By MR Josse
GAITHERSBURG, MD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has notched up an unexpectedly massive electoral victory in the recent general elections for parliament.
On the face of it, his – and his party, the BJP’s – electoral triumph is so astonishing that it is – frankly – scary.
Given that Modi has outdone even his 2014 political spectacular – and taking cognizance that the past five years of the BJP-led regime has witnessed a dangerous rash of sectarian tensions across India – the possibility that the BJP’s divisive ‘Hindutva’ agenda will be gleefully and enthusiastically flogged further is nothing if not chilling.
At this juncture, it may be apposite to note (a) that the word ‘secularism’ has, in the age of Modi, virtually vanished from the political vocabulary – even in traditionally ‘secular’ parties such as the Congress – and (b) that even Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, son of a Roman Catholic mother, conspicuously went about, during the electoral season, visiting and praying at scores of Hindu temples and shrines with all the fervor of a sacred-thread wearing, high-caste Hindu!
It seemed as if the historically secular Congress wished to be now perceived as peddling a ‘soft Hindutva’ line, as against the BJP’s ‘hard Hindutva’ stance. (This reminded yours truly of the Nepali Congress’ equally absurd and futile effort in the past attempting to portray itself as more revolutionary than the anti-monarchial Communist parties!)
Phrased otherwise, it appeared that the Congress’ key conclusion of its massive defeat by the BJP in 2014 was the imperative of applying the dictum ‘if you can’t beat them, join them.”
Here, I would direct readers’ attention to an excerpt from Pankaj Mishra’s illuminating analysis of the election result, as it appeared in the New York Times: “Lavish donations from India’s biggest corporations allowed the party (BJP) to outspend all others on its re-election campaign…Mr. Modi’s appointed task in India is the same as that of many far-right demagogues: to titillate a fearful angry population with the scapegoating of minorities, refugees, leftists, liberals while accelerating predatory forms of capitalism…In lieu of any liberation from injustice, he has emancipated the darkest of emotions; he has licensed his supporters to explicitly hate a range of people from perfidious Pakistanis and Indian Muslims to their ‘anti-national’ Indian appeasers.”
Hence, when Modi’s electoral triumph is juxtaposed against the backdrop of ISIS’s rapidly emergent, ominous challenge to ‘Hindutva’ and its acolytes in India – to say nothing of the rank jingoism and chauvinism that underwrote the Modi/BJP electoral campaign – it remains to be seen what the post-electoral Modi government’s foreign policy will be in general, and, more specifically, with reference to India’s neighbours.
To remind, pro-BJP media and an army of sycophants swung into action propagating that India’s tough stance vis-à-vis Pakistan and China in the recent past had been a grand success – when such erroneous, outlandish claims had been nothing of the sort!
The seminal point that we should bear in mind, is this: The Indian electorate basically believes India is above reproach; that she can do no wrong; that defeat can be successfully projected as a shining victory; and that even a grossly cruel five month plus blockade by the Modi government against an earthquake-shattered Nepal can be brushed off as of no consequence!
Before moving forward to other topics, let me say it was most edifying to learn that, as per a report in India Today, quoting Election News,” nearly 50% of MPs in the new Lok Sabha have criminal records. Out of 539 winners analysed, 233 have criminal cases against them. This is an increase of 44% in the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009.”
While Modi’s victory has not surprisingly captured the attention of much of the world, I have been struck by the apparent lack of high-level attention to it in America: as far as I have been able to make out – from newspapers, TV news channels and well-known cable news commentators – the only official attention has come in the form of a signed statement by the Chairman, House of Representatives’ Foreign Relations Committee, Eliot L. Engel (D), congratulating “the Indian people” on their election and wherein it was declared that the said Committee is “looking forward to work with India to advance our shared goals.”
Incidentally, even CNN’s popular India-born commentator Fareed Zakaria, in his weekly GPS broadcast, failed to mention, leave alone comment on substantively, on the just concluded election in India, granting the BJP another term in office.
While I did not come across any relevant message or tweet from President Donald Trump, he did make sure that he would be the first world leader to pay a state visit to Japan since Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, 2019.
In Japan, as the world and American press reported, he enjoyed golf and sumo wrestling but, at a press conference after formal talks held the following day, a raft of policy differences between the U.S. and Japan was exposed, in particular with regard to bilateral trade, North Korea and Iran.
What is worth taking cognizance of, in my view, is that although there is no dearth of serious political problems at home, the American president should be able to flit around the world with such nonchalance. More high-profile travels are impending, including a state visit to the United Kingdom, an official visit to France, and a G-20 summit in Osaka.
The following excerpt is from the New York Times, following the death on the Everest of an American climber. “Fly-by-night adventure companies are taking up untrained climbers who pose a risk for everyone on the mountain. And the Nepalese government…has issued more permits than Everest can safely handle…The fact is that Nepal, one of the world’s poorest nations and the site of most Everest climbs, has a long record of shoddy regulations, mismanagement and corruption.”