Is the Indian constitution undemocratic

Democracy of the few

After the elections to the People's Assembly on May 16, 2014, 67 years after India's independence, a new icon appears on the Indian political stage: With 282 of 543 seats, the right-wing national Indian People's Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), only wins a narrow one Majority in the lower house, the Lok Sabha, but leaves all other parties far behind.

The former Prime Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, who presented himself as a representative of the "new India" during the election campaign, is now India's new Prime Minister. Like the "father" of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, Modi is from Gujarat. In his inaugural address, Modi followed suit and promised to devote his time as Prime Minister to improving the situation of the poor in India:

“That is why the new government is dedicated to the poor, the millions of young people and mothers and daughters who seek respect and honor. Villagers, farmers, Dalits and the oppressed, this government is for them, for their hopes and that is our responsibility. [...] And that's why our dream is to make your dreams come true. "

It seems doubtful whether her dreams will finally come true. But how did this victory come about? And what is the face of the "new India" that Modi and his party tirelessly invoked during the election campaign? In view of the fact that one in six people in the 21st century will be Indian, these questions not only seem topical for those interested in India, but are also of global interest.

The author and journalist Pankaj Mishra opens up a completely different view of the election victory of the People's Party and Modi. He points to the influence and money of the big corporations and industrial tycoons such as Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, who generously financed the BJP's election campaign, and therefore critically questions Modi's loyalty to the poor and outcasts of Indian society.

His legacy as Prime Minister is primarily characterized by the transfer - through privatization or direct gifts - of national resources to the largest corporations in the country. Its closest allies - India's most important businessmen - have therefore made their media sub-markets available to Modi transfiguration; dissenting journalists were removed or silenced.

The importance of the Indian middle class

In this respect, the former tea seller is no different from the corrupt politicians whom he so often scolds for owing their power mainly to the influence of others. But the election victory of the BJP cannot be explained by the support of individuals alone. Rather, that section of the population must be addressed here that has become the driving political force of India since the economic opening in 1990, namely the new Indian middle class.

This group is primarily driving India's growing consumption and has thus piqued the interest of sociologists and political scientists. The liberalization of the economy and the emigration of the well-educated have decisively increased the political weight of the middle class at home. After becoming successful abroad, the "Non-Resident Indians" 6 who work in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia are now discovering their roots and increasingly identifying with the new, strong India and the ideology of the Hindutva , the political Hinduism that the BJP represents.

According to Christiane Brosius, the city focuses on the social impact of the new middle class. In fact, the new India seems to be a (hyper) urbanized country: nowhere is economic development advancing as quickly as here and nowhere is it as clear as here how little of the new prosperity reaches the bottom:

“The Indian government has repeatedly promised to eradicate poverty by 2010. However, although many studies predict a rapid increase in the wealth of the emerging middle classes up to the 'super-rich', the number of underprivileged households in India remains surprisingly stable. Furthermore, the fear is expressed that the eradication of poverty is only a slogan of neo-liberalization, a part of 'shining India', which does not allow 'dark spots' on its shiny facade. "

The face of India's cities, and especially that of the big cities, is undeniably obscured by dark spots, which show that the Indian economy is still largely dependent on the cheap labor of the lower castes, the Dalits (called untouchables), the social group standing outside the caste system , OBC's (other backward castes), and migrant workers. In Mumbai, the slum dwellers are actually not a minority, but 50% of the total population.

The makeshift dwellings of these people standing on urban wasteland, under highways, in public squares and on the sidewalk are constantly being "cleaned up" by the city, but the poor keep coming back because this is the only place where they can find work. The fact that the number of slum dwellers doubled between 1981 and 2001 shows that economic liberalization has contributed a lot to the polarization between rich and poor. Modi's promise to fight poverty therefore appears primarily as a rhetorical concession, as his predecessors in office already used.

