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The new Modi

  • Published at 06:53 pm March 18th, 2014

A series of recent opinion polls indicate that India’s main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are ahead of others in the forthcoming parliamentary elections of 2014. The party, led by its “charismatic” leader Narendra Modi, is more favoured than the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) and all other parties. Narendra Modi, the butcher of Gujarat - who led the carnage there in 2002, with mass killings against the minority Muslim population that lasted for about three months - is in his new incarnation seen as a hero and a true leader of the nation by most Indians.

The consequences of the BJP’s victory, and that of Narendra Modi, at the helm of the Indian state would be very bleak. It would not be limited to a few communal riots here and there but a capitalist development in the interest of the top layers of the country, mass exploitation of workers and other toilers, along with mobilisations based on extreme communal politics and the destruction of peoples’ organisations.

This fertile grounds for the eruption of extreme right-wing politics have been laid by the current INC-led United Progressive Alliance government in particular, and the continuing neo-liberal politics of the last two decades in general. It is important to note that the locus of Indian politics had steadily shifted from centrism to right–wing three decades ago, and between centre-right to extreme–right permanently in the last few years. In fact, during the last five years, an unprecedented deterioration of living standards of the ordinary people started to seep in, coupled with massive scams and corruption, and terrible inflation.

Workers across industries have seen their real wages fall and minimum wages denied across sectors (mostly informal). In the last 20 years, casualisation and informalisation of the formal sector prevailed rampantly. Around 65% of the formal sector workers are contract labours enjoying less than a quarter wages of the permanent workers in similar positions. On the other hand, we witness a huge corporate-led land-grab and the grabbing of other natural resources. The worst affected sections are dalits, the indigenous population, women, marginalised ethnic groups and others in the lower echelons of the society.

The onset of globalisation has significantly changed the patterns of India’s capitalist evolution. By another two decades, the Indian economy is likely to become the third biggest economy, after the USA and China. In PPP terms, India is already the third largest economy. PPP, or purchasing power parity, takes into account the relative costs and inflation rates in different countries. As per IMF, India’s GDP (PPP) in 2012 was 4,711 trillion US dollars, ahead of Japan. However, economic growth is not shared out on a redistributive model.

Currently, the proportion of population dependent on agriculture is around 53%. As the huge number of farmer suicides across much of India show, globalisation has not benefitted all peasants. The prime targets of benefits have been agribusiness companies, whether Indian or non-Indian. A second layer is the top level of farmers. Landless rural families increased from 35% in 1987 to 55% in 2005.

The combination of a shift to more and more cash crop cultivation, with a shift to encouraging agribusiness investment in various forms, has been sharply negative for even relatively well-off farmers. Cotton farmers, who previously used to buy local seeds, now buy BT seeds at massively increased rates.

During the last decade, the share of profits in the revenue generated has more than doubled when compared to the share of wages. In both the manufacturing and services sectors, companies use loopholes as well as a lack of implementation of labour laws to suppress wages.

Both companies and the government increasingly engage contract workers to bring down wage costs and improve productivity. Simultaneously there has been a swell in the numbers of persons engaged as “contract workers” or “casuals,” or where the precise relationship between the worker and the employer is legally uncertain, within the formal sector.

Communalism of all kinds has to be opposed. In India today, Hindu communalism - as the potentially majoritarian communalism - if harnessed successfully can lead to a fascist type of regime. At the same time, this unprecedented savage economic liberalisation with its deregulation, casualisation of labour, escalating social injustice and the unprecedented inequality, growing inequalities and gaps and increase in marginalisation has to be resisted at all costs.