The shock result of India’s parliamentary elections is a sign of the volatility of the world today: no more so than in its most populous country.

The ruthless communalist business regime of the aspiring dictator Narendra Modi has been in power already for ten years. His election in 2014 and re-election in 2019 had been greeted with jubilation by the world’s capitalists. His failure now to win a majority has shaken their confidence and sent share prices tumbling.

It had been widely expected that in these elections he would be confirmed in office yet again, this time with an even bigger majority. But instead of the 400-plus seats that the BJP had been aiming for, it ended up winning just 240 seats out of 543. This not only shatters Modi’s dream of the two-thirds parliamentary majority he had counted on; it falls well short of even the 272 seats needed for a simple majority in the Lok Sabha. Modi’s regime has been reduced to a minority government, forced to rely on fractious and undependable coalition allies who could switch sides at any time. Modi can no longer act as a dictator; his government could collapse overnight. His failure to win even half the seats, even after a period of unprecedented economic growth, is a personal humiliation.

If Modi had won his expected resounding victory, the paramilitary gangs of the Hindu fascist RSS would now be on the rampage, terrorising the Muslim ghettoes and the shanty towns of the poor; and the path would have been cleared for Modi to impose an outright Hindu-supremacist constitution.

Modi is still prime minister, but his grip on power is fatally weakened. This result has placed the initiative firmly back into the hands of the workers and farmers, the poor and unemployed. For two years in 2020-1 the capital city Delhi was blockaded by 300,000 insurgent farmers; and over the last few years, time and time again the opposition trade union federations have come together to stage token general strikes mobilising up to 250 million workers: by far the biggest strikes in world history. Now is the time to seize the opportunity once again!

Modi was the favourite of the world’s rich

When Modi’s BJP first came to power in 2014, capitalist investors worldwide celebrated. It came at a time when Western companies had already been looking for a way of diversifying their supply chains away from China. For decades they had been greedily eyeing the massive potential internal markets of India in their search for lucrative investment outlets. Ever since the crash of 2008 and the subsequent long recession, huge reserves of capital had been swilling around the world economy searching for a profitable niche, as previous markets became exhausted. The emergence of the so-called BRICS economies had seemed to offer a new route to profitable investment; but expectations had subsequently been sinking. China’s economy was slowing down; Brazil was sinking into stagflation; South Africa was riddled with corruption; and Russia (prior to the Ukrainian war boom) had been sinking into recession, hobbled by Western sanctions and falling oil prices. Modi’s rise to power came at a time when Western companies had already been looking for a way of diversifying their supply chains away from China. 

The arrival of the free-market bandit Narendra Modi in India seemed to them a godsend. Under pressure from the IMF – starting in 1991 under the Congress prime ministers Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, and then further intensified under the BJP prime minister Vajpayee – a harsh programme had been imposed of privatisations, cuts in subsidies and reduced protectionism; but these punitive “reforms” were stumbling to a halt. World investors now salivated with hungry expectations of the prospects that might open up in an India ruled by Modi, with his well-earned reputation for gangster ruthlessness.

Modi’s record in Gujarat

The justification for their euphoria lay in Modi’s previous record as chief minister of the state of Gujarat between 2002 and 2010, which had enjoyed an average growth rate of 16.6% a year. The truth, however, is that Gujarat’s rapid growth had actually pre-dated Modi by a whole decade: it had already been the fastest-growing of India’s fourteen major states between 1991 and 1998. Moreover, even during Modi’s tenure of office, Gujarat was not in fact India’s fastest-growing state: its record was exceeded by Uttarkhand and Sikkim.

Gujarat’s rapid rate of development was based mainly on Modi’s policy of sweeping away most of the remaining vestiges of state regulation to attract foreign direct investment. Modi called his state the “global gateway to India”. But even by the measure of FDI inflows, its economy remained dwarfed by other traditional havens for foreign investment, such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

When Modi won India’s general election in 2014, panic spread among the tens of millions of India’s minorities and lower castes, and above all among India’s 205 million Muslims. There was ample justification for their alarm in the horror of the Gujarat bloodbath of 2002. Up to 2,000 Muslim men, women and children were burned, bludgeoned or hacked to death in an orgy of communal rioting, and 200,000 made homeless.  The slaughter was encouraged by Modi’s state government, and the police stood aside. Modi’s callous response to this bloodbath was that he felt no more regret than he would “if a puppy had been run over by a car”.

The beginning of the BJP raj

Modi is always generous with his promises. On coming to power over the whole of India in 2014, he promised twenty million new jobs every year. (Ten years later, the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy reports that unemployment now stands at 8.1% of the registered work force, or around 50 million people.) In 2018 he promised a $5 trillion economy by 2022; today in 2024 it stands at $3.732 trillion. He promised a hundred new “smart cities” by 2019; the connection of all of India’s 600,000 villages with optical fibre by 2023; a doubling of farmers’ income, a house for every Indian, and 24/7 electricity to every home by 2022. All empty boasts! 

