In 2019, Disenchantment with the BJP May Not be Limited to Gujarat

In the forthcoming general elections, the disenchantment with the Bharatiya Janata Party may not be limited to Gujarat. The state has experienced the hoax of the Gujarat model first-hand and may be the affective state in contiguous regions across states.

The dust has settled on the Gujarat election, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fallen woefully short of Amit Shah’s chest-thumping “150-plus seats” boast, sputtering and coming to a halt at 99. This seat tally was just seven over a simple majority, and looked more like a defeat than victory for the party in the state that is considered the laboratory of the potential Hindu rashtra. Pundits and the intelligentsia once chided Narendra Modi’s national ambitions, confident that India was not Gujarat. Instead, the Modi-led BJP has succeeded in reproducing the Gujarat model at a national level. In 2018, “India” mirrors Gujarat, with Hindu majoritarianism becoming commonsensical and brutal violence against religious minorities having become an everyday affair. Gujarat’s exclusionary growth is being replicated on a national scale, at an exponential pace. Income inequality in India is at its highest since 1922 (Chancel and Picketty 2017). India’s richest 1% holds 58% of its wealth (CreditSuisse 2017), and the country has experienced years of jobless growth since the Modi government was elected in 2014 (Venu 2017). 

However, the 2017 Gujarat assembly results also show that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) invariably encounters limits, and tends to do so rapidly. After coming to power at the centre for the first time in 1999, the NDA lost after just one term, while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won successive elections in 2004 and 2009. Arguably, the UPA was better able to resolve the contradictions of pro-market growth by producing a Polanyian countermovement of social programmes and safety nets that blunted the effects of growing inequality for swathes of society. The BJP fails to produce “countermovements” (Polanyi 1957) because they run counter to its ideology, explicitly pro-rich, pro-corporate, and Brahminical. The party’s economic and social goals are two sides of the same coin, and envision an order that sediments inequalities based on capital, religion, and caste. 

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