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Watch | In India We Now Have a Deeper State at Work, a Threat to Democracy: Christophe Jaffrelot

Hindutva, not Hinduism is being pushed as the official ideology of India today.
Photo: The Wire.

In an interview to assess Narendra Modi’s legacy after ten years as prime minister as well as to assess his political personality as we await the forthcoming national elections, one of the great scholars of Indian politics has said Modi is “the most powerful PM India has ever had”.

However, Christophe Jaffrelot added that India has under him become “a landscape of very worrying divisions”.

In an hour-long interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Jaffrelot, who is professor of South Asian politics at Sciences Po in Paris and also King’s College in London and author of Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy, said that during the last ten years of Modi as prime minister, India has developed “a deeper state”, which he distinguished from a deep state.

He says elements of the Sangh parivar and vigilantes have ensured that there is a distinction between what happens officially and what happens unofficially and even illegally. Often the civilian government is the front facade, but at times it even seems redundant.

Describing Modi’s handling of the economy as a “quasi-loss decade”, Jaffrelot said that while MSMEs, youths, farmers, Dalits and Adivasis have either lost out or stagnated under Modi, oligarchs have gained.

He added the government’s claims on the economic front “are not supported by data”.

Referring to Thomas Piketty, Jaffrelot said India is the most unequal country in the world after South Africa.

At one point in the interview he described Modi’s economic policies as “pro-rich”.

Speaking about Modi’s attitude to Muslims, Jaffrelot said “he looks at Muslims as descendants of converts or foreigners”. Jaffrelot said he treats them as second-class citizens who should be ‘obliterated’ or ‘ghettoised’.

Jaffrelot said the majoritarian attitude means “Muslims are at the bottom or margins of the social pyramid”. He said “Muslims are de facto second-class citizens becoming de jure”.

In relation to a question about Modi’s participation in the Ram Temple consecration, when he emerged as the high-priest of Hindu nationalism, Jaffrelot said “secularism is dying”. He called it “a dead letter”.

He said not Hinduism but “Hindutva is the de facto ideology of the country”.

Speaking about the personality cult surrounding Modi, Jaffrelot first compared it to the personality cult under Indira Gandhi, but added that for two reasons, Modi’s personality cult is greater and also more disturbing.

First, Indira Gandhi did not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. Second, she did not have access to the modern day technologies available to Modi.

Talking about Nehru, Jaffrelot said that he “thinks” that Modi does have a complex about Nehru, who he is constantly targeting and belittling.

Jaffrelot said that if Modi is re-elected, he does envisage definite steps being taken towards creating a Hindu rashtra (nation). He says they are likely to be taken immediately after the re-election.

Finally, Jaffrelot said “Modi has no successor”, adding “it is very difficult to succeed a man like Modi”.

If you want to understand Modi’s legacy and political personality, I cannot strongly enough recommend this interview. Jaffrelot has spoken analytically, but also with illustrative detail. He’s measured but, at the same time, critical.

Consequently, the interview is a tour d’horizon of the situation today as well as a perceptive analysis of the prime minister’s personality and political qualities.

Weeks before the next general election, I do believe this is an interview you must see to understand where we are, what sort of person is our prime minister, what are the implications of the policies he’s followed, their success or lack of and, at the end, what to expect if he wins as well as what to expect when he finally departs the political scene.

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