In practice, Modi’s policies proved capricious and impulsive. In what was called “the biggest path-breaking and the most radical changes in the FDI regime ever undertaken”, he opened up without warning a dozen new industries to foreign direct investment (FDI); yet the effects were at first hardly spectacular. While Modi bragged that India is “the most open economy in the world for FDI”, investors were still complaining at that time that bureaucratic red tape and a miserable infrastructure put India 130th out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” rankings; that getting a permit to build a warehouse in Mumbai involved forty steps and cost more than 25% of its value, compared with less than 2% in better streamlined countries; and that it took 1,420 days on average to enforce a contract.

A glaring example of Modi’s ruthless and unpredictability came in 2016 with his announcement without warning that all Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes – 86% of all cash in circulation! – were to be demonetised overnight. This coup was justified as a strike against the proliferation of counterfeit notes (blamed, of course, on Pakistan) which was allegedly “fuelling the drug trade” and “funding terrorism”; it was claimed that it would give banks firmer control of credit. Butits real target was the untold circulation of “black money” still swilling around the economy. It caused havoc to those too poor to have bank accounts – low-paid workers, small farmers, casual labourers, street traders, seasonal building workers, domestic employees and other low-paid workers – all of whom suddenly found themselves holding worthless scraps of paper, plunging them still further into extreme poverty. So while this measure hit the small-time cheats who still buy gold or expensive properties with suitcases stuffed with illicit cash, it left scot-free Modi’s billionaire friends who prefer to stash their loot away in numbered foreign bank accounts, or hire middlemen to deposit dodgy banknotes into their own accounts for a tip.


Certainly, India’s infrastructure has been modernised under Modi’s rule. Among his more successful reforms are the switch to a national digital-ID scheme, enabling digital payments and e-commerce; the introduction of a national goods-and-services tax (GST) in place of the old unwieldy system of state levies; and the short-term efficiency gains of some privatisation measures, such as the sale of Air India.

80% of Indians now have bank accounts, and welfare payments have been largely digitalised. The proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources has risen from 13% to 23%. The technology services sector is booming. Investment has tripled into the more up-market strata of the transport system: for instance, work is in progress on a gleaming network of highways, freeways and underpasses linking Mumbai’s business centre to its international airport. (At the same time, the fleets of rusting cowboy-owned private buses on which the vast majority of Indians depend have been left untouched.)

For the higher strata of society, life has changed fast. Using a rough-and-ready crude definition – a daily income ranging between US$17 and US$100 – the size of the so-called “middle class” has more than doubled from 14% in 2005 to 31% in 2021. However, access to modern facilities varies. 93% of households now own a smart phone, 87% a television, and a more modest 40% a refrigerator; 24% own a personal computer and 45% have access to the internet; but only 13% have a washing machine and 7% a car.

At the same time, Modi has imposed further regressive attacks on the population’s already squeezed living standards with a comprehensive increase in sales taxes. While personal banking has spread among the general population, and tax compliance is marginally enhanced, even now only 6.3% of the adult population pay income tax, of which just 0.3% account for 76% of total personal income tax receipts.

Modi has meanwhile poured literally astronomical sums into grandiose vanity projects. India has fired a rocket to the dark side of the moon; and there are plans later this year to launch the Shukrayaan space probe to Venus. These acts of showmanship are a modern example of the ancient Roman practice of “bread and circuses” – glitzy fireworks displays to distract the attention of the masses (except that, for the majority, the bread is still in short supply.)

Before independence, while India had been a lucrative source of plunder and a captive market, its enslaved people had traditionally performed the menial services of cooks, housemaids and washermen for the British raj. Globalisation and digitalisation later elevated them to the world’s receptionists, typists and filing clerks. The growth in the IT and software sector – and the proliferation of call centres – are largely attributable to the availability of a huge pool of cheap skilled English-speaking workers, on pay scales five times cheaper than those of the USA. In the early 2000s the development of India’s software outsourcing sector and its new car production companies gave it a double-digit growth rate. Information technology and business process outsourcing are among the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and India has now become a world leading hub of the software industry.

Over the decade that Modi has been in power, India has grown at a spectacular rate, from the world’s tenth to its fifth largest economy; it is currently the fastest-growing in the world. India’s capitalists invest and speculate on world markets, with tycoons like Ambani and Adani joining the older Tata and Birla conglomerates to play a significant role in the world economy. (In a historically ironic reversal of roles, there are now no British-owned car manufacturers; but one of the few remaining car assembly plants in Britain is owned by the Tata dynasty.) Modi boasts that India is now in amrit kaal(a golden age).

