Can Hindutva deliver vikas? Mai-baap state has to recede if development is to take off


Sagarika Ghose in Times of India, March 29. 2017

(Note: Election victories are no guarantee for victories in governance. Modi has proved time and again that he is very good at campaigning and winning elections with promises as high as the  moon, but seldom delivered. Hence the saying: “Election platforms are to run on and not to stay on.”

This of course is the case with most parties, and especially with Modi who ruled Gujarat for 12 years and is still notorious for unemployment due to too much interference and imposition by the government in power.

Closing down slaughter houses may be a clever move to get popular with the Hindu Majority. But what about the millions of jobs and daily earnings of the poor wiped out. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The UP CM could have been applauded, if he had first created alternate jobs – enough and more — for those working in slaughter houses going to be closed down.

Besides as CM he should cater to the eating needs of all in the State, not only the vegetarian groups. The clarion call “Sab ka Sat, sub ka vikas” makes good sound bite. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Those who are carried away by election promises should not be let down too soon to make governance counterproductive. james kottoor, editor).


The BJP’s staggering win in UP is supposedly the result of a message of Hindutva plus economic aspiration. Hindu consolidation by the Sangh on the ground and economic aspiration embodied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the winning formula. Modi in Delhi, Yogi in Lucknow is the slogan. As MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi puts it, with ‘development’ as username and ‘hindutva’ as password logging in to massive mandates becomes automatic.

But can Hindutva deliver development in the long run? Modi ran a ‘Hindutva plus development’ model in Gujarat for 12 years but as the Hardik Patel agitation shows the state still suffers endemic unemployment. Academic Pranab Bardhan writes Gujarat was a model of growth but not job creation, because Gujarat welcomed capital intensive petrochemical and pharma sectors which did not provide jobs for the uneducated and semi-skilled majority in the workforce.

Modi’s economic model is about an efficiently run, apparently incorruptible yet massively controlling citizen-monitoring state with Hindutva as its ideological base. In fact, Modi’s a statist with no record of rolling back government power. Schemes from Swachh Bharat to Skill India to Start Up India show big and controlling government imposing plans (no doubt well-intentioned) dreamt up by the high command and imposed on citizens.

This leviathan state plays a crucial role in the propagation of Hindutva. Just as socialism was implemented through state power by Left-inclined regimes, now Hindutva is being implemented through state power. In Yogi Adityanath-led UP the crackdown on ‘illegal’ slaughterhouses, setting up anti-Romeo squads or ban on wearing jeans by government officers shows that in Hindutva style governance there is little space for individual rights and free will.

Adityanath’s earlier assertion that women’s energies need to be “protected, controlled and channelised” again reveals an ideologically purist, controlling mindset, obsessed with maintaining Hindutva order. Given that the key challenge in India is job creation, an exclusionary ideology like Hindutva blocks rather than creates jobs. Slaughterhouses after all provided livelihoods to both Hindus and Muslims, as did the cattle trade.

The liberalisation of 1991 showed that achieving high growth in the Indian context is not about asserting state power but rather about rolling back the powers of the state. A liberal economy generally doesn’t bear down on the individual with a plethora of rules, instead it aims to back off from areas where it ideally should not meddle. The summary closure of slaughterhouses is a triumphant example of brute state power and a strong man CM, but does such demonstration of executive authority create business confidence?

A rampaging state could after all flex its muscles any time and order closure of any manufacturing unit that does not fit its required political-ideological crusade. When arbitrary state action becomes policy, then newer victims are needed every few months to demonstrate its power. After slaughterhouses and meat shops, it could be chicken shops or maybe fish markets. Who can predict what new campaign will be launched by an ideologically saturated super-executive?

For now though the Hindutva plus development formula seems to be winning. Shivraj Singh Chauhan won two and Raman Singh three consecutive elections in MP and Chhattisgarh, BJP continues to be dominant in Gujarat and in Rajasthan the Vasundhara Raje government is moving robustly on development while restricting cultural freedoms by, for example, bowing to the culture police on Bollywood films.

But for how long will this formula hold? Nehru ruled unchallenged from 1947 onwards but faced real dissent within just a decade of his premiership in the Left victory in Kerala in 1957. Indira was the goddess of India after 1971, but by the very next year her authority began to crumble. Marxist rule collapsed in Bengal because ultimately it could not deliver. In these elections the BJP triumphed in UP and Uttarakhand but could not score well in either Punjab or Goa. BJP chief ministers famously say that water, electricity and roads do not discriminate between communities. But how about discrimination in schools, universities or restaurants? Witness the recent siege of a Jaipur eatery by a gau raksha outfit. An official UGC report for 2015-16 shows Gujarat University has the second highest cases of discrimination against Dalits among central universities.

Hindutva with its rigid social hierarchies implies an assault on individual freedoms at different levels: the right to eat meat, the right to romance, the right to cultural interpretation or the right to a livelihood without fear of state action. When social harmony and individual freedom hang in the balance, enterprise is stymied. Modi’s important promises of one crore jobs, or putting India in the first 50 in ease of doing business rankings (India still comes in at 130th) remain unfulfilled.

That’s because the Hindutva model of governance relies on state control of the citizen. The Hindutva state is in fact a massive socialist state with a religious hue. Like all socialist states it is marked by a slew of benevolent schemes, a throwback to Indira Gandhi’s 20 Point Programme. Indira and the Marxists failed at delivering long term development because they relied heavily on the agency of state power and crushed individual rights.

The Vajpayee-led NDA and Manmohan Singh-led UPA had realised that state as mai baap has to recede if development is to take off. But the Hindutva model of triumphalist state power is in no mood to back down after tasting huge electoral success. UP is the new laboratory for the Hindutva-meets-vikas experiment. But can it deliver real results in an incorrigibly diverse society? Issues like cow slaughter and Ram mandir provide a heady sense of identity but when mighty state power is used for an ideological crusade, it doesn’t bode well for social creativity or an entrepreneurial buzz.

Sagarika Ghose

Sagarika Ghose has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career with The Times of India, subsequently moving to Outlook magazine and The Indian Express. She has been a primetime news anchor and hosts the show 'Capital View' on ET Now. At present she is consulting editor, The Times of India. She is the author of two novels, "The Gin Drinkers" and "Blind Faith" both published worldwide by HarperCollins.

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