Hindutva is powerful and ingrained in society right now; India going through a dark time: Aakar Patel
In an interview with Zafar Agha, National Herald Editor-in-Chief, writer and head of Amnesty International’s India chapter Aakar Patel said only this seems to explain BJP’s winning spree in polls
Aakar Patel, author, columnist, and India head of Amnesty International feels that the recent Assembly poll results have indicated that the politics of Hindutva espoused by the BJP is very powerful and is at the moment quite ingrained in the heart and mind of the common man.
In an interview with Zafar Agha, Group Editor-in-Chief of National Herald, Patel went on to point out that this appeared to be the only explanation for why the BJP’s winning spree on the electoral arena continues despite the fact that the economy has been on the downturn for several years under the current regime, leading to rife joblessness and other hardships for every strata of the country.
Responding to a question, Patel said, “The Assembly poll results, especially in Uttar Pradesh, are a resounding endorsement of PM Modi’s leadership and the ideology of Hindutva. Quite clearly, even those who are not supporting them in a full-throated manner are at least comfortable with it. BJP has been drawing over 40 percent voter share in the last four elections held in UP – in 2012, 2017, 2019, 2022. The first past the pole system we follow in India can be blamed to a certain extent, but it is still an astounding phenomenon”.
“Govt’s own data shows that the economy is in shambles. Jobs promised by the Modi govt have not materialized. Lakhs died due to mismanagement of COVID-19. But still, people voted for the BJP. This shows that people don’t seem to mind having some form of punishment inflicted on them even as they continue to support this kind of identity politics,” said Patel, whose latest book, Price of the Modi years, has been critically acclaimed.
“The economy has been in the doldrums for several years, but the govt now seems to have the excuse of the pandemic. The collapse in GDP began in 2018; it kept falling for the next 13 quarters, then we had COVID. But parts of the media have not looked at the situation closely enough,” he added.
“If GDP grows at 9 percent, the economy will regain its 2020 level, which means it will have lost two years due to the pandemic. But it’s now extremely difficult to deal with high joblessness and the growing inequity between the rich and poor, even if the current regime wants to do something about it, though it doesn’t seem to be the case.” he said.
“A problem can be solved if it is at least acknowledged, but this is not the case here. Modi govt just makes tall talk. It focuses on what is meaningless and insignificant. And unfortunately, no one’s wise or strong enough to tell the emperor that he is wrong. He is surrounded by yes men, people who are beholden to him and did not reach their position due to popular mandates, like Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishanker, and earlier Arun Jaitley,” Patel said.
“Meanwhile, electoral success for BJP acts as validation from people for Modi and gives him confidence to continue down the same path. He gives himself breathing space to deal with the economy by using terms like ‘amrit kaal’, a plan for the next 25 years rather than deal with the situation now,” he said.
Asked about the possible scenario in the next Lok Sabha elections due in 2024, Patel said, “The problem is that the average Hindu seems to have a high threshold of pain. Everyone is hurting due to economic reasons, and we should be voting on aspects like joblessness, but it doesn’t appear to be happening. So, the situation will remain grim, and the next decade is likely to be very dark for the country.”
Elaborating on the current environment of communal hatred in the country, Patel said, “Hindutva is just about bullying, brutalization of Muslims. BJP’s three-pronged agenda before it climbed to power on the back of Babri Masjid campaign and subsequent demolition was Ayodhya, Kashmir, and uniform personal laws. The politics of hatred is all that they have ever had, and that will always continue to be the case. Today, it is manifesting in issues such as not letting Muslims offer Friday prayers in Gurgaon, not letting girl students wear hijab to school, not allowing sale of eggs in Ahmedabad. Tomorrow it will be something else.”
“It doesn’t offer anything positive, even to Hindus. What stops them from broadening reservations for Dalits and Adivasis? Also, the most dangerous aspect of the situation is that authority has now devolved from a democratic State to a mobocracy. A legitimate State can use violence if and when necessary, but by allowing mobs to indulge in it is extremely dangerous,” he said.
Patel opined that post-2014 when the Modi govt assumed power, the damage caused to the nation’s economy, polity, and society is not reversible. “We are entering a part of human history where transitioning millions from poverty to middle class is not possible anymore. After Make in India was launched, manufacturing jobs have actually fallen. How will we employ hundreds of millions of people? As for polity, what we are witnessing it charismatic leaders bending institutions. And society is ecstatic about Hindutva, they are addicted to it, and it’s very difficult to wean people off from this addiction,” he said.
“The situation is extremely grim. It may well turn out to be the darkest period of our history. I don’t see light coming anytime soon, though it will eventually come. Structurally, we remain a secular and pluralist society, and parties like Congress, DMK, and TMC will succeed in the future. But we will have to pass through an agni parisksha in full,” Patel said.
Watch the video of the full interview: