Tehelka Expose: The Political Context

Guest Post by Bhupinder Singh

Despite the hoopla surrounding the Tehelka expose of Narendra Modi’s role in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, it is unlikely to have a negative fallout on Mr Modi’s immediate electoral prospects- indeed it is likely that it will on the contrary provide a surge in favour of Modi, unless there is a very strong and decisive action by the judiciary or the Election Commission. Even in that case, there is all likelihood that the expose will actually consolidate the tide in favour of the BJP in the state. The sad reality is that it is not just Mr Modi who shares the anti- Muslim vitriol of the Sangh Parivar in the state. There is a reason that it has come to be known as Hindutva’s Laboratory.In all likelihood, the BJP will return to power in the ensuring elections not despite of the expose, but partially because of it.

It is interesting to note that it was sheer overconfidence on the part of the Babu Bajrangis who let down their guard- reminiscent of the BJP’s condition of euphoria before 2004. “The Congress will not return to power for the next 50 years�?, its star leader Pramod Mahajan had declared then. Similar is the condition in the kingdom of the BJP’s star Chief Minister, except that the Chhote Sardar is well- entrenched and his position strong, unless there is an invisible under current of resentment at the ground that may swing the tide as it did in 2004. The Congress’s refusal to take on the BJP aggressively, and indeed to downplay the Tehelka expose, is a strategy whose outcome is difficult to predict till the elections are held and results declared.

But the good news is that for the already beleaguered BJP at the national level, Mr Modi has now become an albatross around its neck. It is yet to recover from its electoral debacle of 2004, it is not clear who exactly its leaders are, despite courageous attempts to re-live their past authority, Vajpaee and Advani have both age and past record against them. The skeletons in the cupboard that emerged after Pramod Mahajan’s death call into question the calibre of its NextGen leadership that now is on the defensive, more often squabbling amongst itself if not, like Ms Uma Bharti, discrediting, the mother Party. TV channels are not banned outside Gujarat, and Mr Modi’s misdeeds will not go unnoticed by the substantial number of fence sitter supporters of the BJP.

The BJP’s economic agenda that appeals to the upper/ middle classes has been inherited by the current government and if the UPA is able to successfully complete its five year term- it will be an achievement of sorts- it is more likely to result in a broad coalition coalescing around the INC rather than the BJP. Despite it’s championing of the neo- liberal assault, its continued ignorance of the poor and the deprived, the UPA has provided a relatively more peaceful environment compared to the BJP- there has been a lessening of communal tensions and riots in the country during the UPA rule.

The challenge for the UPA is to address increasing economic disparities, overcome it’s urban focussed, stock market oriented ‘growth’ policies, and to attend to the cause of the poorest of the poor, especially in the eastern states where vast areas are in various stages of rebellion. The Left that supports the UPA seems to be rather ineffective in veering the course towards those whose cause it claims to champion, that is, the working poor.

The course of Indian politics changes substantially to the extent of making a U- turn, every two decades- remember 1969, and then 1990-92. It is nearly two decades since 1990, and there is a political churning- the BSP’s emergence is indeed the most exciting one, despite it’s pitfalls. The continuing setback to the BJP and the consolidation of a Centre- Left coalition at the national level is another. What is needed is a push further to the left in the next two to three years. That means, in short, more attention towards the poor and the deprived since it is unlikely that anything substantial will “trickle down�? by then.

As of now, the chances for the INC/UPA to return to power in the next general elections seem positive- the BJP and its Hindutva agenda are being beaten back, the Tehelka expose is yet another step in reclaiming the middle ground, the secular terrain, another one being the secularization of political grammar, via the Sachar Committee Report’s replacement of the rhetoric of “minority appeasement�? by the reality of the economic and social marginalization of Indian Muslims.

It has become increasingly difficult for the BJP to replicate the, alas, “successful�?, experiment outside Mr Modi’s laboratory. The Tehelka expose may not have told us anything new, but along with the Sachar Committee Report, marks a slow but steady recovery of secular politics. At least outside Gujarat.

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10 thoughts on “Tehelka Expose: The Political Context”

  1. “…Despite it’s championing of the neo- liberal assault, its continued ignorance of the poor and the deprived, the UPA has provided a relatively more peaceful environment compared to the BJP- there has been a lessening of communal tensions and riots in the country during the UPA rule. ..”

    It really, really IS time to look beyond these pathetic choices but I can see that this will happen only when BJP can cleanse itself of ppl like Modi (or alternatively the ppl reject the BJP en masse and a genuine secular rightist party emerges in its place).

    This was a golden chance for BJP to disown him and try to redeem itself as a secular-rightist party it portrays itself to be. As a non-BJP supporter, I am dismayed at its sticking to the Moditrack, because I realize that as long as this is around, the above para can be kept in reuse. Look forward to reading this same in 2020, maybe even 2050 🙁


  2. It has just been 4 days since the story broke – and between a combination of ‘so what is new’ and ‘but what about 1984’ – the story has virtually died down. Today none of the main English papers or English or Language channels carried any news about it…..

    Modi is – as you said a double edged sword. He was – before the story broke – under fire from the right of the hindutva movement (yes there are people more rightwing and fascist than him) on giving up hindutvadi ideals……. Now the BJP and the HIndutva movement seem to have closed ranks…..
    Also — the Congress has shut up…. The noises made by the CPM, Laloo etal is at best muted…..or not carried….

