Hindutva & Orderism

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Jawad Falak |

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the single largest party in the crucial state elections in Karnataka but fell short of a simple majority, triggering confusion and intense political maneuvering. Elections were held for 222 seats on May 12 while polling for the remaining two will be held later.

Celebrations started early Tuesday with senior BJP leaders seen feeding each other sweets on live television. But by late afternoon, the BJP won only 104 of the 222 assembly seats up for election, short of the 113 seats needed to secure a majority in the 224-member assembly.

In another surprising twist, the opposing Congress party – which was tipped to win 78 seats – struck a post-election alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular), which was winning in 38 seats. All eyes are now on Governor Vajubhai Vala who will have to decide whether to call BJP to try to form the government or go with the alliance of Indian National Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), which together have a clear majority in the 224-member Assembly. Both the BJP and the Congress have said they will form the state government in an election where much is at stake for them.

The BJP is looking to gain a foothold in South India where it is weak, while the Congress, which governs Karnataka, is hoping to score victories in state elections and gain legitimacy as the leader of the opposition ahead of general elections next year.

Karnataka, home to the country’s IT capital Bengaluru, is among India’s more prosperous states. It is one of five states and two union territories that make up the country’s southern part, which has its own languages and regional and cultural identity.

The rise of the BJP in India riding on a wave of Hindu nationalism known as Hindutva was seen as troublesome by many. While the BJP has risen to power before, this time it was more worrisome due to the helm of power going to the controversial figure of Narendar Damordas Modi. While there was initial apprehension over the ascendancy of the political wing of the notorious Hindutva group the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the concern was compounded by the premiership of a figure alleged to be the guiding force of the 2002 Anti Muslim Gujarat pogrom.

Many analysts saw the unfolding of a new global phenomenon known as “Orderism” to be behind the rise of Hindutva yet again. First presented by Jochen Bittner in his New York Times piece “The New Ideology of the New Cold War”, Orderism is contended to be an authoritarian ideology based on the concept that liberal democracy and international law have failed and have created inequality and chaos instead. This premise seems to hold true as the wealth imbalance between the Global North and South as well as within different societies indicate along with the ongoing wars and conflict, all work as an indicator.

Orderism prioritizes stability over Neoliberal values though it still largely prefers democracy as the mode of selecting a government. It is contended that Orderism’s emphasis on local culture, economic security, local religion and populism helps it to be victorious in many liberal societies. While using public dissatisfaction with democracy as a stepping stone to gain traction among the masses, it also uses the visage of “a strong man” to gain further popularity. This has been documented in the rise of charismatic figures around the world espousing Orderist rhetoric like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Rodrigo Duterte and Narendar Modi.

Narendar Modi’s cult of personality can be a major cause of the rise on Hindutva. While the hardwork of the RSS in infiltrating Indian society greatly contributed to the BJP victory, it was the “star power” of Modi who is credited for teaching “Indian Muslims their place” which seemed to be a major force behind BJP’s victory. Also playing a major role was his tirade against corruption and unemployment which draws parallel with the latter campaign of US president Donald Trump.

The Orderist cult of Hindutva is not limited to Narendar Modi but also expanded to regional leaders. In India’s most populated province, Uttar Pradesh the chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Aside from being a BJP member, Adityanath is also the Mahant or head priest of the Gorakhnath Math, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, a position he has held since the death of his spiritual “father”, Mahant Avaidyanath, in September 2014. He is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a youth militia that has been involved in communal violence. He is most well known for his calls for “taking Muslim women out of their grave and raping them

Scholar Christophe Jaffrelot states that Yogi Adityanath belongs to a specific tradition of Hindutva politics in Uttar Pradesh that can be traced back to the Mahant Digvijay Nath, who led the capture of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya for Hindus on 22 December 1949. It was the same Babri masjid which became the Launchpad of the BJP’s campaign to dominance in Indian politics.

The rise of Hindutva in the current time highlights that the ideology of Orderism has also impacted Indian society. While initial incursions of Hindutva into Indian politics revolved around safeguarding the Hindu identity, the current triumph centers on other populist slogans as well. Public disaffection with the perceived corruption of the Indian National Congress as well as protecting the stature of India in the region and the globe are major reasons for continuing Hindutva victories. Such notions are staple pillars of Orderist movements worldwide.

In the end it can be concluded that Political Hindutva is evolving with the new variant becoming a codependent on the new “ideology” of Orderism. Hindutva now employs the Cult of personality in order to consolidate power throughout India. The nexus between Hinduva and Orderism is in turn a cause of concern for the Indian state as it could aggravate the multiple ethnic and religious faultlines of the nation. It is also a cause for concern for Pakistan as populist rhetoric is used to instigate anti Pakistan violence on the levels of both state actors and non-state actors.