BJP’s Neo-Liberalism And Hindutva: A Risky Romance
By Rahul Jambhulkar & Abdullah A Raheman
27 May, 2015
There is a difference between a government’s national policy and international policy (or obligations towards neo-liberalism), thus putting a question mark over the state’s supposed sovereign status. Is sovereign enough to prevail upon and go against the whims and desires of neoliberal ideas? We live in a time when the nationalist pride is much spoken of and desired, particularly by the members and supporters of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which presently is leading the government at the centre. Curiously, jingoism refuses to calm down. The recent visit of the President of the United States of America (USA) was a much celebrated affair, surely not unusual. Unusual was the supposed ‘bromance’, if media sources and members of BJP are to be believed, between the Indian Prime Minister and the President. May be the Indian Prime Minister was benevolent enough to give into the desires of Obama – Nuclear Liability Act, suitable environment for Business and climate change agreement. What we can hope for, or rather can’t, and is a similar romance between the 'Indian' Government and 'Indian' People. Indians have lost much in the last eight months of their romance with the BJP led central government. Going by what has been done/undone/not done till now it is difficult to gauge the damage coming through in the pending four and half years of the courtship.
According to journalist Pallav Bagla, as quoted by BBC, "New generation American reactors are three times more expensive than comparable India-made reactors. They are also untested as all of them are under construction, including in the US." To what risk the population and the environment are being put, cannot be gauged, particularly for those in the vicinity of reactors.
Subsequent governments and parliamentary parties have constantly failed the people. They have failed in acknowledging people’s concern against nuclear power. Successive Government's have been great at forcing down the throat of people what it deems fit, example – Kudankulam nuclear plant, producing electricity since 2013. Nuclear power as a source of energy is losing favours with countries like Germany, while India is among few of those emerging economies among which it is gaining ground. It is through nuclear power plants that India hopes to meet the energy needs of coming decades, or precisely, energy needs of future industries and corporations.
BJP has been consistent in falling back from its election promises, ranging from black money, corruption, Lokpal to people friendly welfare measures. What it has done till now is exactly the opposite of what it promised during elections. If media reports are to be believed the government is to cut down on its spending on health by one fifth, and the report closely follows inauguration of Reliance owned medical facility by the Prime Minister. On the receiving end is also the much touted NREGA, and not to forget ordinance on the Land Acquisition Act and FDI in Insurance sector.
For the last few months the BJP government is struggling hard to maintain a liberal and progressive image of it, shouldn’t be that hard given the fact that the former Chief Minister of Gujarat is now India’s Prime Minister and an icon of 'development'. Every time the two faced BJP tries to brave forward its liberal and pro-development face, its other face, the real one, competes with it to expose itself. Comments of Sadhvis and Sadhus in the cabinet ministry and Government’s defensive stance in face of criticism could be a case in point. To assume that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP are two distinct forces with different agendas and interest, RSS’s confined to socio-cultural-religious domain and BJP’s restricted to political, would be damaging.
To construe BJP government’s economic reform and RSS’s religio-cultural project as binary opposite of each other would be a mistake. Although, which of the two is privileged and placed at the centre is obscure and discombobulate, but is indispensable and deliberate. The ruling government at centre somewhat successfully projects confusion around the supposed binary values and its ability to make decision independently of RSS.
BJP’s strength lies in its ability to project itself, locally and globally, as a vehicle for pro-business reform. For instance the recent United States-India Business Council (USIBC) meeting was an exercise in this regard where Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to address business concerns of Obama, and provide congenial environment for investment, and address concerns related to present tax regime, trade barriers and intellectual property. While at the national level BJP has unfailingly become appealing enough to conservative elements of society, thanks to at its core Hindutva values. For BJP, commitments towards neoliberal ideas go along with propagation of Hindutva value. Pro-market attitude is what makes BJP dear to corporations and middle class Indians. While Hindutva secures it committed cadres which it won’t want to lose on and displease, evident from its stand on ‘Ghar Wapsi’ and ‘Bahu Lao Beti Bachao’ campaigns.
BJP vehemently criticised the then Congress government on issues such as FDI and Indo-US Nuclear deal etc. However, now it has gone back from its stand on FDI and has taken a pro-FDI stance, and plans to bring FDI to Railways, Insurance sector and other, indeed a great development. During the recent visit of Obama, Indian government lead by Narendra Modi finally agreed on a (commercial) cooperation with US to end the deadlock over civil nuclear power agreement of 2008. It ended the deadlock over a deal which the BJP when in opposition vehemently opposed. It has agreed to address US concerns pertaining to strict Indian Liability Act, particularly unlimited liability from suppliers. Plan is to transfer financial risk to insurers. Such a change in stance lends credence to its claim of being pro-business, pro-market.
