Why BJP is Fascist Despite Contesting Elections.?



This article is a detailed analysis of why India’s ruling party BJP is a fascist party. It analyses BJP using the literature on fascism.

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is a political party but it traces its roots in a social and cultural movement called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). RSS was founded in Nagpur in 1925 by K.B. Hedgewar. Hedgewar was inspired by Savarkar who had written Essentials of Hindutva (1921-22)in which he had given a framework on how Hindus can be united based on kinship. While Savarkar vouched for electoral politics but RSS, against his wishes began as a social and cultural organization that was against participation in electoral politics.

After the killing of M.K. Gandhi, RSS was banned from February 1948 till July 1949. The ban was a setback to RSS and it was accompanied by two other shocks- the death of all the two Hindu nationalists’ voices in the parliament. Syama Prasad Mookerjee who had earlier been associated with Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha resigned from the cabinet as the Industry Minister in April 1950. Just after eight months, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel died. The ban on RSS after the death of Gandhi had got RSS thinking that they would need their own supporters in the parliament and the government. Now that their two sole voices in parliament were lost, they needed a new political insurance policy.

Syama Prasad Mookerjee approached RSS for support in establishing a new political party and on 21 October 1951, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed. RSS deployed its important members to the party and most of the powerful positions inside the party were held by RSS men. The first major impression that Jana Sangh would make as a political party at a national level was after the Emergency of 1975. There were protests against the government in 1975 and Jana Sangh along with RSS and other anti-Congress groups formed an amalgam called Janta Front to take on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In June, Indira Gandhi declared an emergency, and RSS was banned again. After the end Emergency in 1977, Janta Front was converted into Janta Party and they fought elections, winning a majority- 298 seats out of 542 all over India. Despite all the concessions given by the majority partner Jana Sangh, there was an internal rift in Janata Party and in July 1979, some of the parties left Janata Party, which was followed by new elections in which Congress won a clear majority.

One of the reasons given for the fall of the Janta Party government was that Jana Sangh members were holding dual membership- RSS and Jana Sangh- to which some people in Janta Party had objected but Jana Sangh rejected the demands to give up the RSS membership. Thus, Jana Sangh formed a new party named Bhartiya Janata Party in April 1980. Like Jana Sangh, most of the leaders in the BJP come from RSS.

In the 1996 general elections, BJP won 161 seats and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by BJP came into power for the first time. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a member of RSS was chosen as Prime Minister but the government only lasted for 13 days. Vajpayee became prime minister again in 1998 and then from 1999 until 2004. After emerging victorious in the 2014 and 2019 elections, BJP chose Narendra Modi, again an RSS member as the prime minister.

Therefore, all the prime ministers of BJP governments till now have been RSS members. It is thus for these reasons that the ideology of RSS and BJP are the same. Any analysis of the ideology of the BJP as a political party will inevitably lead to the analysis of the ideology of the RSS.

This article is based on the premise that “fascist ideology is actually only a pastiche of motifs, it is a pastiche of different ideological currents” and that “it has very little coherence on its own”. Therefore, the article without going into the definition of fascism analyses BJP and RSS on the basis of their ideology and argues that despite contesting elections, BJP is a fascist party.

It goes into the question of why the RSS chose to get into politics after the initial anti-politics philosophy and uses Jairus Banaji’s concept of “electoral fascism”. Further, it takes up the recent general elections of 2014 and 2019 where the BJP sought votes in Modi’s name and argues how it is for the first time that BJP for the first time built a Führer cult similar to that of Hitler.

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RSS Ideology and Fascism

It would be important to first go into the ideology of RSS. The ideology followed by RSS is not entirely its own since the Hindu Mahasabha’s Savarkar played an equally seminal role in forging its main elements.

The ideology is that of extreme nationalism “that was embodied in different ways in Savarkar and Golwalkar (who as the head of RSS was involved in formation of Jana Sangh) and encapsulated India’s version of a fascist utopia ethnically cleansed or purged of its ‘alien’ elements”.

Further, “everyone knows that both propagandists were deeply influenced by the Nazi extermination of the Jews and took that as their model for the way Muslims would have to be dealt with, in principle anyway”. Savarkar’s main argument in his book is to justify that Hindus and Muslims are a separate nation. In his exclusionary definition of a Hindu, Savarkar writes that a Hindu is “he who looks upon the land that extends from Sindu to Sindu – from the Indus to the Seas,-as the land of his forefathers —his Fatherland (Pitribhu)” shares a “common classical language Sanskrit and represented by a common history, a common literature, art and architecture, law and jurisprudence, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, fairs and festivals; and who above all, addresses this land, this Sindhusthan as his Holyland (Punyabhu)”. This definition asserts that besides being bound by geography, culture, and language, Hindus are also bound by a common history.

