India – History and Society – for those who wish to think and learn for themselves
The elections to the Gujarat regional legislature were held in December 2012. The results declared on December 20th did not throw any surprises. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by the regional strongman Narendra Modi won the elections for the fifth straight time (third under Modi’s leadership). The number of seats won remained virtually the same as the previous elections of 2007. The victory was hailed as a stepping stone for Modi towards the ultimate destination of power in India. The new sultanate of Delhi, the seat of the central government of India.
Modi’s success in no surprise. Gujarat has always been an enterprising state, with traders and merchants of Gujarat being the most prominent faces of large scale industry in Western India. India’s steady growth rate in the last decade has ensured improvements in Gujarat as expected. This no doubt has contributed to Modi’s success. However, another factor has been more than important. It has been vital to Modi’s success. That factor has been the steady marginalisation of the weaker sections of Gujarati society especially in the rural belts of poverty in Gujarat. To add to this, has been the confinement of minorities to ghettos in many of the urban conglomerations of the state.
India does need strong leadership. Its current political class seem far from capable of providing such leadership, especially in the central government in Delhi. The Congress party is labouring under the weight of a series of allegations of corruption. The BJP is labouring under delusions of what the common Indian citizen actually wants. The BJP has had only one agenda and that has been to oppose all policy making of the central government. This has found it taking contradictory positions of India’s nuclear policy, foreign direct investment in India and reforms which would be essential to bolster India’s faltering economy. The regional chieftains of states like Tamil Nadu (Jayalalitha), Bihar (Nitish Kumar) and Bengal (Mamta Banerjee) make no sensible attempt to even appear to be acting in India’s interests.
Modi therefore does offer hope to a particular subset of the Indian population. He appears strong, business friendly and personally non-corrupt. However, he does polarise opinions much as he has helped polarise Gujarati society between the haves and the have-nots. He has surrounded himself with politicians with very dubious records such as his deputy home minister, Amit Shah, who faces the most serious charges of masterminding with the local mafia, extra-judicial killings of individuals by the state police. It will be interesting to see how Modi is accepted by other members of his own party and by the rest of India. It is difficult to imagine an individual like Modi getting the broad based consensus amongst voters and parties across the political spectrum. If he does succeed, India will be in for very interesting times. Perhaps, not for the right reasons.