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A worrying scenario


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IN the cacophony of pre-election decibels in the Indian media there is a risk of ignoring a shadowy agenda few are prepared to admit or discuss. It has to do with the imminent threat of corporate fascism intensifying in the country after the next elections.

The popular construct — Congress is secular and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) communal — is a cliché that may have been mildly valid once.

The question today is, what else are the interests of India’s two main parties apart from their overused parochial binary? A probable answer might be that both pander to common corporate interests, domestic as well as foreign. And they serve the interests with scant regard for probity.

As far as corruption goes, both parties have been caught with their hands in the till siphoning money from dubious arms imports and issuing industrial licences with assured windfall profits to their chosen ones.

This, however, encompasses just one aspect of the problem. Former World Bank chief and neocon guru Paul Wolfowitz set the agenda for the Third World in this regard.

In India, the Wolfowitz prescription has given rise to Baba Ramdevs and Anna Hazares. They together with a host of NGOs want to clean up the country’s pervasive corruption. So try to imagine a clean neocon economic model for India, uninterrupted by the distortions of corruption, and you would perhaps end up in Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party. He is fasting against inflated electricity bills that people are routinely handed by the newly privatised utilities.

However, only about 30 odd per cent of Indians can or do pay their utility bills. The rest live on divine mercy, usually without electricity or even water. Many of them go to quacks, for example to Nirmal Baba. He runs a TV channel and prescribes rasgullas and gulab jamuns whose consumption would cure the travails dogging his million-plus followers. India’s corporate agenda seems as entrenched as it is kept undiscussed. Few see a link between it and an increasingly policed and militarised nation. The agenda came to the fore with the advent of Dr Manmohan Singh who first uncorked the neocon genie. Of course, the Congress could not have passed its very first pro-market budget in 1992 without brazenly cheating parliament.

The Narasimha Rao government should have been thrown out that day but it scraped through in a tight vote (when Manmohan Singh was the finance minister) by bribing a few tribal MPs. The tribal MPs went to jail and Singh went to the IMF.

The election of Dr Singh to the Rajya Sabha itself was disputed in the courts as he was not a resident of Assam, the state he claimed to belong to. The mandatory requirement of optimum domicile was subsequently deleted to suit corporate interests. Singh remains the only prime minister never to have been elected to the Lok Sabha. So much for exigencies of business calling the shots in India.

A glimpse of the polity he set into motion showed up in the so-called Nira Radia tapes, the consequence of illegal phone tapping. The taped conversations were essentially rooted in a bitter business rivalry that was then going on between the Ambani brothers.

There is a conversation about a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP, a certain Mr Clean who was a former editor of a newspaper and who made many brownie points by exposing the Congress party’s financial scandals and by writing tomes of essays on how Muslims had messed up the country.

How could he be quietly re-elected from Uttar Pradesh by a combination of pro-Hindutva and pro-Muslim parties? This was the discussion tapped between two well-connected corporate brokers. His election was important so that he could represent one of the Ambani brothers in their business dispute in the Rajya Sabha, or so the taped conversation revealed.

On its part, the 13-day BJP government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1996 signed a controversial agreement with the American Enron group for a gas-based power unit in Maharashtra. The project was a financial fiasco, but it helped project the BJP as a pro-business party to the world and to its would-be domestic patrons. It returned to power with a successful coalition.

In the cacophony of parochial formulae (Hindu, Muslim, caste etc.) about the coming polls something vital has gone unnoticed. The politically assertive backward castes — Narendra Modi in Gujarat, Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh and Nitish Kumar in Bihar together with nearly all the southern Indian parties have signed up with the corporate agenda.

In other words, the traditional baniya-Brahmin alliance, monopolised by the predominantly upper caste Congress and the BJP, is giving way to new corporate alliances involving emerging centres of power courtesy the backward castes.

As the media goes on discussing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s communal, anti-Muslim identity, I am convinced that he is least likely to supervise another slaughter of Muslims. He has bigger fish to fry. And that is why he has the support of an unprecedented number of powerful tycoons.

The next corporate agenda will be probably unleashed against the most impoverished tribespeople of Chhattisgarh and Orissa after the elections where the people have been demanding an end to the age-old exploitative “baniya-contractor-politician nexus”.

However, given the fact that police and military are the only public-sector agencies that seem to have unlimited job vacancies in an otherwise depressed state of economy, it would not be too difficult for Modi or any other middle-caste leader, to mount the imminent assault on India’s poor to seize their land, water and minerals. Congress and BJP will be there to help.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (21) Closed

