Justice Markandey Katju: Despite everything, BJP will win 2024 elections

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

R. Nagaraj, an eminent Indian economist, is a former professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai, and currently visiting professor at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.

He has said that despite all tall claims that India has the fastest growing economy in the world and that in a few years it will be the world’s third largest economy, the truth is that India has not experienced as bad an economic downturn over the past seven decades as it is currently going through.

However, the seriousness of this downturn does not find place in the minds of its policy makers and the public.

He further says that India is currently stuck in a growing unemployment trap. Indian “rulers” said that they will create 100 million jobs, but the truth is that India has lost 23 million jobs between 2017 and 2021.

The level of unemployment is so bad that, in 2019, 12.5 million Indians applied for just 3,500 railway jobs.

Vietnam, with a population of 100 million people, exports the same value of manufactured goods as India, which has a population of 1.4 billion. Bangladesh is also doing far better than India.

Something similar has been said by political economist and social commentator Dr Parakala Prabhakar. He is also Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s husband.

He has said that the BJP government (to which his wife belongs) has made a mess of the Indian economy, and has referred in his book ‘The Crooked Timber of New India’ to the Oxfam Report on increasing inequality, rural distress, inflation and increasing pauperization in India. I have said the same in this article

However, despite all this, I felt the BJP will still win the Parliamentary elections in 2024.

Although the Indian Constitution declares India to be a secular country, the ground reality is different. After all, the Constitution is just a piece of paper, and writing something in it does not change the ground realities.

It must be understood that secularism is a feature of an industrialized society (as in Western countries), while India is still largely semi-feudal (as is evident from the rampant casteism and communalism which prevails here).

Most Hindus in India are communal, and so are most Muslims.

It is not that communalism suddenly emerged in India in 2014 after the BJP victory. It was there even before 2014, but to some extent it was kept in check because Congress and the other ‘secular’ parties sought the large Muslim vote bank, and therefore had to give some protection to Muslims.

BJP does not get Muslim votes, and so it skilfully manipulates the communal feelings which lie beneath the surface in Indian society. Therefore, communalism, which was lying latent and to some extent checked before 2014, has become open, virulent and aggressive.

Despite its slogan of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’, atrocities are often committed on Muslims, and they are victimized and discriminated against. Since about 80% Indians are Hindus, this fact benefits the BJP which claims to represent the Hindus.

Of course, Hindus are ordinarily divided on caste, but when communal feelings are aroused they tend to unite against what they perceive to be the common enemy — Muslims. This happened during the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation in the 1990s.

After 2014, there has been considerable religious polarization of Indian society, and many Indian institutions have become ‘saffronized’.

As the 2024 parliamentary elections approach, communal incidents will be skilfully stage managed, and this has already been witnessed in Manipur and Haryana.

My own guess is that a few months before the elections they will reach such a high pitch that most Hindus will combine against the Muslims. There may also be a short war against Pakistan, or a few ‘surgical’ strikes (this strategy was also utilized by the Congress in 1962 by invading Goa and then declaring elections, in which it scored a thumping victory).

BJP gets its support not from its performance but from its Hindu identity. As the elections approach, the agitations against the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Masjid in Mathura (as well as other places) will be stepped up, and communal riots break out in many parts, to create a communal frenzy in India, which will ensure BJP victory in the polls.

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