Narendra Modi
File photo | PM Narendra Modi | Kamal Singh/PTI
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The politics of Hindutva is the politics of command and control. It seeks to draw the red lines on how people must live, what they must eat, what they must wear, which movies they may watch, what slogans they must raise, lest they are declared seditious if not outright treasonous.

Inspired by European fascism, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) seeks to refashion Indian society. And it seeks to do so with means that are not always democratic, even if they use the ladder of democracy to reach there — just as the European fascists did.

This vision is not in consonance with the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, which the Constitution places as the bedrock of the idea of India. The problem is not just with what Hindutva seeks to do, but also how it seeks to do it.

As we can see today, it wants to obliterate all other schools of thought, all other ways of thinking. It is not the fringe elements who demand the shutting down of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, a Leftist bastion. It is the mainstream army of Hindutva establishment’s disinformation warriors who do that.

Hindutva politics today cannot suffer that Jammu and Kashmir have a Muslim chief minister, and wants Muslims to prove their citizenship. It openly seeks to take “revenge” upon Muslims, as in Uttar Pradesh. The only thing fringe is the worshipping of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, which will also become mainstream one day.

Hindutva is like the neighbourhood strongman vigilante — and often Hindutva is literally that — defining what’s acceptable and what’s not. In other words, Hindutva is authoritarian by definition. It is not surprising that Hindutvawadis also bring their authoritarian mindset to running the economy.


Also read: It’s Indira Gandhi’s 1974 in India again, but Modi faces a harsh new reality


The Vajpayee years

India’s first national BJP government was not really a proper Hindutva government. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was hobbled by a giant coalition of regional parties. He was perennially at loggerheads with the guardian of the Hindutva project, the RSS.

Vajpayee carried on with the consensus for economic reforms. Most importantly, the people who ran the economy for him — Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie — were not from that nursery of fascism, the RSS shakha, even as they were decidedly Right-wing. Vajpayee was arguably the only prime minister of India who wanted to genuinely carry out privatisation of public sector companies. No wonder India’s economic growth increased under the Vajpayee government.


Also read: There’s hope for Indian economy if it becomes No. 1 priority of Modi govt instead of CAA


Excessive hard work

Unlike Vajpayee, PM Narendra Modi is a real Hindutva leader, one who spent many years as an RSS ‘pracharak’ (propagandist) before joining the BJP. Once famously described by political psychologist Ashis Nandy as a “textbook fascist”, Narendra Modi grows more authoritarian with every election victory.

Internet shutdowns, currency demonetised, tax system changed overnight, states re-organised without anyone’s assent, people throated with having to prove their citizenship — are just some things that betray Modi’s authoritarian streak.

The biggest problem with Modi’s economic vision is that he thinks he has one. He thinks he can run the economy with the help of bureaucrats and spin doctors alone. Not even the finance minister is needed. Nirmala Sitharaman, like her predecessor, the late Arun Jaitley, is a ceremonial finance minister. Modi has made clear his contempt for economists. He hurriedly got rid of economists who actually know a thing or two about the field. Harvard versus hard work, he once explained.

The Indian economy needs Modi to work less hard on it. His hard work has made sure that nominal growth is down to a 42-year low.

Forty-two years ago, it was 1978, and Indira Gandhi had just been ousted in the post-Emergency election. That Modi’s economic performance this year takes us back to the Indira Gandhi era is apt, because she was another authoritarian leader who believed she could, with her actions, make the economy attain ‘commanding heights’.

But as India discovered after the economic reforms in 1991, economic growth needs letting go, letting entrepreneurs create and innovate, letting the forces of demand and supply do their job. Economic growth needs freedom, trust and stability. India’s IT services sector could famously flourish because the government had no clue about it, and thus did not feel the urge to over-regulate.


Also read: To pull Indian economy back, Modi govt first needs to admit that it’s not business as usual


Authoritarian socialism 

Modi can’t let market forces flourish without his intervention because how can he not control something? This urge to be able to hold everything in one’s fist comes from the same fascist roots of Hindutva that want you beaten up by masked goons just because you subscribe to Leftist ideology, no matter how irrelevant your ideology is.

Narendra Modi’s authoritarian approach towards the economy also makes him more socialist by nature, willingly or unwillingly. It is telling that the Indian hoary Left and the Hindutva Right are often on the same page in their scare-mongering about capitalism, reforms and foreign investment.

What could ever be more socialist than the hare-brained demonetisation? That’s Modi’s economic vision, based on the idea that Modi can come up with a magic wand to make Indians prosperous overnight and thus be hailed as India’s Lee Kuan Yew. This is as true of Modi’s willingness to hand out loans to people he thinks might start small businesses, when the real start-ups with the potential to create large-scale employment face an angel tax. It was only after the economic slowdown began to make the top headlines that the outrage against the draconian angel tax was withdrawn.