India and China

However, that’s starting from a low initial threshold. The fact is that India’s economy is still dwarfed by that of China. Measured in dollars, India’s GDP still stands at $4,112 billion: well under a quarter of China’s $18,566 billion.

Nevertheless, India has overtaken Italy ($2.19 trillion), France ($3.052 trillion), and its former imperial ruler Britain ($3.332 trillion). In the third quarter of 2023 it grew by 7.6%, year-on-year. Foreign direct investment has risen from $24 billion in the year before Modi’s election in 2014 to more than double that on average in the past three fiscal years. And in January 2024 India’s stock market overtook Hong Kong’s as the world’s fourth biggest by market value. This is a spectacular achievement; but it is necessary to keep a sense of proportion: 7.2% of world gross domestic product is still a modest score for a country with 17% of the world population.

India and China are often bracketed together as the powerhouse of the world economy. However, this coupling is deceptive. India’s economy may be growing even faster than China, at least nominally, though we should be cautious about the devious manipulation of data used to measure it. Both countries offer huge reserves of cheap labour; but India cannot match the incomparably more developed and efficient infrastructure provided in China after decades of state investment and planning.

Slowing down

Modi’s own projection that India is now “on course to overtake the USA” (which is currently three times greater, on $26,954 billion) is wildly inflated.

India’s current growth rate of over 7% still falls short of its high point of 9.3% in 2010-11). After adjusting for inflation, under Modi’s rule GDP per person has grown at an average rate of 4.3% a year – well below the 6.2% achieved under Modi’s Congress predecessor Manmohan Singh in the years 2004 to 2014.

Modi’s neoliberal economic policy of privatisation, cuts in food and fuel subsidies, and a regressive sales tax was designed to raise the rate of exploitation of labour, boost the productivity of capital and induce investment. Yet the economy is still riddled with bureaucratic red tape, poor contract enforcement, and relatively low labour productivity, To take one example: in April 2022 India had its worst power cuts since 2015, and in 2023 57% of households reported power cuts of two hours on average every day. In World Bank league tables, India still ranks only 63rd for “ease of doing business”.

Many of the obstacles to inward investment have been demolished; yet despite India’s huge reserves of cheap labour and its enthusiastic adoption of deregulation, India’s rickety infrastructure still makes it a risky proposition for international investors. Inward investment to India has ground to a near-standstill; it is currently at its lowest since the 2008 global recession; it has declined as a percentage of GDP throughout Modi’s period in office. Foreign direct investments in India have fallen both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product. At just $10.1 billion in the first half of the last financial year (2023-4) they were at their lowest since 2007-08. Since 2016, net FDI inflows have fallen from 1.7% of GDP to little more than 0.5%.

The middle class “consumer boom” is over. Sales of cars, SUVs, tractors and two-wheelers have slumped, undermining earlier predictions that India was on course to overtake Japan and Germany as the world’s third biggest motor market. The same is true of the aviation market. Farm incomes too have dropped due to a glut of crops. Export growth was close to zero between 2014 and 2019. A former chief economist at the World Bank has called the slowdown “much more serious” than expected.

In a desperate attempt to boost profitability and offer the capitalists further incentive to invest, Modi has ruthlessly applied the standard austerity remedies: wholesale privatisation, cuts in food and fuel subsidies and increased sales taxes – policies which grind the already desperately poor still further into misery.

The rich…

The gap is widening every day between rich and poor in India. According to the OECD, income inequality in India has doubled since the early 1990s. While the top 1% of Indians own more than half the country’s wealth (52%), the bottom half own just 4% between them.

The rich have never been richer. Officially, the total wealth of India’s richest 100 people is $799 billion. According to Oxfam, every day in India there are another seventy new dollar millionaires. But this is nothing: India today boasts 163 dollar billionaires: nearly ten times the number when Modi came to power ten years ago. And their collective income has swelled almost tenfold during that decade. Their total wealth exceeds the entire budget of India in the fiscal year 2018-19. It would take 941 years for a wage worker on the minimum wage in rural India to earn as much as the annual pay of a top-paid executive at one of these companies.

The real disparity in wealth is higher even than these official figures, due to the huge stashes of hidden income among the rich. The OECD estimates that income inequality has doubled since the early 1990s; the richest 10% now earn more than twelve times as much as the poorest 10%; the comparable figure in 1990 was roughly six times. This glaring inequality has grown equally fast under both the BJP and the previous Congress governments.

According to Credit Suisse, “there is still considerable wealth and poverty, reflected in the fact that 91% of the adult population has wealth below $10,000; at the other extreme, a small fraction of the population (0.6% of adults) has a net worth of over $100,000.”          

