December, the International Business Times featured an alarming story headlined, “India-Pakistan nuclear war would kill 2 billion people, end civilization: report.”

As reporter Palash Ghosh reported: “(A) limited nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan would destroy crop yields, damage the atmosphere and throw global food markets into chaos. China, the world’s most populous country, would face a catastrophic food shortage that would lead to enormous social convulsions.”

With 5 million tons of soot shooting into the atmosphere, the feared “nuclear winter” would befall much of the planet, blocking sunlight and causing dropping temperatures worldwide. It would be a global catastrophe.

Something to ponder as we watch the first actions of Prime Minister-elect Modi, or as an Indian friend of mine said: “(H)is true colors will be revealed in three or more months.”

We shall wait and see.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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