The Indian people have delivered a stunning electoral blow to the right-wing National Democratic Alliance, led by the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party, and paved the way for a multiparty rainbow coalition under the Congress Party. The early election, called by a supremely confident NDA, has produced a tectonic political shift, signifying a change in the balance of forces in favor of the plebeian majority–and against India’s tiny, rapacious elite comprising a tenth of the population. It heralds a healthy change in domestic policies and a progressive global role for India.
The vote’s pattern is complex, regionally differentiated and reflective of India’s diversity. But the broad trend is unmistakable: The people have voted against pro-corporate, pro-rich neoliberal policies that impoverish the majority; they’ve rejected the Hindu-fundamentalist politics of exclusivism and Islamophobia; and they’ve reaffirmed their commitment to pluralism and secularism.
To understand the verdict’s significance, it’s best to look at three dissimilar states–Andhra Pradesh, noted for the computer-savvy Chandrababu Naidu and investments by Microsoft; Gujarat, where 2,000 Muslims were butchered in 2002 in a state-sponsored pogrom under chief minister Narendra Modi; and Uttar Pradesh, where Hindu fanatics razed a sixteenth-century mosque in 1992.
Naidu was ignominiously defeated by the Congress and Communist parties and a regional group in Parliament and state elections–a punishment for his unabashedly pro-investor policies and callousness toward his people. For Naidu, it was always more important to rub shoulders with corporate moguls at Davos’s World Economic Forum than to bother about the suicides of more than 3,000 highly indebted farmers, crushed by high power and water charges (thanks to privatization) and cheap imports. His IT balloon–information technology accounts for just 3 percent of state GDP–burst when it was revealed that Andhra’s software rank had slumped. Naidu failed another test when he refused to demand that his ally, the BJP, bring the Gujarat pogrom’s perpetrators to book.
Gujarat is the one state where the BJP has ruled on its own, and for long years, with firm support. It was forecast it would sweep Gujarat–just as it did in the 2002 state elections despite the anti-Muslim carnage. Instead, it lost in half the constituencies. It performed worst in those very areas where the anti-Muslim violence was most virulent–penalized by an electorate ultimately disenchanted with Hindu chauvinism.