The Bihar results are a milestone in Indian political history, of course, but they also link up with a worldwide phenomena: the crumbling of the world order erected after the fall of the Berlin wall. A brief look at history to follow the trend.
Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 signalled the advent of the Sole Superpower which immediately embarked on a project of full spectrum global dominance beginning with Operation Desert Storm in February 1992.
The firepower of the world’s most muscular war machine was for the first time brought live into our drawing rooms by Peter Arnett of the CNN from the terrace of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed hotel.
The Iraqi army was pummelled. For one set of global TV audience, the outcome was undiluted triumphalism. But for the Muslim world, it came across as yet another defeat, further humiliation.
The world, divided into two distinct sets of audiences, was treated to more TV fare – the two intefadas, the daily brutalization of Bosnian Muslims and the four-year-long siege of Sarajevo which agitated Turks (because of their historical links with the Balkans) to such an extent that they brought Nekmatin Arbakan’s Islamist Refah party to power. Arbakan’s disciples Abdullah Gul and Tayyip Erdogan toned down their Islamism to cope with Turkey’s Kemalist constitution.
Turkey found the electoral response to Western provocation. Anger in most of the authoritarian Muslim world created a space for militant schools with a ready faculty left over from the Afghan jehad. The world galloped towards 9/11, after which the world was enlisted in the war against Islamic terror.
The global war on terror became the strategic preoccupation for nations all under US auspices.
Let it be added as an aside that even Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was alert to the main chance. When 56 ‘kar sewaks’ were burnt to death in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 26, 2002, he promptly took the case away from Collector Jayanti Ravi and handed it to the Director General, Anti Terror Squad, Vijay Vipul. Without any preliminary inquiry, the Godhra train tragedy was to be treated as an act of terror. Modi was firmly on the anti-terror bandwagon.
The second mantra handed to the post Soviet World Order was “Development”. The Soviet collapse was not sold as the victory of democracy, freedom, human rights; it was sold as the triumph of the market.
Two party systems beholden to corporates, linked to mega multinational corporations became the trend. These powerful establishments, with the media in attendance, could suppress stories of unspeakable corruption and crony capitalism only up to a point. But not for long.
The dominant reality since 2008 has been the gradual decline of the US. Systems erected in anticipation of the American Century are crumbling. This objective reality has given heart to the people hemmed in by two party systems in cahoots with corrupt sources of finance. Electoral eruptions have taken place even though it would be premature to describe the current situation as revolutionary.
Greek Left Wing party Syriza came to power but powerful countries like Germany forced it to compromise its anti-austerity, anti-capitalism platforms.
Greece is only two percent of Europe’s GDP. Spain is 14 percent. Syriza, before Greece’s compromise, did infect the voters in Spain. Spain’s communist party, Podemos, made dramatic gains in the local body elections. But a degree of demoralization afflicts Podemos as it prepares for the national elections on December 20. This because the lesson learnt from Syriza’s compromises that excessive Leftism may be unrealistic in Spain’s current economic situation.
All right, Spain’s leftism may have to be toned down but it has already shamed political corruption and crony capitalism to such an extent that it can never be business as usual after the December elections.
The trend continues in Portugal where a socialist-communist combination is in contention for power. What a far cry from Tony Blair is the new labour boss, Jeremy Corbyn, as is Canada’s Justin Trudeau from Stephen Harper.
Joko Widodo in Indonesia and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi are not exactly Left but they come from a similar reformist anti-corruption stable, quite as effective in corroding the neo liberal structures.
Modi came to power riding the world’s most expensive campaign. He harvested the prevailing disgust at the time against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, tied to India Inc. and the World Bank.
When Modi’s personal image was on test in Delhi, he was decimated. Big business, police, Lt Governor, the BJP, Congress and the drum beating media simply waylaid Kejriwal from day one of his innings. The affront to the idea of Modi and market economics in the form of Kejriwal must not be allowed to stand. In one respect, an old Persian saying “gunah be lazzat” (sinning without pleasure) may well apply to Modi. He has not done for all his capitalist clients everything he may have wished to do. But the tag of crony capitalism hangs from his neck.
And now Bihar has administered a knockout punch. Of course a singular lack of culture in the Hindutva brigade’s anti-Love Jihad and anti-beef campaign recoiled on the BJP. Where will Modi recover ground now in the coming state elections: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh?
The front page of Times of India (November 13) is emblematic of the mess Modi is in.
Asked about growing intolerance, Modi told the media in London, standing beside David Cameron: “No place for intolerance” in the land of Buddha and Gandhi.
Above this three column story is a bigger headline: “Cow brigade now out to stop leather shoe sales.”
Lower down the page is another story about death threats to playwright Girish Karnad by Hindutva groups against airing his admiration for Tipu Sultan. But all of this is against the backdrop of Modi’s perceived proximity to names like Adani which tend to distance politicians from the people.
And now that Nitish Kumar is about to replace Rahul Gandhi’s mug shots as a would be counter point to Modi, he would do well to remember a simple mantra: steer clear of something which is in bad odour globally – crony capitalism.
(Saeed Naqvi is a commentator on political and diplomatic affairs. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on email@example.com)