Among the super-rich, six names even make it on to The World’s Real-Time Billionaires List 2024, compiled by the top finance company Forbes. These are: Mukesh Ambani at no. 11 with $116.7 billion; Gautam Adani at no. 17 with $84.3 billion; Savitri Jindal at no. 45 with $35.5 billion; Shiv Nadar at no. 47 with $34.7 billion; and Dilip Shanghvi at no. 71 with $26.6 billion.

No wonder that Modi has earned the gratitude of India’s plutocrats. Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries has called him “the most successful prime minister in India’s history”; Natarajan Chandrasekaran of Tata Sons praised his “visionary leadership”; and Gautam Adani of the Adani Group has applauded his contribution towards “a more inclusive world order”.

There are now 2,617 gated communities in India: fortified enclaves where the super-rich enjoy a lavish lifestyle in fabulous luxury, protected from the starving millions outside behind high walls policed by armed security guards.

… and the poor

For all Modi’s boast of India “leaving no one behind”, 28% of the population are still classified as “poor”, and rural workers still earn less than $5 per day. The official unemployment rate, at almost 8%, has hardly changed since 2014; in the teeming cities, it is even higher.

The vast majority of the Indian population have been left behind by Modi’s modernisation programme. According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programme, 84% of Indians live on less than $6.85 per day; and 400 million people – one third of India’s population, and one-third also of the world’s total poor – barely survive below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. Inflation is soaring while wages are stagnant.

True, extremes of wealth and poverty are nothing new in India; but the gap is widening fast. Before Modi’s time, there still remained a certain minimal cushioning of poverty, through central and state subsidies to millions of poor Indians for food and fuel; some of these even survived the austerity imposed after the swingeing IMF cuts of the early 1990s, implemented both by the Congress governments of Manmohan Singh and Narasimha Rao and the BJP government of Vajpayee. But these have now been cut to the bone. Servicing the mounting debts incurred in funding these concessions was steadily eating into the available revenue from taxes, leaving little for education, health or transport. That explains India’s appallingly corrupt and obsolete education system, and the creaking transport infrastructure for all but the jet-setting rich. But now the monopolies and the multinational companies are demanding still further cuts in public expenditure.

The Indian economy still relies on cheap labour – and in some sectors child labour, from the fields to the mills to the clothing and carpet workshops to catering and domestic service. In labour productivity league tables, India is listed at number 126 of the world’s 181 countries. As investment in capital equipment rises relative to labour, the rate of profit has dipped and there is a swelling reserve army of untapped labour. 12 to 15 million young people are entering the workforce each year, only to further swell the ranks of the unemployed and destitute.

A ticking time bomb

The most explosive element in Indian society today is the soaring number of unemployed educated youth. Around 8% of the total workforce are unemployed; but young people under 25 make up almost half the population, and they constitute 83% of the unemployed. Youth unemployment among 25- to 29-year-olds stands at 14.33%, and among 20- to 24-year-olds at a colossal 44.49%! The unemployment rate for young people with secondary or higher education is 18.4%, and for graduates, as high as 29.1%. Over the next decade, this will amount to more than 115 million young people. Millions of university graduates are unemployed or forced back to their villages to work on the land. This huge army of educated unemployed youth constitutes a highly unstable combustible factor. They are a ticking time bomb.

­­­­­­­­­­As India’s economy grows, the exploitation of the working class is further intensified: the proportion of investment in capital rises relative to labour, the workers’ share of the wealth is reduced, and more and more newly redundant workers are drawn into the reserve army of labour. In absolute terms, the top 10% of the population may have gained a little from the Modi era, but for the rest wages are stagnant, or actually falling relative to rising inflation. Unemployment is higher than ever, and for the majority of the population there is virtually no investment in education, training or housing. The youth of India have no prospects; they have no future within capitalist society.


In the recent election, Modi made the slick electioneering claim that India boasts a “trinity” of “demography, democracy, diversity”. Let’s examine these claims more closely. 

Certainly, India certainly scores top marks by one of these measures: “demography”; but Modi can hardly claim personal credit for India’s soaring population, which in March 2024 reached 1,438,018,367, overtaking China to become the world’s most populous country.

But how about “democracy”? The international “think-tank” V-Dem (which at the time of Modi’s accession to power in 2014 had rated India’s democracy as “significantly healthier” than the global average) now lists it no higher than ninety-seventh in world league tables, while the respected World Population Review classifies it as a “flawed democracy”, ranking it forty-secondthin its “democracy ranking” table; and the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA, an inter-governmental organization) has demoted India’s score on democratic credentials from 50th in 2014 to 66th in 2022.