Thus it could be said that the present Governments stand on economic issues and international policy aren’t much different from its predecessor. Whether it be BJP or Congress in power at centre it doesn’t makes much difference to the people, except for few welfare tokenism such NREGA, RTE and the likes. It’s corporations who gain from competing political parties, thus it negates irrelevance of nation state to new global economy. Many scholars on neoliberal economy are critical about the role of the nation state. In a prolong debate many scholars have developed their elusive scholarship on the reconfiguration of nation states structures suited for the global economic changes. Manual Castells (2000, cited by Wittrock) finds that the nation state is by no means irrelevant to the functioning of the new global economy. Similarly, Kenichi Ohmae (1998, as cited by Zygmunt Bauman) suggests that “the nation state has become an unnatural-even dysfunctional-organisational unit for thinking about economic activities”. While Arif Dirlik (2007) finds state something more than just promoter of an economic development. It is an enforcer of the “local outpost of the global economy”. In Dirlik’s (ibid 29) own words, “...capitalism, which experienced its embryonic growth within the womb of the nation state, would return the nation state to an earlier alliance between capital and state, where the state seeks to shed its responsibilities to constituencies other than those who manage and operate the global economy...”.
One thing seems to be clear from the preceding discussion, that nation state has reconfigured itself for the smooth functioning of the global economic system. This reconfiguration has created enormous opportunities for the different political ideologies to enter into it, having the reform agenda to woo the capitalist class across the world, and to fool the masses in the name of the development. These political groups have their own agenda at the local level which differs based on ideological affiliation.
In the above retrospect Indian state is a classic example. The recent agreements, between India and US, during Obama’s visit substantiate the above arguments. For instance the countries agreed to further move talks on Bilateral Investment Treaty to pave way for US investment. Basically, the GOI is further opening its economy to attract investors to the Indian soil, and provide investors with cheap natural resources and labour, while curtailing rights of people and its own duties and throwing them down to further destitution.
Development of smart cities in Ajmer, Allahabad and Visakhapatnam was another deal, basically these cities will be developed through foreign and private investment, and same fate awaits the remaining proposed smart cities.
Also, the countries agreed to extend existing defence cooperation pact for another ten years stressing on joint exercises, cooperation in counter terrorism, joint production and development of weapon systems. Along with all these, the USA again has promised to support India for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, and membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. Thus, preparing the Indian state as an enforcer and “local outpost of the global economy”.
Rahul Jambhulkar is pursuing M.Phil Sociology at University of Hyderabad
Abdullah A Raheman is in MA Sociology at University of Hyderabad
 Soutik, Biswak (2015): “Will the India-US Nuclear Deal Work”? BBC India News (26 January). Viewed on 29 January 2015 (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-30978152)
 Kalra, Aditya (2014): “India Slashes Health Budget, Already one of the World’s Lowest. Reuters (23 December). Viewed on 29 January 2015 (http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/12/23/india-health-budget-idINKBN0K10Y020141223)
 Buradikatti, Kumar (2015): “KPKKS Opposes attempts to dilute MNREGA”. The Hindu (29 January). Viewed on 29 January 2015 (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/kpkks-opposes-attempts-to-dilute-nrega/article6834837.ece)
 Choudhary, Dipanjan Roy (2015): “Obama in India: Indication that US may back for Nuclear Suppliers Group Membership”. The Economic Times (26 January). Viewed on 29 January 2015 (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-01-26/news/58470351_1_civil-nuclear-cooperation-india-hyderabad-house)
 Wittrock, Björn (2000): “Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition”, Daedalus, 129(1): 31-66.
 Bauman, Zygmunt (1998): Globalization: the Human Consequences (New York: Columbia University Press)
Dirlik, Arif (2007): Global Modernity: Modernity in the Age of Global Capitalism (Boulder: Paradigm)
 ET, Bureau (2015): “Obama in India: PM Narendra Modi, Barack Obama agree(s) on civil nuclear deal, end logjam of six years”. The Economic Times (26 January). Viewed on 29 January 2015 (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-01-26/news/58470307_1_pm-narendra-modi-president-barack-obama-civil-nuclear-deal)
 PTI (2015): “Pakistani Media Highlights President Obama’s India Visit, Nuclear Deal”. The Economic Times (26 January). Viewed on 29 January 2015 (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-01-26/news/58470001_1_india-visit-nuclear-deal-nuclear-agreement)
Comments are moderated