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What has Modi's ultra-nationalism given India?

March 12, 2020 10:26 IST
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'Modi has presided over an ultra-nationalism that has stunted India's growth, been unable to change the country's external situation, brought foreign intervention into Indian affairs,' explains Aakar Patel.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/


Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has ruled India for six years. What is the endgame he has in mind for his ideology and where does he intend to take India?

Ultra-nationalist ideologies express themselves internally against minority groups and externally wish to express strength militarily.

Adolf Hitler also was six years in power before he launched the Second World War. In those six years he aggressively developed Germany's military and economy.

Hitler then conquered and controlled almost all of Europe from Poland to France and Denmark to Sicily. Nobody had controlled as much of that continent before and nobody has since. After that Hitler fought and lost to Stalin's Russia.

India has two unresolved conflicts and two enemies.

One is China, which is six times India's size economically and a permanent member of the United Nations security council (meaning it has a veto on India's global actions).

Our conflict with China is dormant and comes into the news only when China's soldiers intrude into Indian space or when China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.

India makes no aggressive moves, is defensive and is happy to let the status quo continue. Modi has no power and no interest in changing this.

The other conflict is with Pakistan where India faces an insurgency that occupies a large part of its armed force for defensive reasons.

This is a 30-year-old conflict that India has not been able to manage and has spent a lot of resource in containing.

In 2020, India still needs to keep Kashmir's political leadership locked up to have the state in its control.

Pakistan is about as small with respect to India as India is to China, but even in this conflict India has a defensive posture and has not been able to overwhelm Pakistan militarily despite having greater numbers and more hardware.

Externally, then, India does not have the capacity to do what ultranationalism wants it to do, which is beat enemies into submission. That is why the focus of Hindutva has been on internal ultranationalism.

Nazi Germany like Hindutva in India has a strong dislike for one minority. But Jews (numbering 565,000 in 1933) were less than 1% of Germany's population.

Muslims in India are 200 million. They cannot be bullied and harassed without substantial damage to the country and its reputation as events in Delhi show.

Pursuit of this course will damage India substantially and not produce any benefit for any community and certainly not for the nation.

At an event on Friday, March 6, the prime minister said that he wanted to change the status quo, but the government's critics did not want this to happen. As examples he listed the criminalisation of triple talaq, the hollowing out of Article 370 and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The problem with what he is saying is that it is not just other Indians who are opposed to changing the status quo in India from a secular and pluralist nation to a hard nationalist one that is victimising its own citizens.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights is challenging the CAA and wants to become a party to the matter in the Supreme Court.

The ideology of the government and the PM has nothing positive to offer Hindus. It seeks to take away from Muslims the Babri mosque, their personal laws, their Constitutional autonomy in Kashmir, their diet, their right to vote and now their citizenship.

It has nothing positive to offer its supporters only resentment and hate.

This should and will be challenged not just by other Indians, but also the world and there should be no pride in wanting to change this status quo and taking India further down this ruinous path.

To a large extent, Modi has himself restricted the capacity of ultra-nationalism to do damage to India and the world. His management of the economy has not been competent.

India is in a slowdown, having declined in growth rate each quarter for two years. For the last two quarters its listed companies have contracted in sales, indicating a recession.

India is not a major economic power and will not be one anytime soon. Its exports have been stagnant (zero growth) for Modi's entire term. The share of manufacturing in GDP has contracted under Modi. Unemployment is at its highest since it began to be recorded five decades ago.

This is the status quo that needs changing, but it is not what Modi means.

Having burned his hands and significantly handicapped India through eccentric economic actions early in his term he has now given up on reviving the economy.

He promised minimum government but instead of privatisation, Yes Bank and PMC Bank have become public sector units.

Modi has presided over an ultra-nationalism that has stunted India's growth, been unable to change the country's external situation, brought foreign intervention into Indian affairs. And, of course, accelerated the damage being done to India's Muslims.

All this is the real status quo and it must and will be resisted.

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