The Indian People's Party has understood how, by focusing on Hindu values, to address the poor and uneducated who see their cultural values ​​and traditions threatened by globalization, but at the same time it has given the middle class political priority. This fact is clearly evident in the displacement struggles of the big cities. Although many wealthy city dwellers live in "gated communities" that are kept running by an army employee, who therefore settle in the immediate vicinity, more and more citizens' initiatives against the occupiers and slum dwellers are taking part in the fight.

The city and the judiciary almost always give priority to the interests of the former in a clean and threat-free living environment over the needs of the service class. Interestingly, however, the representatives of such initiatives invoke the general public's right to an environment worth living in and thus implicitly declare their interests to be general interests. At the same time, more and more areas are being privatized and monitored and thus withdrawn from being used by others. This is indicative of the increasingly aggressive way in which the Indian middle class is demanding civil rights for itself, with increasing media support.

The exclusion of Muslims

Another group, namely India's Muslims, is also experiencing aggressive repression and marginalization. Although predominantly secular in orientation, Muslims are often denigrated on television, the Internet and in films as uneducated, medieval-minded and malicious people. This shows a correspondence with the political rise of the Indian People's Party in the late 1990s, when Muslims were increasingly exposed to violence and hatred, which culminated in the mass unrest in Mumbai (1992/93) and Gujarat (2002).

That Modi, at that time Prime Minister of Gujarat, not only accepted the systematic killing of hundreds of Muslims in retaliation for an alleged arson attack by Muslims on a train of Hindu pilgrims, but also ordered the police to kill the Hindu radicals Allowing a free hand is denied by his party as well as by the mass media. However, independent research such as that of the investigative magazine »Tehelka« shows that politics and the judiciary tried to prevent the incident from being cleared up.

In "No God In Sight" the author Altaf Tyrewala, a former business journalist, creates a fictional yet painfully realistic picture of the life of Muslims in Mumbai ten years after the uprisings. In this book, the Muslim characters still face daily hostility and discrimination. And if economic advancement also promises greater freedom, it remains limited to consumption.

In this way, the hope of economic advancement suppresses all other claims to personal happiness. In addition to Krishna and Ram - the favorite gods of the Hindu nationalists, on whose behalf they destroyed a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 and thus triggered nationwide uprisings - Ganesh and Lakshmi, the gods of prosperity, are probably the most revered in the Hindu pantheon .

The orientation towards a neoliberal, radical market form of capitalism, which the BJP represents, and the renaissance of Hindu nationalism that lay idle for many decades are not phenomena that just happen at the same time, but are mutually dependent. Since prosperity is indispensably linked to access to education and corruption is widespread, it remains denied to those who have nothing to build on. Belonging to a lower caste is often still an obstacle. The enormous potential for frustration and violence that arises from the impossibility of economic participation is thus diverted to Muslims but also to »terrorists«, Pakistanis and other enemy images.

The current state of Indian democracy

"'Democracy in India', warned Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who was primarily responsible for drafting India's constitution, [...] is only a superficial coating on Indian soil that is essentially undemocratic. ' Ambedkar saw democracy in India as a promise of justice and dignity for the despised and impoverished millions of the country, which can only be achieved through intense political debate.

For more than two decades, this possibility has now been subjected to a pincer movement: a form of global capitalism that can only enrich a small minority, and a xenophobic nationalism that practically always provides scapegoats for large-scale socio-economic failure and frustration. "

Ultimately, the new India seems (too) deeply rooted in the old India. It has found fertile breeding ground in neoliberal capitalism, to which the paradigms of ancient India can often be seamlessly transferred. This other modernity - if you want to call it that - is defined by its radical implementation of a community in which the powerful or wealthy is the driving force and measure of all action. Thus, the widespread notion of an »archaic India«, which is supposed to contradict technocratic modernity, has to be fundamentally revised.

The problem does not lie in the clash of millennia-old traditions and postmodern reality, but in the fact that the ideas of society in ancient India are adopting an economic system like the current one and that existing differences are becoming increasingly insurmountable. Here the logic of the Enlightenment, which assumes a link between political progress and economic progress, seems obsolete and can no longer be used to explain it. Whichever path the new India takes, it cannot be viewed and understood from the lens of Western and European political and historical developments.