    And this brings us to the other issue — elections….If the status quo continues— it is highly likely that there will be a fractured mandate in Gujarat…… and that would actually end up meaning more communal tension in the state….. With the Hindutvadi’s targeting all those who m they think were responsible for their defeat…..As far as the rest of India is concerned there is no correlation between us feeling collectively appalled and the way we vote… if you remember Rajiv Gandhi was re elected after his goons went on rampage in Delhi…..

    At this point of time although the Sensex has crossed 20,000 – the price of onions seems to be approaching the same 🙁 and this is what elections are won and lost on…..No one gives a f*** about some people killed in some other state……

    The RSS is replicating its laboratory in Karnataka…. the rise in communal and caste violence there and it is quite scary if you follow the level of communal violence there. The south has generally been exempt from the kind of communal polarisation …. but Karnataka is becoming increasingly Hindutva…..

    I think that the only way this will work is to ensure that those who committed the crime, face justice and punishment…… until that happens, everything else is moot…. It is not just about elections… it is also about what is right….

  3. Jai/Harini:
    The choice is not between two pathetic options. We need to weigh real options, not imaginary ones. Saamney hai jo usko bura kehtey ho, jisko dekha hi nahin woh khuda hai !

    There cannot be any advance without the Congress. It is just not right to equate the Congress with the BJP because of the anti Sikh pogrom of 1984. There are fundamental differences between a compromising but historic party and an intrinsically fascist one. The BJP cannot cleanse itself of Modi because he is as much a product of the Hindutva family as the BJP itself is. To search for a middle ground with the BJP, reformed or unreformed, is pointless. Any recovery of the middle ground has to be pushing back the BJP and its ideology.

    You are right about the price of onions determining the fate of parties in elections. In fact, onion democracy is far more preferable to temporary, fleeting “waves” that one used to see earlier, rath yatras et al.

    And yes, we have to live with the fact that justice for the Gujarat pogrom is a long way off, and even may not be there. Not that one stops demanding it, though.

  4. Bhupinder.
    I hope that the Congress comes back to power – i personally find their vagueness far more comforting than the BJP’s focused fascism…. But, this is not just about elections…. it is about JUSTICE……
    There are no excuses for murder – he didn’t intend to , he intended to, he hates, he doesn’t hate, he is a facist, he is a fundamentalist, he believes in democracy…. — all these are just excuses. Murder is Murder – irrespective of the cause it is committed for. We need to go after state sponosred terrorism or system sponsored terrorism the same way we go after the rest
    who cause terror.

    The guilty have to be caught, tried and sentenced. And justice needs to be seen to be done.

    The reason why political parties of all hues and shades think that they can get away with it is because they can. And in changing this system we – the people of India – will ensure that irrespective of who comes into power — the basic concept of justice and civil rights will remain untouched. Until that happens it is open season on every minority — and remember we are a nation of a zillion minorities…..

  5. Bhupinder,

    1984, emergency, scores of times arbitrary murder of democracy in various states through governors (and it continues), IPKF, LTTE, fake elections in kashmir, buying MPs to remain in power, deplorable state of infrastructure and health and primary education, inability to take india to right course of development when all of east asia and china were already doing it – are all monumental failures too, responsible for far too many deaths and loss. even today we do not know whats the vision for India – besides making Rahul prime minister. how do u say that its a ‘real’ option, on what basis – that they are not BJP??? and isn’t congress accountable for all these failures that have cost India so dearly?

  6. Harini: I dont have any disagreement with your point. Only that my post was limited to looking into the political aspect/ prognosis of the Tehelka expose. On Modi being fascist or not- it is not relevant from a justice point of view, but is important from a political perspective.
    triple: The INC is very much accountable for many ills, after all, it has ruled the country longer than anyone else. There is not much of a difference between the INC and the BJP at the provincial level- many of the leaders have changed parties especially after 1996. But the crucial difference between the two is that the BJP’s ideology is based on the notion of exclusive nationalism, of holding minorities responsible for the ills of the country- something whose logical conclusion can only be what Modi achieved in Gujarat.

    I have addressed this elsewhere and Krish has commented on this too. Those who have hoped that the BJP will become something like a mild mannered Christian Democrats are mistaken because they overlook the ideological and historical roots of Indian fascism. There were many strains of fascism starting in the 1930s. The German version, the Mussolini version in Italy and then the Argentinian version under Peron.  Hindutva, and its political offshoot the BJP, belongs to that tradition.

  7. Its a sad state of affairs. As per the definition of ‘demoracy’, we cannot take it to be democractic if 99% oer people want to annihilate the 1%, if so Adolf Hitler was not terrible. what is to be pointed out is that the voteries of Modi need to think that by toeing his line, they become target of the people who feel aggreived. It may be defined as terrorism with all the suffixes and pre-fixes but the damage to humanity is done, thats where the so called lover of peace are exposed and the saddest part is innocent die and media reports them to be suspects without an editorial, where in the truth about the ‘suspects’ is never followed up. In India, mere reporting will not suffice, we need to follow-up the development. For majority of the victim and their sympathisers, the Modi voters are a target and certinly some hot-heads will take action, we may call them justifibale too, but where is peace in the land of Gandhi?? aren’t we denying Gandhi??

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