Ballot-rigging, bribery and intimidation have always tarnished the record of the world’s so-called “biggest parliamentary democracy”. At one time Indira Gandhi herself imposed a short-lived “emergency” dictatorship (which was soon blown sky-high by popular protest). But under Modi’s rule, all constitutional restraints are blatantly violated. Opposition groups have been subjected to arrests, raids, remands, tax penalties, licence cancellations, frozen accounts, confiscation of assets…

In the run-up to the recent election, dozens of opposition politicians – leaders of regional parties and even of the main opposition party Congress – were raided, arrested, convicted and jailed. This includes two state chief ministers, five party leaders, and Sonia Gandhi, widow of the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Her son Rahul Gandhi – the current Congress leader and de facto leader of the opposition – was recently sentenced to two years’ imprisonment (a sentence later suspended on appeal) for daring to mock Modi in a campaign speech. His response was that “the BJP, itself steeped in corruption, is running a campaign to destroy democracy in its obsession with power”.

The entire senior leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party, which rules Delhi, found themselves behind bars: Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s Minister since 2015, and Manish Sisoodia, Deputy Chief Minister, for over a year; former health minister Satyendar Jain, for nearly two years. Another AAP minister was only recently released on bail. Another prominent opposition MP Mahua Moitra came under investigation. Miraculously, however, charges were suddenly dropped against 23 of the 25 prominent opposition politicians who had since defected and joined the BJP.  The press, the broadcasting media, the police and the judiciary have all been fatally compromised, with hardly a handful of critical voices left.

Millions of rupees were frozen in the bank account of the main opposition party Congress, which had ruled India almost without interruption for the first half a century since independence. The politically neutral newspaperThe Hindu commented: “We are entering a bizarre scenario where the BJP is flush with funds, but the bank accounts of the main opposition party, the Congress, have been frozen… Others from the opposition find themselves being hotly pursued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and landing up behind bars.” 

Before the election, the online newspaper The Printconcluded that “India is going to have its least free and fair election in 2024… a seriously compromised election or a complete farce… taking a stride toward our immediate neighbours like Pakistan or Bangladesh and distant neighbours like Russia”.

A regime which jails opposition leaders and seizes the funds of opposition parties can hardly at the same time brag about its democratic credentials. Nor does it help its reputation to have also despatched assassins across the world to silence political dissidents – for instance in Canada, where it has been officially accused by the government of murdering a prominent Sikh exile on its territory.


Finally, how about India’s famously rich “diversity”? Modi cannot have it both ways; by his own admission, diversity is something that he is explicitly seeking to stamp out. He justifies his rabid promotion of “Hindutva” by the need to “restore a national identity suppressed under Mughal and British rule”.

India has the second largest Muslim population in the world: more than that of Pakistan or Bangladesh, and exceeded only by Indonesia. Muslims constitute 14.2% of the population;  Christians 2.3%; Sikhs 1.7%; Buddhists 0.7%; and Jains 0.37%. its minority communities having been thereby downgraded to outcasts. The BJP policy excludes and threatens 20% of the population.

As Chief Minister of Gujarat, in 2002 Modi presided over savage communal riots in which at least 2,000 Muslims were slaughtered. And on 22nd January 2024 he tried wantonly to instigate yet another nationwide carnival of bigotry with the flamboyant consecration of a new Hindu temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh (the mythical “birthplace” of the god Ram), at a cost of $220 million. This stunt was deliberately designed to fan the flames of communal violence, rekindling the passions behind the rampage at the same site thirty years ago by an RSS mob which demolished the centuries-old Babri Masjid mosque. It marked the launch of Modi’s campaign for a third term as prime minister, in a deliberate ploy to ratchet up communal frenzy still further.

For India’s ruling class, random eruptions of communal violence may sometimes regrettably destabilise order and discipline, but they are the political price they pay to stay in power.

The most important lesson of this election is that hundreds of millions of Indians came together to reject Modi’s despicable use of threats, insults and communal propaganda. The BJP suffered wholesale reverses throughout the north. It was precisely in what he had thought his most treasured stronghold, the northern Hindi belt including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, that his racist communal poison was most decisively rejected. Most welcome of all, the BJP suffered a sharp drop of support in Modi’s own constituency of Varanasi. It even lost outright its parliamentary seat in Faizabad – the very constituency where the prized Ayodhya temple was situated. India’s long-suffering poor saw through Modi’s vile tricks and upheld once again India’s proud traditions of unity in struggle. Modi’s crude deployment of the dirty tactics of divide-and-rule are no longer working. 

Communal hatred

Narendra Modi’s political vehicle the Bharatiya Janata Party is an explicitly communal Hindu outfit, the political voice of a conglomerate of atavistic and reactionary forces. These include the Vishva Hindu Parishad, the Hindu communal movement which incited conflict throughout India in 1992 by mobilising 150,000 rioters to storm the Babri Masjid mosque at Ayodhya; and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a five-million strong Hindu paramilitary mass movement, of which Modi is a lifelong member.

