Thursday, September 19, 2013

Economic rebound will force BJP towards aggressive Hindutva….

The Congress is in overdrive, with policy activism replacing policy paralysis. Over the past few months, the focus of the Chidambaram led Finance Ministry and the PM has been on clearing long-pending projects, especially in the infrastructure sector. The other focus has been on reforms in the FDI policy. This has started yielding results, with FDI rising smartly. The stock markets are at a high and the rupee has recovered much of its losses. As economic gloom yields to at least some cheer, the BJP is fast losing one of its poll planks – economic “mess” as it calls it – forcing it to gravitate more and more towards that other plank – Hindutva. Aggressive hindutva to be precise.

The Cabinet Committee on Investments has given the green signal to projects with an investment potential of more than Rs 5 lac crores. Fuel linkages between Coal India and near-completion power plants should ensure that power production increases in the near future. FDI reforms in the aviation sector has resulted in three deals being announced in recent months – the Jet-Etihad, Tata-Air Asia and today, the Tata-SIA ones. FIIs have pumped in money yet again into the Indian stock markets after pulling out money for three months between June and August. Exports are growing at 10%+ and are expected to continue the pace in the coming months. Core inflation – which excludes food and fuel – is down to sub-3% levels, making this a less worrisome issue for new RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. And while on Rajan, its clear how badly managed RBI had become towards the end of Subba Rao’s tenure – see my various posts on this subject. If Rajan today announces even a slight slant towards growth (either a lower repo rate, or a cut in CRR or SLR as he has already indicated), then the economic cheer will be back in full swing. Only those strongly aligned with the BJP will still see gloom anywhere on the economic horizon! The crisis isn’t over, but the moves made are decisive.

On the other hand, Modi’s much touted development model is coming under increased attacks. In just the last few days, several figures have emerged which show that Gujarat’s story is hardly remarkable – it is, but hardly of the order that Modi has publicized it to be. Other data indicates yet again how much stronger the UPA rule has been compared to the NDA period. Sample this: FDI inflow during NDA’s six years rule was some $24 billion. In the UPA’s 9 years, some $222 billion (source: ET, September 13th, article by Abheek Barman). And this: Despite Modi’s much-hyped Vibrant Gujarat, actual FDI inflows into Gujarat were just some $0.5 billion v/s some $8 billion in Maharashtra in 2012-13. Share of Gujarat? 2.38% v/s 40% for Maharashtra. Gujarat was placed sixth in the list, just ahead of…..guess what…..communist West Bengal (source: Total FDI into Gujarat since 2003-4, a mere $7 billion compared to Maharashtra’s $46 billion and Delhi’s $26 billion. Here’s more: As per former World Banker Salman Anees Soz (ya,ya, I know what the BJP will say given his name), Investment rate during NDA rule was 25.2% of GDP; during UPA rule 35.5%. Fiscal deficit during NDA rule was 5.5%, UPA 4.6%. Average GDP growth rate during NDA rule 6%, under UPA rule (despite 2008 crisis) 8%. Per-capita income has risen from Rs 21,729 to Rs 68,747 crores between the NDA and UPA rules (that’s 13.5% per annum on nominal basis – around 7% on real basis – highest anywhere in the world). Some 140 million people have been taken out of poverty. Etc etc etc.

This is why Modi’s strategy has changed – less in speech but more in actual action – in the last few months. He no longer reels off fake statistics, that used to be OK when he was a mere CM. Modi’s development plank had only one objective – to take the discussion away from 2002. That worked. Today, many intelligent upper class Indians are willing to condone Modi’s 2002 record, and his continuing anti-minority bias, only because of his so called development record. But Modi knows that isn’t cutting much ice any longer.

That is why Modi is trying to woo the Muslims – something that looks so funny really. It’s like Hitler asking the Jews to vote for him! On the other hand, in terms of actual on-ground action, the BJP’s main political plank has shifted decidedly towards aggressive Hindutva. The Muzaffarnagar riots prove how the strategy can help the party. Unsurprisingly, the max number of politicians named there belong the BJP. Likewise, in Bihar, the JD(U) has accused the BJP for the riots that took place recently in Nawada. The BJP’s lame defence: it was failure of administration. Are we to believe that the same administration that the BJP claimed was so effective for so many years failed in just 2 months of the alliance breaking? And what about the 84 kosi yatra? Why was it done a second time during the year, and that too only around the districts of Ayodhya? And why was Amit Shah in particular sent to UP? The pursuit of Hindutva is aggressive and muscular. The same muscular style is demonstrated in statements – illiterate ones really – by Modi about our neighboring countries. The intention? Create a strong image for Modi of being a nationalist. Hindu nationalist, mind you.

The strategy is clear. Modi wants to present a personal image of having changed; of including Muslims in his fold. But behind the scenes, it’s a different game entirely. And its understandable. The BJP has tried everything it could during 2004 and 2009. If it went with the same plan in 2014 – and again under Advani – then there was little hope to capture power. Hence the RSS’s favorite strategy. Divide and rule. Hence Modi, and not Advani.

The real truth is that the BJP has not only become a one-man party (my post of 2 days back), but also a party with a single-point agenda. Make no mistake, its Hindutva all the way. Ram Jethmalani defending Asaram is no mistake. It is to reassure Hindus (those at the fringe who prefer aggressive Hindutva) that they are safe under BJP rule. And only under BJP rule. This strategy will be played more aggressively going forward, especially as the development plank fails. Hindutva will drown out everything. Wait and watch….

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