ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Will BJP's Money Beat Congress' Money?

With elections being framed as a presidential-style race, the integrity of India's democratic system is at stake.

Public memory of how (the) fascists “use[d] and abuse[d] democratic freedoms in order to abolish them” (Hannah Arendt) was strong when India’s Constituent Assembly rejected the option of a presidential type of executive. But now, more than 60 years later, the coming general elections are being framed as a presidential-style contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) “strongman” Narendra Modi and the Congress Party’s “weakling” Rahul Gandhi, presuming, of course, that the latter will be named by his party as its prime ministerial candidate in next year’s general elections. In a recent Economic Times/Nielsen opinion poll of 100 chief executive officers, it was reported that 74 wanted Narendra Modi as prime minister compared to only seven who backed Rahul Gandhi. Surely the Washington-headquartered lobbyist Apco Worldwide, which had been hired by the Gujarat state government to promote the biennial “Vibrant Gujarat” summit, seems to have transformed the image of Modi from that of an infamous communalist bigot into one which big business regards as most suitable to be India’s next prime minister.

The founding fathers (and mothers) of the Constitution, apprehensive of the emergence of tyranny in the future, opted for parliamentary democracy. But communal politics, already given an ideological content with the founding of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), grew steadily after Partition. The Jan Sangh, the previous incarnation of the BJP, which joined the JP movement only after the Emergency, opportunistically entered the power structure via the Janata Party. And over time, the BJP, in a series of fascist manoeuvres within the parliamentary framework, established itself as the main competitor of the Congress Party for power at the centre.

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