The RSS has five to six million members and over a million organised “volunteers” who hold regular public paramilitary drills. It was founded in 1925 as a conscious counter-weight to the growing influence of socialist ideas within India’s national liberation movement. It deliberately modelled itself on fascist and Nazi ideology, openly praised Mussolini and Hitler, and identified the Nazi holocaust as its model in its mission to destroy the Muslim community. In the words of one of the founders of the RSS, Golwalkar: “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here.” It was an RSS member who assassinated Gandhi in 1948.

For the BJP, a combination of communalism and neoliberalism is nothing new. Under its then leader Vajpayee (in office from 1998 to 2004) it had carried through widespread privatisation of state enterprises; and, well before the Gujarat massacre, along with the VHP and RSS its members had deliberately organised the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya – a provocation which sparked off a horrifying wave of ethnic cleansing that subsequently swept India: worst of all in India’s main commercial and industrial centre Mumbai in 1993, in which up to 3,000 Muslims were slaughtered.

Modi has fomented communal mob violence against minorities, frozen the bank accounts of political opponents, weaponised state institutions, intimidated potential critics, and instigated the growth of a personal cult following, even at times literally (and absurdly) claiming divine status. He has persecuted entire communities, introduced blatantly discriminatory communal laws, and cracked down upon the press, academics, non-governmental organisations and other potential critics.

In 2019 the journalist Kapil Komireddi described Modi’s “New India”as “a reflection of its progenitor: culturally arid, intellectually vacant, emotionally bruised, vain, bitter, boastful, permanently aggrieved and implacably malevolent; a make-believe land full of fudge and fakery, where bigotry against religious minorities is among the therapeutic options available to members of a self-pitying majority frustrated by the prime minister’s failure to upgrade their economic standard of living.

These policies have sinister overtones, reminiscent of Mussolini and Hitler. So is it right to describe Modi and the BJP as fascist?

Is Modi a fascist?

Fascism is a mass movement of the ruined middle classes and the lumpenproletariat – the dregs of society – regimented and mobilised to smash all working-class organisations. Modi uses police violence, communal terror, auxiliary mobs of thugs, and a deliberately overblown personality cult. He has at his command a mass paramilitary force in the form of the RSS and VHP. These are certainly fascist gangs, periodically let loose to terrorise persecuted minorities and striking workers. These mobs have all the classic features of fascism.

But, as these elections have proved, in India the trappings of formal bourgeois democracy still remain intact. Modi was compelled to hold this election; and for the moment he has no option but to accept its result. Fascism remains a deadly and very real threat; but it has yet to gather the forces to strike a decisive blow. And when it does, it will not succeed in constructing a stable dictatorship. Any attempt to do so would result in chaos, fragmentation, disintegration and the break-up of India.

Can we trust Congress?

So does the newly-revived Congress party offer any hope?

Where Modi and the BJP have dug up the gargoyles of ancient Hindu mythology, Gandhi and Congress represented India with a patronising picture of homespun self-sufficiency, as represented on India’s flag by the humble spinning wheel. But they too have a record of authoritarianism, corruption and communal massacres.

The Indian National Congress is the relic of a failed dynasty, led now by the fourth consecutive generation of the Nehru/Gandhi family. The hands of India’s traditional ruling party are hardly any cleaner than those of the BJP. Having ruled for 55 of India’s 77 years, Congress bears the main responsibility for its condition today.

Congress poses as a defender of India’ minorities. This was always largely a hollow facade, long abandoned in practice. A better description would be that it was the cynical political exploiter of the insecurities of the minorities. This can be seen in its true criminal record: its formal and legal institutionalising of caste rivalries in job reservations and the designation of “scheduled castes”; its failed dictatorial Emergency regime in 1975-7; its bombing of the Sikhs’ Golden Temple and its instigation of the massacre of Sikhs in 1984; its regular dismissal of democratically elected opposition state governments; its suppression of national revolts; its tolerance of caste atrocities; its periodic fostering of communal riots; its brutal military repression in Kashmir; its successive wars with Pakistan; etc…

The original plan of India’s first prime minister Nehru (Rahul’s great-grandfather) had been based on trade and diplomatic relations with the USSR, large-scale public ownership and state planning. This model was incompatible with the survival of a capitalist market economy and proved redundant after the decay and final collapse of the USSR.

Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi wobbled from symbolic left gestures such as the nationalisation of the banks and the abolition of the princes’ privy purses, to a botched experiment at authoritarian emergency rule, which soon brought about her downfall. On her return to office, it was Indira Gandhi who ordered the assault on the Sikh Golden Temple at Amritsar, which led directly to her assassination by her own bodyguards. The succession passed to her elder son Rajiv Gandhi, who immediately justified (and all but deliberately orchestrated) the subsequent revenge massacre of thousands of Sikhs in Delhi and throughout India. Having dabbled with ill-conceived interference in Sri Lanka’s civil war, he too was soon assassinated, this time by a Tamil terrorist. Similarly, the storming of the Babri Masjid mosque at Ayodhya, which prompted the worst communal riots since 1947, took place under the rule of Narasimha Rao’s Congress government.

