National is the new local

Nothing in India is local anymore. Secondly, India would be permanently in an election mode. Thirdly, an insurrectionary politics would keep the nation in a perpetual state of agitation. At least this is what the ruling party of India, the Bhartiya Janata Party ( BJP) has decided.

If we look at the way the elections for local bodies like the municipal councils or district bodies are being fought by the party, it becomes clear that it is trying to convert all elections, be they for rural, municipal or district administrative bodies, into national elections.

This would happen in two ways. First, the issues to be discussed in the campaign leading to polling would not be local, they would be national like security of India or fight against corruption or threat to nationalism, etc.

The results of the municipal elections of Delhi are  an example. The BJP was running these bodies for the last ten years. Everybody agrees that their performance was abysmal, people were terribly upset with them. But the BJP not only overcame  this anti-incumbency, it scored an astounding victory decimating its opponents like the Aam Admi Party and the Congress badly. The leader of the Swaraj India, a new political party and veteran election-analyst Yogendra Yadav explained that the electorate did not even care to remember that the municipal bodies were headed by the BJP. Carpet bombing of nationalist message with the help from a willing media left little thinking space in the minds of the electorate.

Secondly, with the explosion of TV channels and social media, election-campaign and election results,even if happening in faraway places, reach every nook and corner of the country and become a matter of national discussion. For example the results of the elections of local bodies in Maharashtra were used to bolster the prospects of the BJP in the state election of Uttar Pradesh. People saw BJP winning while they were lining up outside the polling booths.

Election for one or the other body would keep taking place somewhere in India. As explained with the help from media,the BJP would keep the country in a permanent election mode.It gives its leaders a rationale to indulge in sectarian, polarising campaign. Speaking against minorities or spreading hatred against them is seen in India as a legitimate mobilising strategy. But this campaign assumes a national character. A statement made in Kerala stirs emotions in Bihar. People keep hoping that once in power, the duties of governance would make the ruling party responsible and inclusive. But elections and mobilisations never cease and become an excuse for the polarising campaign.

In the past we have seen parties getting into campaign mode a few months before the elections. But the BJP has put its party machinery in permanent combat mode.It has already launched election campaign in the states of Odisha and Bengal and also Kerala. Keeping pace with the BJP is impossible for the regional parties as they cannot match its financial or organisational resources. It presses all its central ministers and minsters from other states into work. Daily visit of central ministers, apparently  in connection with one or the other government scheme, becomes an a pretext for the media to give all its prime space to the BJP. Thus the mindscape of the people is filled with the BJP propaganda.

Since its political branch the BJP is in power the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh has stepped up its activities in a feverish manner. We are told that even government functionaries have been made to attend its programmes. It helps it widen and deepen its reach in the society. No other political party has a support base like the RSS to augment its activities.

Thirdly, The RSS and the BJP have decided to throw their doors open for small and big leaders from all political parties. Political analysts see as dilution of its ideological agenda. It ahs often been mocked for looking like the Congress by admitting all and sundry. Far from it. Each political leader bring with her a support base of people, contacts, money and other resources. A gain for the BJP and a loss for the party from where they come. It is impossible for them to even influence the ideological plank of the BJP as it is umbilically tied with the RSS. They are made to become its spokespersons leading to more confusion in their support base. The BJP is on a mission of hollowing out of all political parties. We see regional parties weakening and Congress struggling to keep its flock together.

The BJP government at the centre and in as many as 14 states, the BJP is filling all state institutions, like the universities or research bodies like the Indian Council of social science research with persons from the RSS background. They now insist to have a say in the selection of the heads of the state supported autonomous institutions. We were told by some private schools that the Central Board of School Examination (CBSE) wants to have a decisive say in the selection of their principals. They fear that people professing the Hindu nationalist ideology would fill these posts.The RSS is also closely monitoring appointments of faculty members in universities and seeks to fill them its persons. There are numerous educational institutions and think tanks floated by the RSS which are now getting state support and funding. Research projects with nationalist ideological underpinnings are being favoured over other research programmes. Even prestigious universities like the University of Delhi are inviting ideologues and propagandists of the RSS as regular speakers.

In short, it is a complete take over of the political, social , intellectual and cultural space by the RSS India is witnessing. A complicit  media comes as additional support. Victimisations of independent journalists and gradual take over of media houses by corporate close to the BJP leaves little space for the contesting voices.India is fast advancing a stage of one party rule. It would be worse than the Stalinist grip as the RSS is a multilayered body, quite different from the homogenous CPSU and more vicious than that. Even after the party is out of power,it would be an impossible task to untangle the nationalist knots.

 

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