Those MUDRA loans that he thought would create crores of jobs? The NPAs on it keep rising and no one’s seen the crores of jobs allegedly created.


Also read: India under Modi is 5th biggest geopolitical risk in 2020, says consultancy firm Eurasia


Modi the reformer?

Modi says the right things that people want to hear at any given point of time — so you can find many platitudes by him in support of capitalism, business, entrepreneurship, wealth creation, and so on. But he often does the opposite. Having promised “minimum government, maximum governance” before his first election in 2014, he has actually delivered the opposite. Minimum government is not compatible with the Hindutva worldview.

Modi was not willing to back land acquisition reforms with his political capital because they didn’t give him any control. GST got his political capital, however, because it was just the kind of centralising law that makes him say one nation, one tax, one leader all in one sentence.

The defenders of ‘Modinomics’ — although that phrase went out of currency when 86 per cent currency was demonetised overnight — say he brought the bankruptcy code and has recently lowered corporate taxes. The first one is too little, considering the age mandate he has had. The second one is too late, it needed to have been done in 2014. Besides, it is wrongly timed, when the problem is mainly on the demand side.

Modi’s over-interventionist economic vision has broken trust in Indian business. No one knows when the Rs 2,000 note might be demonetised and the economy might suffer another shock. And so, no one wants to invest, even if the bleeding public sector banks are easy to lend.

There are examples of countries that have succeeded despite authoritarianism. China, Singapore and Russia are even cited as examples of how authoritarianism might even be good for economic growth. Yet these countries embraced authoritarian capitalism. Modi’s Hindutva authoritarianism is not compatible with capitalism.

Most authoritarian regimes are terribly bad for economic growth. For every China there’s a Venezuela, for every Russia there’s a North Korea, for every Singapore there’s a Myanmar. We wanted to be China, but right now even Bangladesh is doing better than us.

For the first time since the Indira Gandhi era, rural poverty has actually shot up instead of decreasing. That’s how dire the Indian economy is today. Modi? He wants Indians to first prove their citizenship.

Views are personal.

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51 Comments Share Your Views

51 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent article. But too gentle. One does not find a single rich, clean, organized or successful Hindu nation anywhere or anytime. Whether it be India past or present, Nepal, Goa, Hindu parts of Trinidad or Guyana, all Hindu areas are always poor, dirty, poor hygiene, intolerant with caste and religious bigotry.
    Hindus can succeed but not in Hindu societies! They always fail. Look at India under Hindutva!

  2. It’s funny that over-population, lack of resources and other factors are of no concern to the author. How about Islamist Nations, some which are under-developed and others are doing well because of natural resources! Targeting one religion constantly and ignoring initiatives such as Make in India Startup India Initiative, Skill India just shows one’s hatred, ignorance and efforts to spread disharmony.

  3. Divide and fool by Urban Nazis lets Ambani & Adani laugh all the way to the bank. BTW, the full form of Nazis is National Socialist German Workers’ Party. See even Hitler has socialism in mind!

  4. You are free to criticize based on facts.Like many you too are obsessed with DeMo as if you have lost millions in black money.Voters have forgotten it.GST has been in the making since decades.If he has implemented it what is your problem? Since 2014 India has attracted highest FDI, it has record foreign exchange reserves, its share markets are growing , its infra spend is growing.Bank NPA is coming down pl check your facts.There is no corruption in his cabinet. What else do you want?
    As regards his pro Hindu politics hasn’t been voted in by Hindus? Is this not the only Hindu home land in the world? Indian Muslims enjoy more rights than in many Islamic countries. Period.From now on Hindus will be driving politics of this country. If you don’t like it you are free to criticize it.It won’t make any difference.

  5. Completely misguided and rubbish write up with zet agenda of’ ‘tukde gang” Shameful. Let this idiot read Bhagvat, Upanishads, Vedas Hindu iconic write ups.

  6. Thoroughly rubbish. Ask this idiotic writer to learn what is Hinduism by reading Bagvat Geeta, Ramayan, Vedas or Upanishads etc. This guy has an agenda in mind like most of Leftists/ Congress self seekers.

  7. Nothing better can be expected from the Print, the Modi bashers. Have you ever try learning the figures of investment in development across India?
    Just do it. If you find the right figure then definitely will know that unfortunately Indian economy has been taught or made to run at slow pace. Any attempt to move it at a faster rate will have to face setbacks.
    Please go and check this fact and come back.

    • As per this writeup, soon we will be like Pakistan, Hindu totalitarian as the author says, just like Islamic totalitarian aka shariah law. The author has just fallen short of calling it Hindutva Sharia.

