June 30, 2024
Modi Regime: More of the Same

THE formation of a Modi-led NDA coalition government has led to expectations in some circles that this will be a government which will face serious constraints in going ahead with the BJP/RSS’s authoritarian-communal-corporate agenda.  Some of these expectations are exaggerated.  The fact that the BJP has lost its majority and confined to 240 seats in the Lok Sabha may check or slow down certain aspects of the agenda which Modi and the RSS/BJP were aiming to implement in the third term of Modi’s rule. 

Constitutional changes, which could further attenuate the democratic system, undermine the secular principle and reinforce authoritarian centralism, may be difficult to achieve now.   But the thrust of the Modi regime in terms of its economic policies, subversion of institutions and authoritarian drive will see no qualitative change. 

The Modi regime’s confrontationist stance towards the opposition and contempt for parliamentary norms was displayed at the outset of the convening of parliament. On the issue of electing the new speaker, the government refused to offer the deputy speakership to the opposition, thereby thwarting a consensus on the matter.

Within days of the swearing-in of the new government, we have been reminded that the architecture of an authoritarian-repressive regime is very much in place.  The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, who was given bail by a lower court saw that bail being nullified by the High Court. In order to make sure that Kejriwal does not come out of jail, the CBI has brazenly effected another arrest in the same case when he was produced in court.  Fourteen years after a case was lodged against writer Arundhati Roy, the Lt. Governor of Delhi has given sanction for her prosecution under the UAPA.

From July 1, the three criminal codes which have replaced the earlier criminal procedure and penal laws will come into effect. Many of the provisions in these codes are going to impose more restrictions on the democratic rights of citizens and enhance police powers to proceed against citizens, including more draconian powers to punish offences like sedition.

With Amit Shah being reappointed as the home minister, the central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, CBI and other agencies can be expected to carry on with their work of targeting the opposition and also any other persons or entities which are seen as hostile or needs to be intimidated into submission.

Many of the laws adopted in the last phase of the previous government such as the Telecom Act and the IT Act Rules are going to come into force now.  The Telecom Act 2023 has been partially notified on June 26.  This allows the government to stop transmission of any message on the internet in the name of public safety during the public emergency.  Ten central agencies are empowered to intercept telecom communication provided they have the home secretary’s permission to do so.

Big business was unstinting in its support for BJP and Narendra Modi in the run-up to the elections.  The stock market, which had tumbled when the results came that BJP had lost its majority, shot up again when the announcement was made about Modi-led NDA government. Nirmala Sitharaman, in her first statement after reappointment as the finance minister, has stated that the next generation reforms will be taken up immediately. Big business is busy lobbying the finance minister with their demands for the union budget. 

The ushering in of the third Modi government is a signal that the pro-corporate, neo-liberal policies will continue with full vigour.  One can expect privatisation moves like the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) to be unrolled further.  The nature of the allied parties in government like the Telugu Desam Party and the JD(U) indicate that there would be no resistance to the economic policies. 

There will be no let-up in the pursuit of Hindutva politics and targeting of the minorities has also become clear in the first few days after the Modi government was sworn into office.  There have been a number of incidents targeting Muslims, particularly in the BJP-ruled states. In Chhattisgarh, three cattle transporters were attacked and killed by a mob in Arang, near Raipur.  Their only crime being that they were cattle traders. In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, in Mandla district, eleven people were arrested on charges of having beef stored in the refrigerators in their homes. Subsequently, the local administration demolished eleven houses of the accused persons on the pretext that they were illegal encroachments. In Jodhpur in Rajasthan, there was a communal clash and 51 people were arrested. Creating communal polarisation and targeting of minorities are part of the generic politics of the Hindutva forces and there will be no restraint or check on this by the central government.

What must be recognised is that BJP is the dominant force in the coalition and the two major allies – the TDP and JD (U) – are neither interested nor in a position to  assert any political or policy position.  As far as the TDP is concerned, its leader Chandrababu Naidu, is focused on consolidating his position in Andhra Pradesh and his approach to the centre is confined to the funds and packages he can negotiate for his priority projects in Andhra Pradesh.  The JD(U), on its part, does not have anything beyond the horizons of Bihar, where it hopes to consolidate its position keeping an eye on the assembly election due next year.  This reality must be kept in mind when working out the opposition strategy. 

There is no doubt that the fight against the Modi government’s policies and the exposure of its misdeeds can be carried out in a better fashion in parliament given the increased strength of the opposition. But it is more important to build up the resistance to the Modi regime’s authoritarian attacks on democracy and its attacks on the people’s livelihood through the neo-liberal policies by organising struggles and mass protests. 

Here, the role of the Left is important because it is the most firm and consistent opponent of neo-liberal policies and the Hindutva ideology.  While on the broader issues of defence of the constitution, democracy and federalism, the INDIA bloc and the wider opposition unity will have to play a major role, the Left has to play the key role in mobilising the people in their day-to-day struggles and linking up these struggles to the overall opposition to the neo-liberal policies and making alternative policies a credible platform.  The various mass organisations and democratic forums associated with Left will have to build the widest united actions. 

The main lesson to be drawn from the Lok Sabha verdict is that some political space has opened up for intensifying the resistance to the Hindutva-corporate nexus. 

(June 26, 2024)