The Guardian view on India’s election: Narendra Modi’s audacity of hate (The Guardian)

India’s prime minister encourages a belief in his divinity, leading followers to think it is God’s purpose to spread fear and loathing

Hate Watch

By Editorial

No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.” So reads the rulebook for Indian elections. Has anyone told Narendra Modi? India’s prime minister has resorted to overtly Islamophobic language during the two-month campaign, painting India’s 200 million Muslims as an existential threat to the Hindu majority. Laughably, the body charged with conducting free and fair polls did issue a feeble call for restraint from “star campaigners”. With the Indian election results out next week, one commentator warned Mr Modi has “put a target on Indian Muslims’ backs, redirecting the anger of poor and marginalised Hindu communities away from crony capitalists and the privileged upper castes”.

Mr Modi’s tirades are meant to distract an electorate suffering from high inflation and a lack of jobs despite rapid economic growth. His Bharatiya Janata party’s political strategy is to emphasise threats to Hindu civilisation, and the need for a united Hindu nation against Muslims. However, Mr Modi has fused this Hindu nationalism with the idea that he was sent by God. The Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi, his main opponent, suggested that anyone else making such a claim needed to see a psychiatrist.

Religion, Karl Marx wrote, is the opium of the people. This thought still resonates in places where organised religion remains a powerful force. That is why Donald Trump also claims to be doing God’s work. In India, poor people often see politicians as gods delivering relief to numb the pain of reality. By claiming to be divine, Mr Modi is making devotees of voters, encouraging a belief that it is God’s purpose to target minorities, outlaw dissent and ride roughshod over constitutional protections. It is depressing to think that Mr Modi will win a third election victory. There is small comfort in believing the BJP probably won’t achieve Mr Modi’s goal of winning nearly three-quarters of the country’s 543 parliamentary seats. Foreign investors are pulling out their cash from India’s stock market, citing uncertainty about the results.

Ten years ago, Mr Modi promised jobs would be his top priority. Yet unemployment has barely budged despite India being the world’s fastest growing major economy. Four-fifths of its unemployed are young people. More working-age women are employed as a percentage of the workforce in Nepal and Bangladesh than in India. The fruits of growth are landing in the lap of India’s rich, drawn almost exclusively from country’s the upper castes who back the BJP. Unsurprisingly, under Mr Modi Indian inequality reached its highest ever recorded level.

This story was originally published in Read the full story here.


Related Articles