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India: “Worse than Reagan†: Meet the violent chauvinist now leading India, Narendra Modi


Monday 26 May 2014, by siawi3


Salon, May 24, 2014

“Worse than Reagan†: Meet the violent chauvinist now leading India, Narendra Modi
The world’s largest democracy’s new leader is committed neoliberal everyone should worry about, an expert explains


Earlier this month, India, the largest democracy in the world, held its national parliamentary elections. As was widely expected, the result was a clear and potentially epochal victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the country’s leading right-wing party, and its leader, the pugnacious, nationalistic and neoliberal Narendra Modi, whom the Economist — in a somewhat unprecedented anti-endorsement — recently described as “a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred.â€
In an effort to better understand Modi and what his ascension might mean for the future of the second-most populous country in the world, Salon recently spoke with Thomas Crowley, a Delhi-based researcher who has written of “myriad reasons to see [Modi] as embodying fascistic tendencies†and who’s argued that the rise of Modi and the BJP signals the full embrace of neoliberalism by India’s elites. Our conversation follows, and has been edited for clarity and length.

So, what just happened with India’s election?
The results were announced on May 16 after all the phases [of the election] were complete. And, basically, May 12 was the last phase of voting … So after all the phases of voting ended, the exit polls suggested that [Modi’s] BJP — or the Bharatiya Janata Party — would have the most votes. And then when the results were announced, four days later, [BJP] got a majority that was way bigger than any of the polls had predicted … It had been the main opposition party for the past 10 years, and everyone was kind of expecting that they’d win, but they thought they’d get a plurality of votes because there are a ton of regional parties in India that generally have a lot of power and eat into the larger national parties … So this was the first time since 1984 that one party has had a majority of seats in the parliament, it’s generally a plurality that falls short of a majority.

What’s the generally accepted identity of the now-ruling BJP?
There are two main tenets of [their ideology], and they kind of emphasize different ones at different times, depending on which audience they’re addressing. During this election a big emphasis was on development. And development seen in a very neoliberal way, of opening up the markets, allowing more foreign direct investment, reforming the tax code, that kind of thing —
By “reforming the tax code,†what do you mean? Does that mean the same thing in India that means in America — i.e., lowering taxes on corporations?
Yeah, something very similar to that …

Anyway, you were saying about the BJP?
Narendra Modi has built a reputation — and very consciously built up this reputation — as someone who is a friend of business but also … that that kind of development benefits everyone. The facts on the ground are quite different, but that’s the kind of rhetoric [he uses]. So there’s that kind of neoliberal development, so that’s one of their main platforms.