Hindutva’s honeymoon with crony capitalism showing strains

Greed for power, unprincipled use of money and indecent haste of the RSS to turn India saffron have weakened Modi and are forcing Indian capital to have second thoughts



Photo by Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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An Opinionated Observer

Narendra Modi as Prime Minister has so far been unique in being able to hold the Hindutva and Development agendas together, and to hold the balance between BJP, the Government and the RSS. Modi in his first flush of power at the centre could wield that authority but a weakened Modi would not be able to do so. If and when the cracks deepen, Hindutva married to crony capitalism could collapse as rapidly as a House of Cards.


And that would be in great part because in their indecent haste to turn India saffron, they have used all the tricks from poaching and allegedly purchasing of leaders from other parties to misuse of gubernatorial power to overturning a minority mandate through horse-trading. Their ill-concealed attempts at hijacking the AIADMK after the demise of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, are also examples of their unseemly greed for grabbing power by hook or by crook.


Their wholesale ‘purchase’ of 400 Trinamool Congress party workers and also the party chief in Tripura last week in the run-up to the Tripura assembly polls which are due later this year is the latest example of their greed, even as Congress and Trinamool MLAs and workers have been their special targets in West Bengal, Manipur, Nagaland and the rest of the North-East.


This sort of unprincipled use of money and incumbency to swell party membership by wholesale defections is fraught with obvious dangers. To pick a phrase from another context: easy come, easy go! Perhaps the BJP high command also realises this, for Shah has issued a statement that the BJP is now closing its doors to members of other political parties. Wise of them to realise that enough is enough.


Corporate perceptions have perceptibly changed after Yogi's ascension. And there is a rising feeling that Modi has lost control over the party, been shown his place by the RSS, and has been upstaged in the Hindutva stakes that gave him his strength. The subtle signs are already there for all who care to see.


On Friday March 24, just six days after Yogi and the RSS sprang a surprise on Modi, SEBI slapped a ₹950 crore fine on Reliance Petroleum for unfair trade practices and debarred them from trading on the Bombay Stock Exchange for a year for unfair hedging.


SEBI publicly shamed Reliance with an explicit judgement that had clearly been hanging fire for a long time under political pressure. But a Thakur Yogi from UP signalled a tectonic shift in the political power structure of the country and a Tyagi Bhumihar from UP came to head SEBI after the removal of the convenient UK Sinha, who had been there forever before him and lacked the spine to deliver the politically inconvenient judgement.


On the following Monday, March 27, a furious Samir Jain, Vice Chairman of the country’s most powerful media house BCCL and his brother Vineet Jain, Managing Director of the Bennett Coleman Group were reported to have gotten Modi’s posters removed from a high profile event, after Modi, his ministers and a team of their top bureaucrats backed out at the last minute from the Global Business Summit organised by The Economic Times.


It was freely speculated that the top duo of the BJP were enraged by the intensive coverage given to Yogi Adityanath after the UP coup. Reportedly Shah also accused Jain of being soft on the Samajwadi Party because Akhilesh Yadav had allotted them 45 acres of land in NOIDA for the Bennett University. Such pettiness is only displayed by insecure control freaks, which is what Modi and Shah really are behind their 56-inch chest and 56-inch abdominal girth respectively. Bullies make bad losers.

Corporate perceptions have perceptibly changed after Yogi’s ascension. And there is a rising feeling that Modi has lost control over the party, been shown his place by the RSS, and has been upstaged in the Hindutva stakes that gave him his strength. The subtle signs are already there for all who care to see.

Those miffed by the Ambanis’ manipulative hegemony over the economy of India, and their numbers are legion, are suddenly sensing an opportunity after a long, long time. And the canny Ambanis have also begun to hedge their options.


Lalu Prasad Yadav's call for opposition unity for defeating BJP in 2019 countrywide is suddenly given media coverage even on Reliance-funded media platforms, which are dishing out recipes for rejuvenation of the Congress and formation of Mahagathbandhans as if these had been discovered for the first time.


From the corporate point of view, if Modi were to be replaced by the BJP at any time, Arun Jaitley or Sushma Swaraj might have been viable alternatives at one time. But with age and health issues against them, they are past their sell-by date. While in Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, National Conference the old order changeth—or is about to do so—and a clutch of new leaders are waiting in the wings, more than ready to take over from the old guard. Corporate entities have no option but to plan ahead. They will have to hedge their bets; some may even bet big on other horses. This will first break BJP's hegemony over corporate funds, and then there could be an exodus, a virtual stampede to get out of the suffocating saffron stranglehold.


In the recent elections some wonderfully candid, direct and innovative methods of party funding were on display—corporate executives from Mumbai and Delhi were themselves sitting in posh hotels in state capitals with loads of cash at their disposal to be handed over directly to whomsoever their client party wanted them to give it to, without the transaction ever having to be entered in the party funds or the expenditure of an individual candidate.


A new kind of non-digital payment was at work where the party could say, "Look, my hands are completely clean" and yet their work gets done. Show me the biggest money trail and I'll show you the election winner—it's become almost as simple as that. Workers and voters go where the money is, which is why parties in power are able to withstand anti-incumbency these days—they have their hands in the till. Unless some other popular sentiment is strong enough to overpower even greed.


So once the money begins to find new destinations, or get redirected to older ones, the BJP would be in trouble, and the exodus or the inflow is based on a game of perceptions. A fire-and-brimstone spewing cleric is not exactly the most reassuring interlocutor for a businessman looking for political pals.


With Indian capital having second thoughts, can global capital be far behind?


To be concluded.

The writer’s identity, feels the author, is not important and would like to be known as a concerned Indian citizen.


This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.

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