  8. Unfortunately for Shivam, the next general election is at least 4 years away and such vitrolic writings against Modi will not have any impact by that time. Shivam should keep in mind that Modi will take POK by 2023 end by getting USA support for this adventure by agreeing to send our army in Afgahnistan as a quid pro quo and also by buying F-21 from Lockheed. Further, SC will soon declare CAA constitutional but wily Amit Shah will conduct NRC only by late 2023 thereby pushing the country into a big divide just before elections in 2024. the net result of all this that there will be euphoria in the country and Modi will be back as PM for the third time. By August 2024, India will be constitutionally declared ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (as if it is not already one, as per Shivam). If Shivam does not want to be left sucking his thumbs or have a massive stroke or heart attack, he should sharpen his vitriolic attacks against Modi in such a way that Modi will be fully exposed in India and internationally by that time. And voters will rather vote for Mamata or Sonia. Anyway, for ordinary nationalist readers who do time-pass like me, Shivam is a big source of entertainment. And he should not give up.

    • Meri nazar aap ke sirf ek sentence par padi hai. ( Vaise mera attention span Elizabeth Taylor se bhi chhota hai ). All these fairy tales about reclaiming PoK – presumably including GB but excluding Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley – by force of arms should remain in children’s books. One will not go into the question of whether the residents of these regions have ever expressed any burning desire to be united with the motherland. Any effort to change the territorial status quo – assuming we have forgotten that there is something called the Simla Accord – will lead to nuclear war on the subcontinent.

      • Dear Ashok Ji, I would like to draw your attention to the fact, that many commentators like Yourself had kept abrogation of article 370 also in children’s books. I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that India crossed LOC & International border to carry out strikes against terrorists twice, and in neither of these situations it led to war, and this was also supposed to be a matter for children’s books. Construction of Ram Temple, CAA & abolition of triple talaq were also considered children book material by many erudite commentators. So while I do agree, that as of now, POK inclusion in Indian controlled territory seems far fetched, would You really, I mean really really, like to bet against Modi & Amit Shah? Who knows the enemy country might disintegrate on its own & India just has to welcome POK in its fold? Never say never sir…

        • (1) Just because an oil depot did not catch fire last time you threw a match-stick in, does not mean you can go on playing with fire forever without risk. (2) imagine that POK does rejoin India – imagine even that the whole of Pak joins us – then what? why would hindutva guys want to increase the number of muslims in India? Can ANYONE explain this mystery?

          • Off course. Whatever might be the religion, we are all children of this motherland. Leave hatred against others for practicing their religion, and all is well. Muslims have prospered in india, a hindu majority state. We all know whats muslims have done to hindus in Pakistan & Bangladesh.

      • It’s worse than a Tom Clancy novel.

        Not many people commented on the new Army Chief’s comment that the army will take POK if asked to by the politicians.

        The opposition, as RR correctly keeps arguing, is absent

        Combine that with the CJI saying that the Supreme Court will intervene on the CAA issue only once the protests stop, you have basically no check on what this government can or will do. .

        This is a frightening scenario.

      • Since you refer to Tom Clancy, let me give you some simple ideas of how Modi Shah can create nightmares for Shivam- offer Art 370 (which is not removed as yet from the Constitution) to ‘Kashmir’ (i.e. POK plus the valley part of J&K Territory) in its original form by keeping only defense, currency, foreign affairs and communication with the Central government. This will set POK on fire and it will be the nearest thing for independence of Kashmir. There would be no need for referendum or a war with Pak. Further, India can offer full support to Baluch independence and offer it similar Art 370 option on the lines of one country two systems model of China! And do the same for Pushtoons and Sindh!

      • Western Europe is not socialist. It is just that they have finely divided the economy into free market and merit goods. For instance, primary education and healthcare are given high priority and there is a system to support a relatively high standard of delivery, free of cost. It is an egalitarian system that uses the personal income based monetary contribution in an equitable manner. The reason I say ‘relatively’ is because, for instance, NHS of the UK comes in for heavy criticism for being too bureaucratic and inefficient. But by Indian standards adopted in public health, it is far superior. Water supply is charged at a reasonable price. Electricity is free market. There are two notable facets of public services in these economies that enables an ordinary citizen to enjoy a better standard of living: (1) lack of corruption in citizen-public servant interface. There are anti-bribery courses that employees need to take, and transactions are digital, and without delay. Citizens have a right to demand. Public servants are expected to provide customer service; (2) and commitment to a basic standard coupled with transparent disclosure of the use of tax revenue. Besides this, high level of competition that results in super-efficient supply chains takes care of the basic needs. Which essentially means that butter is as affordable as bread. However, it is not totally Ram Rajya. There is homelessness (and is growing) and politics is as vicious as witnessed in any evolving democracy, which includes India.

      • Leading Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, running for the US president, is a self-confessed socialist, who wants to make even college education free. He is leading Trump bay a big margin! If he wins in 2020 election, capitalist America would have a socialist president! Another leading Democratic candidate for the president, Elizabeth Warren is also a socialist. She wants to tax rich people heavily, so that health insurance could be provided free to all Americans!

        • BJP wants to tax poor people to provide money to the government and the rich.

          See how the Supreme Court asked Vodafone et al to cough out 93k crores to the government. They immediately raised their tarrifs.

  9. No arguing with this surmise. The current dispensation’s economic record is bad. If it goes on in the current fashion, this government will join VP Singh’s government as arguably amongst the worst in independent India’s history. Serious attention to the economy is needed to avoid potential catastrophe, effects of which maybe felt for generations. Good sense needs to prevail on everyone who has the ability to influence this dispensation to correct course now. No point in locking the stables once the horses have bolted.

    • Well KP, the fact is that abject poverty is rampant, and blind faith rules. There are still millions who have never experienced simple prosperity – as in most progressive societies – simply replacing one set of incompetent governors with another. India’s is a fatalistic culture (Ram Bharose) and politicians across the board exploit that. Is that what we want? Cultural values and economic prosperity are certainly NOT mutually exclusive, then why push the former down the throat at the expense of the latter? I will not go as far as to say that ‘give us those bad old days of 2009-14’ but let’s accept that this government has made NO investment that gives evidence that it wants Indian citizens to have a better standard of living. If middle-class earns and is optimistic, only then will a poor waiter get a good tip.

      • Interesting that you do not include 2004 – 2009 in the period of bad old days. Gareeb mulq mein better standard of living maqsad nahin hoga toh phir aur kya hona chahiye …

  10. He is dumb, Vij always write opposite to the reality. Hindutva takes more inspiration from the Chinese One party state control system then the European Christian nation propaganda or some 1940s European drama as these fool wants others to believe.
    Authoritarianism can help a country if it is based on it’s own Civilizational Ethos. China and India are like that as business and entrepreneurial activities has always been part of their society. This is not the case with medieval minded “M” Country.

    Anyways, no economy can develop if you keep 14% people who hate you and for whatever you stand for in your own country. They act as Enemy fifth column. And India’s enemies are two Abrahamic religions nit any country. Pak was formed because of section of society change their religion. Religion matters.

    • Who is a Hindu? Just 10 percent of India’s population. They are the Savarnas and the remaining 90 percent constitute Dalits, backward castes converted Muslims, Christians and tribals. This 10 percent upper castes have enriched unjustly by almost free allotment of land and properties developed by the British. Will this ten percent give space to the Dalits and their brethren viz so called converted Christians, Buddhists,muslims? Certainly not . Even the first citizen of this blessed nation is grudgingly permitted to get into some prominent temples . I am sure the stone deities must be shedding tears at this casteist practices. Savarnas have a firm grip over the levers of Indian economy and divide and rule through harassment of the poor is their new found strategy. I hope the Hindu stone deities will be kind enough to protect the downtrodden. May God bless India in other words Bharat mataki Jai.

  11. Although the column is about economics, the social aspects of hard Hindutva too are becoming very clear now. A worldview in which the minorities are reduced to second class status, constantly fearful even about their physical safety, is incompatible with both the Constitution and India’s national interest, its emergence as one of the great nations of the world. It is good that our Muslim brothers and sisters are reclaiming the public spaces, standing up firmly, so far entirely peacefully, to claim what belongs in equal measure to each Indian citizen. That people from all faiths are standing by their side gives hope for the future of our democracy. 2. Has anyone seriously thought through what will happen when twenty crore Muslims are shoved around, ask to prove their citizenship, produce documents going back three generations, then a sizeable number are bundled off to detention centres.

  12. Six years of Vajpayeeji were constrained by the need to run a large coalition. Given the sort of statesman PM ABV was, had he secured more numbers, he would have used that greater freedom of action perhaps to push economic reforms harder, not revert to greater majoritarianism. A clear parliamentary majority is a wonderful thing, something which has happened after the median Indian was born. It could have resulted in many of the promises made in the previous campaign being redeemed in substantial measure. A second term could have taken the process forward, cementing a worthwhile legacy. Although the first term was disappointing by any measure, nothing prepared us for the radioactivity of the second. Whether it is ideology or individuals, things are unravelling at jet speed. 737 Max.

  13. Have e mailed this column to my son in Singapore after reading the first few sentences. That is a compliment, for his time is incredibly precious, ration what is shared with him. My own pearls of wisdom will bestow after reading the column.

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