amit (India) Apr 04, 2013 03:25am
I live in Bombay and don't travel to Delhi often, but I think a visit may be worthwhile - I'd like to find the chap who you buy dope from. Strong stuff, this.
Brijesh Apr 04, 2013 03:37am
For writers such as Mr. Naqvi there is no hope for India at all. The fact that India survives its tribulations may be too much for Naqvi-saab to bear. Please Mr. Naqvi - do shine some light on what is good in India for I go into depressions whenever I read your columns
murali Apr 04, 2013 08:57am
Naqvi should be congratulated for his immense nonsense and the nuisance value he carries.
Arvind Das Apr 04, 2013 09:17am
Ha! Ha! Ha! Amit, I like your comment,
MQ Khan Apr 04, 2013 10:18am
Mr Naqvi, Must be the 100th time you have mentioned the buying of tribal MPs in your columns, can you please provide something fresh, always hanging in the past and not seeing the future.
abbastoronto Apr 04, 2013 12:46pm
Naqvi Sahib. Saying Emperor has no clothes will never make you popular. Thumbs down is your lot. Saying the truth is never a popularity contest especially in a dream peddling place that is Bollywood?s arena. In 1990 India fell from the misguided Nehru?s frying pan of Soviet Socialism to the deranged fire of Reaganomics/Thatcherism, a tree that bears its bitter fruit of divisive society, exploding poverty, debt, depression, and despair 30 years later. We here are paying the price now in chronic unemployment, financial meltdown. India will pay it in 2020 (1990+30). Then, when India comes to its senses, it will be mired in an internal strife so severe that Pakistan?s temporary woes will look like Sunday picnic. I have always maintained that Pakistan is the ideology leader in South Asia. Here are some firsts: 1. Free Enterprise - Pakistan 1947, India 2000 2. Free Trade - Pakistan 1947, India 2000 3. Alliance with the West - Pakistan 1950, India 2000 4. Friendship with China - Pakistan 1960, India ??? 5. Distancing from Socialism - Pakistan 1947, India 1990 6. Distancing from dying Corporate Capitalist West - Pakistan 2000, India ???? Islam is for travel and trade, the natural religion of the emerging world order of Globalization and Free Trade. At present, Pakistan, a social laboratory for the Muslim World, in rejecting the Neocon agenda of Wolfowitz et al is going through the experiment that which Islam (Shia, Sunni, Jafri, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafai, Hanbali, Barelvi, Sufi, Deobandi, Wahabbi, Qadiani, etc..) is the optimal and efficient one for the Era. India is not aware of the issue. Ignorance is bliss. What? Me worry?
Rohit Apr 04, 2013 02:26pm
You try too hard to appear intelligent. You might have received a sophisticated form of maderssaa education to perform a nice jugglery of words even while keeping antiquated views. Alas, that is not sufficient to impress people.
Shantanu, Gurgaon Apr 04, 2013 03:22pm
Dear Naqvi saheb- The only reason why I read your articles is to add some more exotic words to my vocabulary. I wish your family well from the all the negativity you exude forth in each and every article of yours. For heaven's sake please reflect on the future and not on the past! God bless
Ahmer Apr 04, 2013 03:33pm
I like Naqvi Sahib's columns and would like them even more if I understood what he is trying to say.
Irony Apr 04, 2013 04:34pm
Whatever it may be...Have you never heard of the phrase" timing is important".
SP Apr 04, 2013 05:23pm
you make an excellent case to leave canada and head back to pakistan.
Ram Apr 04, 2013 05:41pm
Why does every discussion have to end with Islam is better and since Pakistan is identified with Islam, Pakistan is better?
SSSToronto Apr 04, 2013 05:52pm
Still Living in the past.. even though from Toronto, if you live there? Please go back to your mother country and try smelling the roses...
IndiaUSA Apr 04, 2013 05:57pm
Despite having a lead over India in Globalization and Business, why is Pakistan where it is today, is it because of Islam too?.. I guess so...
Mandeep Apr 04, 2013 06:04pm
Too much imagination on part of the author just to put together few lines...just to portray a negative picture..If Hitler were alive today he would have hired this Author for his propaganda brigade...but never the less you are my favourite spin master on this form
Amit Apr 04, 2013 06:04pm
Nice comment
Mandeep Apr 04, 2013 06:05pm
Get well soon..
JR Apr 04, 2013 08:29pm
Wonder why the Muslim nations are not the most advanced nations in the world? Wonder why Muslims are killing Muslims in Middle East? Wonder why there are no great leaders coming out of Muslim world? Go figure ... you have a lot of thinking to do.
pc Apr 04, 2013 09:59pm
he is the most unhappy indian that i know of. i just wonder why he does not try to relocate to the country of his liking. i am not pakistan haters. i wish india and pakistan have better relation as me and my pakistani neighbor in usa has. Mr. naqvi should write artcles that inspire pakistani readers about good that exist in india if he cares about pakistan. but protraying india all the time negatively to pakistani readers will not inspire them but surely the newspaper will extend its invitation to Mr. Naqvi to write more articles. however, he has chosen deliberately to protray india negatively to get more attention from pakistani readers. i am not sure if all pakistani readers agree with Mr. Naqvi's thinking i am not sure if Mr. naqvi will choose to live in pakistan if he has a choice to live in India (which he has) or in Pakistan
Amit-Atlanta-USA Apr 05, 2013 12:03am
I rarely if ever read articles from Mr.Naqvi. In fact until recently I thought this guy was a Pakistani. Anyways, he rarely ever sums up an article w/o bashing up Modi, or talking about the killing of Muslims in Gujrat, but NOT about the burning alive of innocent Hindu Men, Women and Children. I have not read one good thing from this man on his free secular India. Keep trying to paint India black Mr. you see from the readers comments and the votes, no Indian respects you one bit!
Md Imran Apr 05, 2013 02:03am
If India needs to avoid the follies and degeneration of the west, and come out of its darkness, it needs to look towards Islam. India and Indians need to embrace Islam that can give purpose to their otherwise empty lives with just a mindless pursuit of materialism. Like another writer said, Islam is a timeless solution.