It was Congress too which first capitulated to the demands of the IMF thirty years ago. The crippling IMF-imposed programme of privatisation and budget cuts was first introduced in the early 1990s under the administration of Narasimha Rao, and further promoted under the world banker Manmohan Singh – both Congress politicians. The process of wholesale privatisation gained momentum under Congress and BJP governments alike; and today it has no serious alternative policies left.

Moreover, the grubby fingers of Congress politicians have been no less soiled by scandal than those of their shadow rivals in the BJP: for instance in the $1.4 billion dollar Bofors bribery case. And only recently, tax raids on one Congress MP uncovered a secret stash of two billion rupees ($24 million) in cash.

Congress keeps up the pretence that it is a secular party defending the rights of India’s minorities; but how then can it justify the inclusion among its allies in the so-called “INDIA” bloc of Shiv Sena: an outright fascist party based in Maharashtra? A gang explicitly modelled on Hitler’s Nazis, which in 1993 organised a massacre of 3,000 Muslims in Mumbai, a pre-planned act of ethnic cleansing?

The unexpected return of Congress, alongside a number of random allies, has dealt a long-overdue blow against the BJP; but the youth and the working class need to treat Congress with extreme suspicion. Congress’ current leader Rahul Gandhi has no known qualifications other than his family ancestry. In the rhetoric of the two rival parties, there may still be just a superficial sliver of difference; but hardly a trace of any substantial policy divergence.

The Indian working class shouldn’t have to choose between two evils: a Hindu communal party backed by big business and foreign investors and threatening dictatorial rule, or a corrupt dynastic party hypocritically posing as a friend of the poor and the minorities only to exploit their voting power.

Is there a left alternative?

It is tragic that there is now no viable left challenge to the twin parties of the ruling class. The original Communist Party of India split in 1964 and its offshoot the Communist Party of India (Marxist) became the main left party. (There was also a Maoist breakaway group – the CPI (Marxist-Leninist), or Naxalites – which abandoned altogether the urban working class and pinned its hopes instead on peasant guerrilla struggles; it has now split into around 23 fragments.)

Instead of offering a clear working-class socialist alternative policy, unfortunately both mass communist parties indulged in unprincipled alliances with rival parties of the ruling class. By the time of the Janata government in the early 1980s, they had each hitched their wagon behind the opposing rival parties of the ruling class, led respectively by Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai, earning themselves the joking nicknames CP (Indira) and CP (Morarji).  Over decades of unprincipled political manoeuvring with one or other of the reactionary parties of the ruling class, both the so-called “communist” parties discredited themselves, and support drained away from them.

The reward for their failure to offer an alternative socialist policy has been a meltdown into near oblivion. At the 2002 elections, the CPI(M) and the CPI – the two Communist Parties –achieved in total their highest ever representation in the Lok Sabha: 59 seats. By 2019 they had been reduced to a pitiful five seats out of a total of 545; and this time round, by unprincipled horse-trading with their false allies in the INDIA coalition, the CPI(M) now has four seats, the CPI none at all, and one surviving fragment of the Maoist CPI (M-L) – the CPI (M-L) (Liberation) – two.

The way forward

Yet in India just as everywhere else, the last word has yet to be spoken. The working class in India remains a vast, politically untapped and potentially invincible force; and it has not been silent. All ten genuine trade union federations between them can muster a total membership of only 91 million members; and yet from 2016 to now, in successive general strikes, up to 250 million workers – men and women, young and old, Hindu and Muslim and all, joined forces. They marched as a united force and rallied throughout the length and breadth of India. Only the BJP-affiliated fake “company union” federation tried to sabotage it.

The strike gripped every part of India from the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata, reaching from Kashmir to Kerala, from Gujarat to Assam, and stretching even to offshore islands and remote tribal areas. It encompassed workers in the public sector, transport, manufacturing, mining, education, banking, insurance, communications, agriculture, construction, tea plantations… every nook and cranny of the labour force. It even drew in kiosk traders, street vendors, auto-rickshaw drivers, beedi rollers, domestic, casual and home-based workers. The leader of India’s biggest trade union federation the AITUC emphasized that “women’s participation in our strike was immense. They were in the forefront everywhere.” This colossal tsunami of struggle swept throughout a country where there are only 30 million organized trade union members! Since one in six people in the world live in India, and at least one in nine of these were on strike, this gigantic mass movement involved about one in every thirty inhabitants of the planet!

