As well as being a Marxist ideologue and global activist for half a century, Tariq Ali has been a prolific author writing scathing exposés and critiques of US-led Western imperialist political and economic behaviour. In an interview with Ajit Sahi, Ali takes an array of questions on the current affairs in India and Pakistan
A clamour to name Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in the general election next year is making rounds. His backers say he should be judged for bringing development to his state. His opponents hold him responsible for the killing of Muslims in 2002 by Hindu sectarian and supremacist mobs. Just what do you think makes Modi a front-ranker?
A startling absence of talent in mainstream politics. Modi, the argument goes from the Right may be a killer, but he’s a developmental killer. So if a few thousand Muslim lives have to be sacrificed to build a solid electoral base, “modernise” Gujarat, and by extension, India, then why not? At least, they say, he’s not hypocritical. The Right see him as a potential unifier for their project, which is not as some on the Left argue, to create a fascist state in India, but to establish a long-term hegemony for the Right: an authoritarian ethno-religious populism on the basis of which Indian capitalism can be strengthened and its opponents weakened for at least a decade or two. The Congress, both in Gujarat and elsewhere, is incapable of taking him on and so accepts to fight on the battleground that the BJP has demarcated. A fatal weakness which no dynasty can transcend. How can the Nehru-Gandhis compete with the real epics of Hinduism?
A substantial section of India’s middle class, especially the educated English-speaking people, appears to solidly back Modi for prime minister. What is their motivation?
For the reasons I have stated above. And they want a period of stability, some control over corruption, some softish religion, so they can identify with in this time of uncertainties. The BJP fills the vacuum. Nehruvian nationalism is over. Its substitute is an ethno-religious chauvinism. This is the Indian version of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which also has large support within the middle classes. The BJP has its own equivalent of salafis and its ‘soft’ believers. Modi satisfies both sides.