The outcome of the December 12 elections in Gujarat has baffled pollsters and political pundits no end. It has also saddened every Indian who has a concern for the future of democracy and secularism in India, for the very identity of India. The Gujarat verdict is indeed a wake-up call for Indian democracy. Of course, it is not the end of the road, rather the battle has just begun. It is a battle which India must and shall win in the end. But to win the battle for the future of India, we must first face up to the hard reality that has surfaced in Gujarat.
The landslide victory for the BJP marks a stunning reversal of the electoral trend which was operating in the state till February 2002. In 2000, the BJP had lost the panchayat elections in all but one district. It had lost the corporation election in Ahmedabad. Even in February 2002, hours before Godhra, the BJP had lost two of the three Assembly by-polls in the state with Narendra Modi winning by a reduced margin from Rajkot, the third constituency. But this time around, the BJP has not only managed to win a record 125 seats, it has also crossed the fifty per cent vote-share mark.
The significance of the Gujarat election has also to be understod in contrast to what happened in UP a decade ago. In UP, BJP had made its state government preside over the forcible demolition of the Babri Masjid. This however brought about not only a belated dismissal of its government but also a comprehensive defeat in the subsequent election. In Gujarat, its government orchestrated one of the most barbaric genocides in world history. Yet, amidst worldwide cries of shame and outrage and repeated calls for dismissal, and ignoring indictment by institution after institution, the killer regime not only continued unfazed, it has now managed to ‘legitimise’ itself through an electoral ‘landslide’! And now the Prime Minister who had earlier described Gujarat developments as a national shame openly accuses Muslims of not regretting Godhra while the BJP national president calls upon the party not to feel apologetic about Gujarat and instead replicate the Gujarat experiment all over the country.
Between the genocide and this latest electoral ‘landslide’ and verbal aggression, we have a real, if embryonic, glimpse of the phenomenon called fascism. It is not just about fear and terror, it is also a high-pitched emotional frenzy systematically whipped up by means of saffron demagogy. This demagogy has effectively channelised the post-Godhra post-Akshardham grief and anger into a shrill campaign for Gujarati pride under the banner of hardline Hindutva and turned Modi into a larger-than-life icon and Togadia into a star campaigner. And backing this demagogy is the intricate organisational network of the RSS and the systematic indoctrination of various vulnerable sections of the society. Modi’s Hindutva is not just middle-class, the genocide and the post-genocide communal polarisation have given us a picture of the solid inroads the BJP has succeeded in making into the tribal territory of Gujarat.
The role of the Congress in Gujarat has from the very beginning been a story of abject surrender to and connivance with the fascist offensive. By handing over the reins of the party to Vaghela, the Congress began on a note of complete moral and ideological defeat. It made little attempt to save and salvage the once formidable influence of the party among the adivasis. The minorities were taken completely for granted and the issue of punishing the planners and perpetrators of the genocide remained ominously missing from the Congress manifesto. And it went to the shocking extent of fielding a number of candidates who had actually led the mob violence during the genocide. The Congress attempt to appropriate the plank of Hindutva could only have backfired and the result is now here for all to see.
The pangs of liberal conscience have predictably been blunted by the emphatic scale and nature of the BJP’s win in Modiland. Sections of liberal opinion have now taken it upon themselves not only to preach reconciliation and governance to Modi but also to discover signs of statesmanship in this high priest of murder and mayhem. The opportunist Left calls for a still bigger show of Congress-led opposition unity to arrest the landslide, conveniently ignoring the fact that Gujarat has only exposed the danger of such a bipolar polity.
It is not for us to indulge in idle speculation over whether the BJP would be able to replicate the Modi model in the rest of the country. Our job is to defeat the fascist offensive by means of a powerful people’s resistance. A vibrant Left and democratic movement built on the solid foundation of revolutionary mobilisation of the rural poor with a high degree of participation of dalits and adivasis, of the kind which the CPI(ML) has succeeded in developing in states like Bihar and Jharkhand, holds the answer. Only a powerful resurrection of the communist ideology and expansion of the cadre-based communist organisation can give an effective rebuff to the RSS. Gujarat 2002 beckons us to redouble our efforts in this direction. q