The strikers’ 12-point charter included the following demands:

  • repeal of repressive labour laws (“stop all pro-corporate, anti-worker amendments”)
  • a minimum monthly wage of Rs 18,000 (just over £200 at the official exchange rate); 82% of men and over 92% of women currently earn barely half as much – less than Rs 10,000 per month;
  • equal pay for equal work;
  • universal social security cover
  • a public distribution system for basic essentials;
  • compulsory recognition of trade unions;
  • an end to privatisation of public sector units;
  • provision of social security;
  • guaranteed employment;
  • a moratorium on farm loans.

These demands are a healthy start; but for all their huge potential power, intermittent token general strikes can only let off steam; they give expression to discontent and raise workers’ confidence; but they don’t offer a way forward towards victory. A united country-wide campaign is needed. It is the Indian working class which will have the last word.

Even without a bold militant leadership, in this election the working masses have successfully repulsed Modi’s planned constitutional coup; but it is too soon to celebrate. The Indian working class has enormous latent power and has recently more than once staged the biggest mobilisations in world history. These all-India bandhs or general strikes mobilised up to a colossal 250 million workers: It desperately needs its own party, and a socialist programme to end the system of capitalist slavery. There are explosive times ahead.

Taking as a good starting point the 12-point workers’ charter, the next step is to rally support for a radical socialist policy: the confiscation of the assets of the billionaires, the creation of democratically elected workers’ committees in the workplaces and the streets, and a socialist plan.

There can be no way forward out of the torture of poverty, repression and war until the birth of a new mass party ready to mobilise the power of the workers – from call centres, textile mills, farms and hi-tech factories, of landless peasants and farm labourers, of women and youth, the downtrodden, the exploited and the unemployed in the slums and shanty towns, linking arms across the entire sub-continent.

It will be up to them to decide for themselves around which demands to formulate, but maybe it could be something along these lines…

A fighting programme for the working class

Under capitalism, the population of India faces horror without end: poverty, unemployment, homelessness, exploitation, landlessness, rape and violence against women, discrimination and pogroms against religious minorities; the degradation of lower castes and “untouchables”; the constant threat of communal violence, police brutality and victimisation. We need workers’ unity to fight for a good life for all.

No trust in the capitalist parties!

We welcome the setback suffered by Modi’s vicious communal BJP In the recent election; but we also have no confidence in the INDIA coalition of failed rejects, which includes the corrupt Congress dynasty and even the fascist Shiv Sena. The workers and farmers need to build a mass party of their own.

Form workers’ fronts

Break from any entanglements with the parties of the ruling class. All left and working-class organisations should convene local conferences to plan joint campaigns of struggle. Let us build on the unity displayed in the recent massive all-India bandhs.

For trade union unity

We cannot allow our militancy to be exploited by rival bureaucrats and gangsters. Workers must have the right to elect and dismiss their own representatives. Convene joint workplace assemblies to build united organisations of struggle.

For a living wage

A guaranteed minimum wage for all, sufficient to afford reasonable living standards. A maximum working week of 40 hours.

A job and a home for all  

Work or full pay for every citizen over 16. Use the energies of the unemployed to build houses, roads, railways, schools and hospitals. A decent education for all youth, skilled training for the unemployed. Shutdown the criminal recruitment agencies and set up a free government network of employment offices. A job for every worker! A house for every family!

End capitalist exploitation

India’s productive resources (above all its most precious asset, human labour) are rotting in the hands of parasitic capitalists who live by cheating, hoarding and smuggling. All enterprises employing more than fifty workers to be nationalized, with compensation payable only on the basis of proven need. Nationalised workplaces to be democratically run by joint committees elected by their employees. Work together to draw up a socialist plan of production.

For worker-farmer unity

Full support for the struggles of poor farmers and landless peasants. Break up the landlords’ estates. Agricultural prices to be fixed by agreement. Write off all agricultural debts and offer cheap credits, loans and fertilisers. Guaranteed employment throughout the year for farm labourers, with the option of alternative jobs in industry or construction. Set up model voluntary collective farms.

Equal rights for women

Equal pay and opportunities for all. Public creche facilities for working women. Fight against the horrors of rape, the dowry system, sati and other atrocities.

Down with communalism

Communalism is a deadly poison. Stand together against the tactics of divide-and-rule. An end to discrimination. End the sham of job reservations, which set worker against worker. Equal rights for all, regardless of caste, religion, language or gender. Build a trade union defence force to guard picket lines and protect workers and their families from communal attack.

For a workers’ and farmers’ government

End the rule of the moneybags! Build a single democratic united party of the workers and farmers, and campaign for a government accountable to elected councils of workers, farmers, housewives, students, youth, the unemployed, soldiers, small shopkeepers and vendors.

For a socialist federation

Comradely solidarity to the workers of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and worldwide.  We stand for a free voluntary fraternal union of all the nations of the sub-continent. The working class has no interest in keeping any nation in chains. Unconditional support for the right of self-determination and maximum autonomy for every community.

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