Narendra Modi and Charges of Fascism: Voices Rise across the Political Spectrum

As the election in India is winding down, the political rhetoric is heating up. Congress, BJP and AAP are attacking each other mainly not on policy matters but rather on personal issues that I believe, are critical when selecting political leaders.

The abject failure of the media either to scrutinize personalities and their backgrounds or their track record does not bode well for the electorate in a democratic system. An example is Modi’s marital status that may have been kept secret until now despite many filings for his candidacy; however, it opens up the character issue and its relevance and far reaching implications for the future when running for the highest office of the land. Honesty is a positive social character trait where you tell the truth and show integrity.

It is an important trait we ought to aspire in every leader? Increasingly in our political process, leaders tend to present themselves as something they are not. Narendra Modi is campaigning across India as a new Messiah who would govern the country efficiently and unite the masses! Does that posture stand up to the scrutiny? When so many voices across the political spectrum disagree with it, shouldn’t we take a pause and do some more homework before casting the votes? What intrigued me most is the charges of fascism or its traits are increasingly finding a place where the Modi candidacy for the Prime Minister is discussed.

Fascism is defined as any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism. Are these folks treading lightly on the subject or they are genuine in forewarning us? Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recently invoked Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to attack his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi, saying the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was peddling false statements to score political points.

“A man who aspires to the high post should have patience and not be excitable,” Nitish said at the Janata Dal (United) convention in Rajgir and went on to give a point-by-point rebuttal of Narendra Modi’s attack on him at the BJP’s rally in Patna. Modi had urged people to “uproot and punish” the backstabbers, a reference to the acrimonious split between the BJP and the JD (U). “This is not how democracy works. This is the language of Hitler, of a person who brooks no opposition,” Nitish said.Warning fascism and not merely communalism was the biggest challenge before the country, the JD (U) leader took a dig at the name of BJP’s mega rally, hunkar (battle cry).

“It reflects arrogance. These are fascist traits. Hitler’s associate Goebbels had said if you repeat a lie hundred times, it appears to be the truth. This is what they do.” Slamming as ‘fascist’ Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s pitch for a “Congress Mukt Bharat”, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh today reached out to all non-BJP parties on the plank of secularism. “Isn’t Modi and now BJP’s slogan of Congress Mukt Bharat fascist? For would all other non-BJP, non-communal political parties please respond?,” Singh said on micro logging site Twitter. Singh’s bid to reach out to “all non-BJP, non-communal parties” comes at a time when there is a realization in both national parties that the next Lok Sabha election could ultimately be a game of alliances.

Launching a scathing attack on Gujarat chief minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, NCP president Sharad Pawar said that fascist tendencies will be defeated in Maharashtra as the state has never yielded to such tendencies. He criticized the live telecast of Modi’s speeches on all TV channels and said that it was a ploy to grab attention by using money power and this, he said, could take away the fundamental rights of people. Pawar said, “I have seen many prime ministers and many elections but this is for the first time that the authority of elected MPs to decide their legislature party leader has been taken away by pre-deciding the name of the prime minister. It is nothing but autocracy by holding the entire party to ransom for a single person.”

He said that such parochial attitude is not advisable for the integrity of the country. He pointed out that after a Congress MP was burnt alive along with 20 others in Gujarat, Modi did not think it necessary to visit and console the bereaved family members. Jairam Ramesh, a senior cabinet minister close to the leadership of the Congress party, said Modi’s career reminded him of the rise of the Third Reich, the strongest comments yet by a minister of his rank. “Political autocracy, social divisiveness and economic liberalism. That’s Mr. Modi reduced to three dimensions,” Ramesh told Reuters.

“Exactly what created the autobahns and the Volkswagens in the 30s but also created the disaster of Germany. “India right now in 2013 – I would say we are going through what Germany went through in 1932.” Now, directly targeting Narendra Modi, the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram says Modi’s politics borders on fascism. Speaking to NDTV, Mr. Chidambaram quoted statistics to argue that Mr. Modi was only the Chief Minister of an average state. ‘People want a compassionate, wise leader who’s acceptable to all. India doesn’t need a Hitler or Mussolini to solve its problems’ he added. Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress President Saifuddin Soz also said if BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is elected to office it would be the “first step towards fascism.”

Prof Soz said Modi doesn’t have knowledge of subjects as the prime minister post is special. “That person (Modi) doesn’t know the name of Gandhi. I don’t think he can become the Prime Minister of India,” Soz said. “And if by chance Modi succeeds in becoming PM, then I must say that it will be the first step for India towards fascism,” he said. “Fascism comes at the time of an economic crisis” Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, a prominent intellectual warned. Adding a note of caution, he said, “The social revolution taking place in the country for the last hundred years will be reversed if Modi comes to power”.

That is the real agenda; it is not just communalism and fascism. Drawing a parallel with the situation that obtained in 1977, Prof. Prabhat Patnaik said that no election since then has been so important. The fight in 1977 was against authoritarianism and for restoration of democracy. Now it is against the threat of fascism. The 1977 elections were held after the lifting of the hated internal emergency that was clamped by Indira Gandhi in 1975. “There is a difference between authoritarianism and fascism” Patnaik said. The support of corporate to Modi is not without reason. Recalling that the same industrialists who were behind bringing Hitler to power in Germany, who were later given concentration camps to run, Prof. Prabhat said that in our country also this is happening. Those helping Modi will definitely reap the fruits once he is installed in power at the center.

“Fascism creates a mass base. The mass base is created by targeting one community against the other. Like the Nazis targeted the Jews, in our country, Muslims are being targeted”. A day after her party labeled Narendra Modi “the butcher of Gujarat,”Mamata Banerjeee, Chief Minister of West Bengal made a substantial contribution to the onslaught, describing the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate as an “architect of riots” whose “gyan (insight) on development” is not needed in her state. “If he (Modi) comes to power, India will plunge into darkness,” said Ms Banerjee, the chief minister of Bengal.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Mamata Banerjee’s party attacked Narendra Modi as “The Butcher of Gujarat” who could not “take care of his own wife.” “Butcher of Gujarat air-dropped into Bengal. He has no answers to Bengal’s development model. So, he is making personal attacks,” Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien tweeted on Sunday. Targeting Narendra Modi on the issue of Gujarat riots, RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav described the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate as an “executioner”. “Narendra Modi is a ‘jallad’ (executioner), is a ‘jallad’, is a ‘jallad’. It doesn’t matter where he goes, where he comes or what he does,” Prasad told reporters at the Patna airport.

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