Modi and the Hindutva rate of growth

  • Varghese K George, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Dec 17, 2012 10:03 IST

Gujarat's economic growth over the last decade has no doubt been impressive, but other states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu too have shown equally impressive growth. What then is the mantra that chief minister Narendra Modi uses to present Gujarat as unique, milking political advantage of it?

One anecdote can be an entry point into how Modi sells his economic successes. Between the 2007 election and now, his biggest achievement is the Nano plant in Sanand, 40 km west of Ahmedabad.

The shifting of the Nano factory from West Bengal showed the Left - his severest critics - in bad light and gave Modi an opportunity to thump his chest. It also marked a new phase in Gujarat's industrialisation, allowing it a claim to be an automobile hub.

Modi has the ability to couch this undoubtedly secular act of setting up a factory in religious analogy. "Gujarat will take care of Nano just like Yashoda raised Krishna," he said, drawing a parallel to Lord Krishna being raised by Yashoda.

Gujarat had grown before Modi, but he has attributed a religious nationalist character to growth. While politicians in TN and AP conversed with voters about growth by starting redistribution schemes, Modi  made growth a corollary of Hindutva politics. In his politics, growth became a matter of pride for the twin identities he tirelessly emphasises - Gujarati and Hindu.

Modi's main claim of success is in creating and sustaining a governmental and social structure conducive to growth. Visible urbanisation and industrialisation in Gujarat shore up this claim. The linkage of such achievements to Hindutva is articulated very effectively, albeit subtly.

Modi's speeches usually offer a comparison of periods before and after 2002: Gujarat built so much of roads before 2002, so much after 2002, etc. The cut off period is 2002 - not when the BJP came to power, not even 2001, when he became CM.

2002 is when Modi won an election on his own, and that is also the year when "Mohammadans were taught a lesson," as many of his followers would say. He also underlines that Gujarat has been peaceful and calm after 2002. Though understated, the implied suggestion is that Gujarat's take off required the subjugation of Muslims.

"Hindu awakening" as a prerequisite for economic development is common sense in right-wing discourse. On the 20th anniversary of Babri demolition, Swapan Dasgupta wrote: "Ayodhya (demolition) pushed the old order over the cliff. Later on, India moved tentatively towards market economics, material prosperity …."

The Hindu right wing in India had felt offended by the term Hindu rate of growth that used to describe India's slow growth periods. By marrying Hindutva to growth, Modi is offering the Hindutva rate of growth.

 

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