At another point in the book, Savarkar writes that a Hindu is one who “has inherited and claims as his own the Hindu Sanskriti, the Hindu civilization, as represented in a common history, common heroes”. He clearly mentions that though these things might not be common to all Hindus, a Hindu “has more of it common with his Hindu brothers than with, say, an Arab or an Englishman”. Savarkar also contends that all those Hindus who have converted to Islam, their “heroes and their hero-worship, their fairs and their festivals, their ideals and their outlook on life, have now ceased to be common with ours”. He dismisses the common culture among Muslims and Hindus as trivial and of no importance to the concept of a nation.

He writes about Muslims of Kashmir and Christians in South India who “observe our (Hindu) caste rules to such an extent as to marry generally within the pale of their castes alone” but dismisses them from being considered a part of the Hindu nation because “they cannot be called Hindus in the sense in which that term is actually understood, because, we Hindus are bound together not only by the tie of the love we bear to a common fatherland but also by the tie of the common homage we pay to our great civilization—our Hindu culture” and the “history of our race”. He further states that Hindus “are one because we are a nation a race and own a common Sanskriti (civilization)”.

This example of Muslims following a Hindu tradition but still not considered Hindus dismisses all these common traditions as trivial with no considerable contribution towards the formation of a nation. Hence, it can be said that RSS ideology is similar to that of Nazism. For Nazis, they purged Germany of Jews while RSS aims at purging the holy land of India of its Muslim ‘alien’ elements. RSS model for the creation of a homogenous Hindu nation essentially matches that of Nazi Germany.

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Counterargument to BJP’s Fascism

Now one of the main counterarguments to BJP and RSS being described as fascists is that fascists once in power, destroy the electoral and parliamentary system but BJP always has participated in and upheld these systems. Jairus Banaji argues that RSS practices a kind of fascism that can be called “electoral fascism” which appeals to racism and xenophobia to mobilize electoral support. The anti-political philosophy that RSS followed for at least the first 25 years of its foundation also needs to be factored in.

For all these years RSS had successfully resisted getting involved in politics. However, as mentioned earlier, RSS took to politics as an “insurance policy” for its existence. Therefore, politicization was an answer to the existential threat. What follows from this argument is that RSS did not join politics because it wanted to bring in change through parliament by implementing its policies based on its ideology.

The fear came from the fact that it needed to preserve its own organization so that it could carry out its cultural and social activities unhindered. So, it does not appear that RSS took to politics for the sake of politics but it got into politics to guarantee itself that it could carry out its background activities of ‘cultural and social importance.

This would also raise the question: does RSS believe in the electoral processes? From the discussion, it can be inferred that yes RSS does believe in the electoral process but it has been following the electoral process for very different reasons than what we usually associate it with- democracy. RSS’ sole motive for participating in the electoral process is safeguarding itself against bans. Now the “insurance policy” would be needed only if the RSS is very much aware that it would get banned again at some point. That would mean RSS is using the electoral process to protect its activities from coming under government scrutiny because its activities cannot be encouraged or approved by a government that is not RSS itself.

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Building a Führer cult

Further, recently during the 2014 general elections, BJP for the first time asked for votes in the name of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. It was a huge success and the phenomenon of attracting voters by using his name was called “Modi Wave”. RSS till now had always discouraged a leadership cult but “with the repeated acclamations of Modi as the next prime minister, this seems to be changing now, for it is the first time this political sector has found a figurehead around whom to build a Führer cult”. The building of a Fuhrer cult is again straight out of the Nazi playbook. As Ian Kershaw points out that the Hitler cult was the ‘crucial adhesive’ of the Nazi movement, its ‘integrating mechanism’. Similarly, Modi’s name was used as an integrating mechanism to attract voters to one name of Modi in the BJP.

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This essay thus argues that RSS joined politics as an “insurance policy” to safeguard its activities. It questions as to why RSS would need protection against any other government that is not RSS. The creation of BJP is followed by its predecessor Jana Sangh which was itself created in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mookerjee with the help of RSS. Further, the creation and the ideology of RSS itself are traced in Savarkar’s Essentials of Hindutva. The ideology is then compared to that of Nazi Germany. Then, the phenomenon of the “Modi Wave” of the 2014 general elections is compared to that of the Fuhrer Cult of Nazism. Using these arguments and coupled with Jairus’ term of “electoral fascism”, it is concluded that BJP is indeed a fascist party despite its participation in electoral processes.


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