People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 05

February 02, 2014


Hindutva Reinvented in Namo’s Rainbow of Deceit


Archana Prasad


RIGHTWING social forces have once again revealed their influence in the wake of the declining social reform role of the neo-liberal state. Incidents of the last few weeks have shown up the underbelly of neo-liberal corporate capitalism and the challenge of governance associated with it. In the first instance was the vigilante action undertaken by a responsible minister of Delhi to show his accountability to the people. In the process he revealed not only his own social conservatism but also the conservatism of the ‘masses’ who can rule the country. The refusal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to admit its folly and sack its minister reveals its own subordination to and compromise with the domination of conservative social forces in their vision of Swaraj.


A second instance is the horrifying incident in West Bengal where a village council ordered the gang rape of a girl for having an affair outside her caste. Investigations have revealed that TMC men were associated with the incident thus exposing the social conservatism that forms the foundation of the current state government. Both these incidents highlight the rise of social conservatism and its contemporary ideological avatars in the form of emerging political forces. The space for these forces has however been created by the lack of a credible democratic alternative in the present day.


The imagination propelled by AAP’s victory in Delhi has also propelled the BJP to reinvent its own vision of the nation and its future. This is highlighted in the signature speech of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate whose ‘rainbow vision’ for India has been termed as inspirational. In this speech Modi seeks to counter the emerging political challenges and reinvent Hindutva and conservative Hindu traditions in the age of corporate capitalism. In doing so he enters the game of populist and competitive social conservatism that underlines the current political scenario.




Modi outlines seven pillars in his rainbow vision within which women and tradition occupy an important space. According to him, ‘tradition’ is epitomised in the family. While the family signifies a purity of values the entire country is described by its unity, the honour of the family is epitomised within the woman. It is significant that, rather than speaking about the transformation of the family, Modi speaks of strengthening the traditional family in order to protect tradition. Decoded in Hindutva terms, it signifies the affirmation of male primacy in inheritance and household decision making processes. As the introduction to the website of the Rashtriya Swayamsevika Sangh puts, the woman is the “the foundation pillars of the nation taking into account their capacity to mould the family." An ideal woman is an enlightened mother who, in her capacity as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother, is "strong physically, mentally, intellectually and spiritually" so that she can defend the nation and "create a deep sense of devotion and pride for nation, religion and culture.” This understanding is carried forward by Modi in his enunciation on women where he calls the woman an epitome of wisdom and virtue. This virtue is one that needs to be inculcated through greater education which is termed by Modi as “women’s empowerment.” It is significant that his message is for strengthening the traditional role of the woman rather focusing on the forces that threaten her participation in modern processes. Quite obviously, Modi’s vision is not right based or structured around the need to understand the changing character of the modern woman. Rather the role of the woman is described in terms of a neo-traditionalist whose skills should be upgraded in order to fulfil her role as an epitome of virtue.


Such a vision is quite compatible with the miserable situation of women in Gujarat which has been ruled by a BJP government for about one decade and a half. Insecurity malnutrition and lack of access to productive resources is a common feature amongst Gujarati women and reflects the abysmal track record of BJP governments on women’s issues. The Madhya Pradesh BJP government is also brazen about its conservative approach towards women. Support to child marriage and conduct of virginity tests are only a few examples of this. Hence the hailing of the woman as an epitome of ‘purity’ and ‘virtue’ or a ‘mother’ or a ‘devi’ is nothing more than an ideological cover-up for the BJP’s reluctance to struggle for changes within traditional patriarchal social structures.




Another important aspect of the vision enunciated by Modi is the focus on the village, agriculture and participatory democracy. Selectively borrowing from Gandhi, Modi states that until the village is developed there can be no development of the nation. He spends considerable time on the changes to be brought about in agriculture and its markets and the need to use local land, water and forest resources. He says that the problems of agriculture can be solved only if real time data are collected from the farmer at the village level. This is an attempt to take away attention from the real issues which stem from the pursuit of neo-liberal policies by BJP governments themselves. The Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, governments are leaders in corporate farming which requires real time data for forecasting production and price estimates. They also have an unusually high growth in landlessness and are models for the ways in which farmers and agricultural workers have been displaced and exploited by companies.


At the level of common property resources, Modi once again talks about the use of technology to develop and conserve them. However once again the role and the policies of the BJP governments on these fronts show that this vision is quite compatible with corporate capital. The track record of BJP governments is that they have perceived common property resources as ‘wastelands’ which can be handed over to corporate capital at unusually throw-away prices. The Adnani Mundra Port project in the coastlands of Gujarat is a good example of this; there all the protests have been repressed by a coercive government. The BJP governments are known to be the leaders in the sale of forestlands and their diversion to big companies in the name of projects. Thus the vision of a developed and prospering village is nothing but a justification for the BJP led governments to legitimise their sale of local resources to meet the objectives of integrating and adapting the village economy to suit the needs of corporate capital.


The idea of the village as the focus of development is intimately tied with Modi’s notion of democracy. He takes a cue from the AAP and says that we have to move from a representative to a participative democracy through the direct representation of the people.


But even here the record of BJP governments is not very encouraging. In the Hindutva vision of development, the space for dalits and adivasis is marginal, while the treatment of minorities has been strikingly harsh. Therefore it is not surprising that Modi does not make any mention of discrimination against dalits and adivasis or the rights of minorities in his future programme. His future strategy has no space for transforming the social structures which have been supporting the domination of conservative morality and ideologies that deligimitise democratic and elected political institutions. Rather, his silence only explains that the BJP is banking on creating a common pan-national Hindu identity that is compatible with corporate capitalism.


Thus it is clear that Modi’s ‘rainbow vision’ is not a vision for the people-oriented modern development and reinvents the Hindutva discourse to adapt to the contemporary political scenario. It is also structured to cover up the BJP’s abysmal record and the twin interests of corporate capitalism and its ideological allies amongst the right wing socially conservative forces. The idea of a strong patriarchal leadership that he portrays is geared towards legitimising an anti-people social order. Its focus is on the strengthening of a traditional value system which is anti-women, anti-SC/ST and opposed to any measures of social reforms that form the basis of a modern society. The change in political discourse from the need of social transformation to a value neutral conception of development poses a serious challenge for Indian democracy. The Left and democratic forces have played a historic and important role in bringing about social transformation and democratising the society in since Independence. They now have to meet Modi’s challenge head on --- by mobilising the democratic sections of the middle classes and the working people.